A stable website is a valuable thing. Everyone wants a website that never shows an error, rarely slows down, and always delivers content or product orders the way it's supposed to.
Of course, there's no such thing as a truly perfect website. By the nature of the industry, even the best-built website should be upgraded, rebuilt, or overhauled at least once every five years.
In fact, today, one of the best ways to keep your website stable is to update it with modules like those used for plugins on WordPress websites. If you use the WordPress platform for your site, adding plugins is an easy way to upgrade. Plugins can do something as little as add a button or completely reinvent your site's functions and layout. The best part is that they are modular and designed to slot right into the WordPress framework.
Preserving Your WordPress Site with Every Upgrade
Your website is an important asset to the company. It is your online storefront and likely also where you meet and take care of customers online as well. Upgrades are almost never 100% smooth because the new plugin must be configured to mesh perfectly with your current website design. There is also a slim possibility of an incomplete or corrupt install, which means that your website should be secured before the new plugin process begins.
While adding a new plugin is easy, it's best to dive into any website upgrade using the right sequence of best practices. Let's explore the steps every business website should take before installing your next upgrade using a WordPress plugin module.
10 Best Practices for Installing New WordPress Plugins
1. Research the Best Plugin for Your Purposes
There are thousands of plugins on the open WordPress market. They have been produced and shared by the many web developers who are also working with the WordPress platform. It's one of the biggest benefits of joining the community by using the platform. However, the open market adds an extra layer of responsibility for website owners looking for a new plugin: finding the best plugin.
There are often a few to dozens of potential plugins for every upgrade or feature you might seek. Some are made by professional software developers; some are innovated by fellow website owners; some are part of a suite of other plugins that work together. Always prioritise plugins that are tested and trusted.
2. Verify the Plugin Safety and Upkeep
Once you've picked a plugin, or a shortlist of your favourites, start verifying. There are a few basic necessities that every business website should require. The first is security. The plugin should be known to function smoothly and conform to modern software cybersecurity standards. Many plugins have zero security features, but are designed to slot smoothly into the protection of your existing security plugins.
Next, make sure the plugins you choose are maintained. There are some great packages out there that, unfortunately, are no longer supported by the developers. While these may be tempting at first, unsupported software will never have bugs fixed or be updated to keep up with the latest WordPress versions or security updates.
3. Confirm Compatibility with Your Current Stack
Now make sure the plugin you chose will play nice with the rest of your WordPress website. For example, some plugins have overlapping features that may conflict with each other. Those that automatically place a button may try to put different buttons in the same place. On a deeper level, there may be configuration conflicts or prerequisites that you don't care to install.
Compatibility is your last qualifying step before selecting the best possible plugin for your website upgrade. When you're sure that the selected plugin is suitable, safe, supported, and compatible, you can move forward confidently with the installation.
4. Backup Your WordPress Website
Now it's time to back up your website. Any time a major change is made, you want to save a complete backup beforehand. A website backup is like a copy, compressed into an archive file so that it takes up less space. Most websites have a regular backup plan, and those backups can be reloaded in case of malware, data corruption, or other file-ruining disasters.
A backup now before you try the new plugin ensures that you can reload the website exactly like it was before the upgrade, just in case something goes wrong or you just want to compare the difference.
5. Branch Into a Test Environment
Branching and merging is a common practice for website development. To branch, create yourself a test server where you can try out the website changes before they "go live" for your visitors and customers. Leave your website exactly how it is, working and unchanged, while you perform the plugin installation on a test version of your website to make sure everything goes perfectly. This gives you plenty of time to explore configurations and even try out different ways to use your new plugin before pushing the best possible final result to your live website.
6. Update All Your Plugins and Security Settings
Now you're free to start taking bold upgrading steps to see your website at it's new best and brightest. To prep for installing the new plugin, make sure your WordPress site is in top condition. Check for version updates and patches of WordPress core. Then update all your existing plugins. Check your settings configurations and your security configuration. Make sure all security features are fully up to date and configured for the needs of your website. When your WordPress site is at its best, you're ready to install the new plugin for the best possible results.
7. Install the New Plugin
Go to the Plugins section of your WordPress admin control panel and search for the plugin you want. You will likely be offered a variety so be careful to choose the correct one that was already researched and verified. First, click the button that says, "Install Now." This will download the plugin and prepare it for installation. Wait for the download.
When the process is complete, the button will turn blue and say "Activate." Click the activate button, and the plugin will become active on your test-environment WordPress site.
8. Configure the Settings and Security
Once the plugin is ready, you can configure it to perfectly suit your site design. Start with the basic settings, follow any available instructions or walk-through provided by the plugin developers. If it is an informational plugin, enter your information. If the plugin interacts with other software, make sure the APIs are active and/or the plugin is acknowledged by other connected plugins.
Then look to security. Ensure that your security plugins are both allowing all the intended features of your new plugin and that the security features fully cover any access created by the new plugin. The last thing you want is for a cool new plugin to open up security holes, making your site unstable and potentially exposing private data. Fortunately, WordPress security is a specialty for many admins. You may want the assistance of a professional WordPress security team to ensure your website security is configured correctly around the new plugin stack.
9. Push Your Website Update Live
When your website is everything you'd hoped it would be with the new plugin added, you're ready to reintegrate it with your live site. This whole time, your audience has been enjoying the website as it has been, stable and not updated, while the update has been under construction. By branching into a test server, you gained plenty of time to make sure the update is absolutely perfect without bugs, conflicts, or security gaps.
Take your branched server and merge it back into the main server, thus implementing all your recent updates. The change-over should be nearly instant, and then your audience will begin experiencing the website with the new plugin along with the upgrades you just made. This is their chance to explore and enjoy the new features or, if it's a background update, to appreciate any performance improvements.
10. Collect Feedback On the Improvements
Last but not least, every new plugin installation should be followed up with feedback. There are many ways to get feedback from your audience. The most reliable way is to collect analytics. You can always trust objectively collected data showing how users interact with the changes to your website. Maybe the plugin update helps to boost conversions, or maybe it draws traffic to a new part oizf the site or helps to create flow between your website and social media campaign. You will find out the results with analytics as feedback.
Your other option is to ask your audience. Release a small survey on the website or, if you have a closer community, send an email and ask what your audience thinks of the changes. Welcome both positive and negative feedback and invite ideas on how your website might be further improved in the future. Each update is really a great opportunity to reach out and connect with your customers and make them feel like an interactive part of the brand.
Installing a new WordPress plugin is simple in essence, but doing it right for a secured business website requires a few pro best practices. If backups, branching, merging, and security are not in your team's set of specialties, we can help! Contact us today for the help of a team of WordPress pros.
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