Getting started with WordPress themes and plugins

Apps & Software

pluginsWhen you host a site via WordPress, you have a lot of possibilities to set it up completely according to your own taste. You do that on the basis of WordPress themes and plugins.

Through View, Themes you can choose from free themes from WordPress but these are usually simple and their quality is often low. Free themes (or themes, in English) are often outdated or stripped down versions of the premium products of commercial makers and are often no longer updated. If you want good quality and support, we recommend the commercial products of ThemeForest to. On this site, independent designers and agencies offer themes under the ThemeForest flag. Many of the themes also have free licenses for other commercial plugins. Especially the page builder plugin Visual Composer is popular. With this, you can easily compose professional looking pages via drag & drop. All popular multipurpose themes also feature ready-to-use demo content and numerous features.

Use the description, screenshots, and demos, but also the reactions of users and the support of the maker of your choice. With the most popular themes, you see when sorting on “Best Sellers” you are always right. Choose at least a theme with at least 4 stars, good support, and frequent updates. For example, Avada is a suitable basis for all kinds of sites and for good reason has been the leader of the list for years. Divi is also a very popular all-around theme with built-in page builder. However, you do not find this theme at Theme Forest, but at Elegant Themes.

Demos

After the installation, your website looks bald and not as flashy as the demos. That is often a bit of a fright for beginners. You will have to build your site yourself. But fortunately, there is an inner door. Those who want to make a quick start can load demo content or even ready-made websites for many themes. With this, you have a complete site with the push of a button.

That is a great option to learn how to work with the theme, but also creates a lot of initial ballast that you then have to remove or adjust. Because a demo site is never exactly the site you have in mind, if only because of the content. Removing and adjusting demo content takes time and causes pollution. WordPress leaves all sorts of traces in the file system and the database when you delete something. A heavily polluted database can slow down your website. The same applies to an overkill of plugins.

Licenses and frameworks

ThemeForest licenses (as well as CodeCanyon licenses) are valid for 1 site. However, you are entitled to unlimited updates, so you have to pay again every year. If you do not want restrictions on the use of multiple sites, you can become a member of a ‘themes club’ such as Themify, for which you pay an annual all-in amount. You can use all themes for as many sites as you want. The Divi mentioned above is also part of a club subscription and you can use it unlimitedly.

Another alternative for use on multiple sites is the purchase of a flexible and powerful framework theme such as GeneratePress, an excellent free version of which is also available. In terms of appearance, a framework is usually simpler than a theme, but instead offers more extensive possibilities for customization through the use of so-called hooks. You can almost literally see this as a kind of ‘brackets’ in the programming code that you can ‘hang’ on all kinds of extra functions or conditions (such as X, then Y).

Ideal for programmers, but with the help of a framework like GeneratePress also accessible for users who cannot program but want to work under the hood another popular, but more expensive and now somewhat dated framework is Genesis. Additional plugins are available for both GeneratePress and Genesis that facilitate working with the framework.

Plugins

An average WP site uses just 10 to 20 plugins. That is an advantage of the WordPress setup: you can fully customize your basic starting site with exactly the extras you want. The downside is that all those plugins of all those different makers also have to get along with the WP core and each other. The more plugins you use, the greater the chance of incompatibilities. Known and commonly used plugins are usually updated frequently, so preferably use that. In the repository, you can see exactly how often the plugin has been downloaded, how the rating is and how the author offers the plug-in users support.

It is impossible to do justice to the many thousands of useful plugins that are available, so we pick out a few that we have good experiences with. For starters, a good backup plugin like Updraft Plus is recommended, even if you have backups via your hoster. If you want a Dutch-language site, but an English-language management panel, you can use a plugin like English WordPress Admin. It is useful to put the backend in English because it fits in better with searching and communicating in the international community.

The Paste as Plain Text plugin prevents clutter from sticking to content from other sources. When working with plugins, the Plugin Toggle tool is very useful. If you use a lot of images on your site, we would recommend the plugins Enable Media Replace and Insanity. To customize the overviews in your backend, Admin Columns is a very popular plugin.

Finally, the new rest API can be seen as a simplified interface for interaction with WordPress and has been fully integrated since WP v4.7. Almost all functions of WordPress are available via the API. Especially when developing themes and plug-ins, it offers many advantages. But thanks to the API, WordPress can also play a central role in websites that do not use PHP but for example Ruby, Python or Go or websites that rely heavily on Javascript. The rest API is also good news for developers of mobile apps: they can use WP more easily as a backend.

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