WordPress is light, fast, powerful and has lots of features. It is truly an excellent Content Management System(and blogging) platform. But as with any software, it has its limits. This is where plugins come in.
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that adds features to WordPress, or extends the capabilities of WordPress.
There are so many plugins available that it is impossible to test or try them all. If you need a functionality that is not included in WordPress, you can search for a plugin at: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ — currently, there are over 20,000 FREE plugins available there.
At the plugin page, check for the compatibility with your WordPress version first. It is at the bottom right of the page.
You can download and install manually (upload to your server with FTP) or you can install directly from your WordPress admin area (Admin > Plugins > Add New > search and install your plugin here).
Once you have tried some plugins, you will be amazed by the capabilities they can add to your site. But don’t go overboard — INSTALL ONLY THE PLUGINS YOU REALLY NEED.
Plugins add files to your server and use your database for storage, and more critically, use the important server resources — memory and processor cycles. The extra database access queries and code processing may impact the performance of your server, especially if you are using shared hosting service. Each additional plugin adds more load to your server.
For a standard blog or business/portfolio site, you should really need not more than 5 plugins.
Here’s a list of a few essential plugins to get you started:
- Captcha – A clean and simple Captcha plugin for your comment form. Use this to prevent spam.
- Contact Form – WordPress does not include a contact form. So, you can try this one.
- ShareThis – Adds social links/icons to your posts and pages.
- OrangeBox – Lightbox effect for viewing photos and videos on your site.
There are many other plugins that provide similar features as the plugins above. You can try them out too to find the ones that suit you the best.