Boon or Bane? The Jetpack Plugin for WordPress
The Jetpack plugin is probably one of the most feature-rich WordPress plugins on the market. It offers more than 30 functions by now, which raises the question if it really makes sense to install such a “monster”. There’s certainly one or the other useful function. But you’ll most likely find things you won’t ever need or which are already covered by other plugins. On the other hand, you could forgo all of those plugins and only use Jetpack. Let’s play this scenario through.
A Jetpack with 33 Functions for WordPress
Jetpack comes with 33 functions by now. But before you can benefit from the functionality of this plugin, you’ll need to connect it to your WordPress.com account. If you have a Gravatar account, you won’t need anything else.
Once connected to the WordPress account, you can use all 33 Jetpack function modules. 21 are activated by default and only have to be configured – if you want to use them.
The Jetpack settings menu displays the currently activated modules. Of course, you can deactivate those you don’t need and then configure the “rest”.
If you hover the mouse over the modules, you’ll see the respective modules right away. Deactivate the ones you don’t need. If you’re not sure whether you’ll need a certain module or not, switch to the Jetpack menu item “Jetpack” and click “Show all Jetpack functions” at the bottom of the page.
You’ll now see a list of modules and their description. If you click a certain module, a new window with a more detailed description will open. This helps you deciding what’s important and what’s not. If an action is required, you’ll see a button for the activation or configuration in the opening window.
What makes Jetpack such a great tool for Europeans is that it can be adjusted to EU law. Jetpack warns you if a function is possibly not legally compliant. Well done!
Jetpack – Attempt of a Proper Configuration
Let’s try not to be too overwhelmed by Jetpack’s incredible functionality and find a proper configuration with all those modules. Afterwards, we can evaluate how meaningful Jetpack really is by taking a look at the HTML source code.
Subscriptions module: Very useful! Extends the comments form by a function that allows your visitors to follow comments and posts. Subscribing posts and comments means to receive emails when new posts or comments were added. Your readers will be grateful for this function. To customize the email text, go to “Settings => Reading”.
Publicize module: This module allows you to connect your site with popular social media networks and publish new posts on your profile with one click. The module takes the featured image and the description from the WordPress post and publishes both at the same time in your social networks. You could argue if it’s a good decision to have the same content on all sites. It’s comfortable for sure, but if you want to build up a high-quality social network site, you should publish by hand and use at least modified content.
Sharing module: Share buttons are a must-have nowadays and should be found in any blog – at the end of a post or page. Unfortunately, Jetpack’s grey buttons are not compatible with every theme, so try it out before you go online with your site. Otherwise, you can also go with the original buttons in the settings. These should work just fine with any theme.
Related Posts module: Very important to keep your readers on your website and to pique their interest in other articles. Despite all my attempts on different systems and various themes, I couldn’t get it to run. Too bad.
Photon module: When activated, all image files will be served from the WordPress.com Content Delivery Network. Images will be stored on the WordPress servers and served from there. It works fantastic and really improves your loading performance. Recommended!
Mobile Theme module: A special theme for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Useful for themes that aren’t responsive and don’t adjust automatically to the output medium. The Mobile theme looks pretty good, loads fast, and is “readable”. This will give your readers added value. Highly recommended!
Extra Sidebar Widgets module: Adds several beneficial widgets to your widget area. These are Twitter Widget, Facebook Like Box Widget, Image Widget for showing images in the sidebar, Gravatar Widget, Gallery Widget, and Recent Posts Widget. Besides the Twitter and Facebook Like Box widget, it’s not really useful, in my opinion.
Shortcode Embeds module: Embeds YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare, and similar content into the visual editor. Good to have and handy!
Monitor module: Notifies you when your WordPress site is down and online again. Useful, especially if you want to earn money with your WordPress website.
VaultPress module: The most useful module. VaultPress is by far the best service for WordPress backups. It allows you to back up your system and, in addition, to install the backup with one click. It’s not for free, however. Prices start from $5/month. But it’s definitely worth it.
Spelling and Grammar Module: Even the widest-awake blogger needs help here and may it be only to prevent slips of the pen. However, it should be taken with a pinch of salt because it doesn’t work very well as you can see:
Jetpack’s spelling and grammar check should be seen more as a rough guide. It indicates four mistakes in the first paragraph, which is actually free of mistakes.
Although it’s supposed to be multilingual, the result of the check is rather questionable :-)
What About the Other Jetpack Modules?
All other modules should be either treated with caution like Post by Email, which is a potential safety risk or aren’t necessary. On principle, you should install as many plugins as necessary but as few as possible.
The contact form would have been a real smash, but it requires the active Akismet Antispam plugin to ensure that messages are free of spam. Akismet, however, has a big data protection issue if your website is subject to German/EU law and hence shouldn’t be used. This would be a reason for an expensive cease and desist letter. Using the contact form without Akismet’s spam protection isn’t a good idea, unless you want to have an inbox full of spam mails.
Jetpack – the Curse of Agonizing Slowness?
Number of CSS files besides theme relevant CSS: 4
Contrary to common belief, Jetpack can be a boon. If configured correctly and used wisely, it provides some really useful functions for which you would otherwise need several plugins. This would be an option, but you would always run the risk of incompatibilities. Jetpack, however, provides everything from one source.