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Thinking about redesigning your site using WordPress? Nice! It’s a great choice for multitaskers who want a system that anyone on their team can feel comfortable working in. But can it do all the things more complicated systems can do?

Indeed it can!

At CHIEF, we believe in building unique, transformative websites that match our equally unique and transformative clients, regardless the Content Management System (CMS) selected. WordPress, for example, may seem like a cookie-cutter system. Its user interface is built specifically for the average person, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as powerful as any other system.

But how? Enter, the WordPress Plugin.

What is a Wordpress Plugin?

When a WordPress site is created, it comes with specific out-of-the-box settings and functional elements. But what happens when those basic settings aren’t enough? In these cases, developers at CHIEF use plugins.

Plugins expand on the functional elements included in the initial Wordpress download and allow us to build out from them according to the needs of our clients.

Plug It In, Plug It In

Plugins bring added functionality to WordPress sites without the developer needing to spend loads of time custom coding each specific element. Want to add a form to your site? There’s a plugin for that. Integrate your social media channels? There’s a plugin for that.

At CHIEF, we take the time to understand our client’s needs before suggesting options for how to make it happen. Developers then download these batches of code from the WordPress directory and add them to the WordPress sites they are working on, much like plugging in an extension cord when your Christmas tree needs more strands of colored lights.

Some other common functional elements include:

  • Custom sidebar widgets
  • Advanced user management
  • Security features

Making the Right Choice

Choosing the right plugin can sometimes be challenging. Often, there are multiple plugin options available that provide similar functional results. After narrowing the choices down to just the plugins that do what is specifically needed, it’s important to consider the following additional questions:

  • Does the client have a preference?
  • What history does the developer of the plugin have?
  • How often is the plugin updated?
  • Does the plugin have many downloads?
  • Has the plugin been reviewed positively?
  • Is the plugin free? If not, is the plugin offering unique or complex enough code to be worth paying for?

These are just a few of the many factors the developers at CHIEF take into consideration while choosing a plugin. Many times, it will come down to the developer’s or client’s personal preference.

Setting a Standard

While some plugins are added to meet a specific need for a particular site, many plugins are almost universally useful and have become de facto standards.

"Redirection", for example, is a great plugin for setting up link redirects from an old site to a new site. As part of CHIEF's pre-launch checklist, redirects are a requirement of all sites we are in charge of migrating. Due to this requirement, the redirection plugin is a common tool that our developers apply to WordPress sites.

To Activate or Not to Activate

Part of what makes a plugin so useful is the option to turn it on and off easily. From the plugins section of the WordPress dashboard, certain plugins can be deactivated one at a time. This can be useful if the plugin is found to be creating conflicts with other aspects of the site, or is no longer needed.

Customize It

Sometimes, a client will have a functional requirement so specific that no plugin exists for it. In these cases, developers at CHIEF will create a custom plugin.

For example, if your site is undergoing a phased migration, you may want to consider adding functional elements as plugins in order to easily turn them on and off during future development phases. The option to deactivate from the plugin menu, will allow you to update functional elements one at a time, and could save your development team some time in the long run.

Alternatively, the developer might decide that certain functionality belongs in the WordPress theme instead of in its own plugin. The theme controls your site's presentation, and code within it usually can't be easily deactivated without deactivating the entire theme.

The decision to add a custom plugin or to add functionality to a theme depend on the specific needs of the project. Whatever the specific need, the CHIEF Technology Team is equipped to help you make the best choice for your site.

Sharing the Love

Perhaps the most useful aspect of the WordPress plugin is the community that has been built around sharing functional code between developers. Many times, when a custom plugin is made, it can be submitted to the WordPress directory and shared with others with similar needs. Code is vetted and rated by those who use it allowing for information to be built upon and improved; thus expanding the base of knowledge among the growing Wordpress community.

The CHIEF team is proud of its Technology Team whose members have established themselves in the WordPress community. Many of our developers have submitted custom plugin code to the WordPress directory, and are active participants in WordPress community conferences— including the upcoming DC conference, WordCamp DC.

Are you thinking about redesigning your site using Wordpress? Check out our work page, get inspired, and come by our offices for the monthly WordPress DC meetup. And as always, don’t forget to BE BRAVE.