Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Full-On Customization with Themes and Plugins

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Full-On Customization with Themes and Plugins

Article excerpt


With a focus on how to customize Wordpress to specific needs, chapter 2 leads the reader through the two most flexible areas within the software: themes and plugins. Themes modify site design and content presentation, and plugins enhance certain functionalities of the site. WordPress is renowned for excellently designed themes and numerous plugins for nearly any purpose.

Part 1: Extensibility via Plugins

Section 1: Needs and Wants

Plugins extend what WordPress can do and can be created by anyone with some coding skills. With more than 12,000 plugins in the official plugin directory, (1) you can add a lot of additional features to your site. Need a contact form? A way to back up your data? An event calendar? A spam catcher? Yep, there are plugins for all those and more.

While plugins are wonderfully handy, the more you install, the more likely you are to run into a conflict that could cause problems. Consider carefully whether you really need a particular plugin or just want it. Plugins sometimes just make simple changes that you could also accomplish by editing your functions.php, CSS, or theme files--but only if you're comfortable working with code.

So how exactly do you begin? Take your first step by not searching for any plugins just yet. You'll save yourself time and headaches by creating a plugin wish list. Take these questions into consideration before choosing a plugin:

What should the plugin's purpose be?

* Does it create content?

* Does it improve site administration?

* Does it help the user experience?

What's the end goal of the plugin?

* Is it to improve the commenting features?

* Is it to allow e-mails to be sent to the site administrator?

* Is it to improve the site's connectivity with social media the library uses?

* Is it to make administration of the site easier?

What are you willing to dedicate to the plugin in terms of time?

* If the plugin requires someone to work with constantly, are the resources available?

* If the plugin is new, are you willing to update it more than others as bugs arise and new features are rolled out?

* Although many of the plugins available are plug-and-play, some are not. Are you able to spend a moderate amount of testing and tweaking to meet your goals?

Section 2: Finding the Right Plugin

Part of the beauty of extending WordPress as a CMS is choosing the absolute best-fit combination of plugins that accomplish your content goals and administrative needs. While the process is exciting--and mostly enjoyable as you fine-tune your setup--your efforts include a daunting step: choosing from nearly 13,000 different plugins. (2) And that's just at the WordPress plugin repository. Premium plugins are sold by developers on their own, whereas the WordPress repository holds only freely available plugins.

Now that your wish list is set, put your masterful search skills to use by digging through the WordPress plugin repository. Don't get too overwhelmed by the number of plugins. Know that you'll need to dedicate some search time to finding a set of plugins that may work for your specific needs.

There are five different filters for searching for plugins:

1. By relevance

2. By newest added to the repository

3. By recently updated

4. By most popular

5. By highest rated

While each filter has its advantages, we suggest using the default relevance feature, which will provide you the best fit for your search term. While the popularity and ranking filters sound similar, they are not: popularity is based on number of downloads, and ranking is selected by users. You can safely bet that the popularity filter is a better indicator of the plugin's success than the user ranking, which is highly subjective and spotty at best. …

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