Extending your WordPress site with plugins

WordPress, the content management system (CMS) that underpins the sites we build at SMILE, comes with a limited amount of core functionality out of the box. The core of WordPress has been purposely kept lean and ‘pluggable’ — this allows the huge network of open source contributors to create plugins that extend what WordPress sites can do. Plugins can add anything from forms to spam protection to social network-like functionality to your site.

WordPress.org plugins search interface

So, what exactly is a plugin? It’s simply a bundle of code that bolts onto the central WordPress framework and adds extra functionality to your site. There are nearly 60,000 free, open-source plugins available on WordPress.org. and lots of paid-for plugins that provide dedicated support or proprietary code. All these plugins add almost any imaginable piece of functionality to WordPress in a multitude of different ways.

With so many options available, a big part of adding plugins to a WordPress site is finding the right ones. But there’s more to the process of choosing than answering the question “does it do what I want?”: security is a big factor too. When you install a plugin to activate a great new feature on your site you don’t want to also introduce a vulnerability that will allow someone to hack in, take over or extract information. Before we install and activate a plugin on the HappyPress network, we look at things like:

  • plugin author (is it from a trustworthy source?)
  • reviews (what do other users think of it?)
  • bloat (is it doing more than it needs to?)
  • issues/security record (how has it responded to problems in the past?)
  • update frequency (is it actively maintained?)

HappyPress is a managed WordPress hosting service, and one way we ensure our servers (and your sites) are secure is by restricting who can add plugins. If you come across a plugin that you’d like to use on your site, we ask that you fill out a plugin review request form so we can evaluate it as a first step.

Another important aspect of using plugins is keeping them up to date. Plugin authors often update their code to enhance the functionality, keep up with WordPress core changes and fix bugs. We keep the suite of plugins on our HappyPress network updated so you get more benefits and less risk.

Plugins are powerful tools that can make your WordPress site work the way you want it to. SMILE uses lots of third-party plugins on our HappyPress network, and we’ve even made several plugins of our own! From the simple to the complex, plugins solve all sorts of problems, but it’s good to be cautious and stay on top of updates so your site stays safe and runs well.

Chelsey Contier
Chelsey Contier

Support Engineer