WordPress Parent and child categories using Ajax

Updated: 4/26/2019

wp_dropdown_categories displays the WordPress categories in a nice drop down. You can choose to display the parent and child categories in a hierarchy. Using Ajax, it is simple to display the child categories based on the selected parent category.

I wrote the WP Category Dropdown plugin to make it easy to add this dropdown to a page or the sidebar. The plugin gives you a shortcode that will let you display all the categories in a dropdown. You can select the parent category and the child categories for that parent will be displayed in another dropdown.

This feature will come in handy when you want to give your users an option to navigate easily through the number of categories you have on your site. The shortcode gives you the option to display categories from a custom post type.

The plugin can differentiate between the categories that do and do not have child categories. If the selected parent category has a child, then you will see another drop down with the list of child categories, otherwise, you will be automatically redirected to the selected category page.

The shortcode gives you an option to display only the categories with children and if there only a few categories without children, you can use “exclude” to hide these categories from the drop down.

The plugin also has an option to add a widget to the sidebar to display the dropdown categories.

The plugin can be downloaded from the WordPress plugins page – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-category-dropdown/. Plugin documentation is available here.

Here is a quick demo of the how the plugin works.

Adding custom CSS and JS to your WordPress site

WordPress provides many different ways to customize your site. You can build a custom theme that is unique to your site or you can use an existing theme and tweak it to suit your needs and style.

In all these years of working with WordPress, I have had countless occasions when I had to add a little custom code to the site. If you are a web developer, then this does not seem like an issue at all. You just know where to add the relevant code and you also know how to troubleshoot it if it does not work.

For those of you who are not quite the developers, but would like to have fun with your site, WordPress makes it easy to add code snippets. There are many different ways to add custom CSS or JavaScript to your site. You can use a plugin, or the customizer (only for CSS) or dive into creating a child theme and get your hands dirty with some coding. Whatever method you choose, there are lots of options and good documentation to get you through.

Using the Customizer to add custom CSS:

The Customizer has been part of WordPress for a while now and we have all got used to adding CSS quickly. Go to Appearance -> Customize. In the customizer, there is an option for ‘Additional CSS’. Click on that and add all the CSS you need and save. This is by far the easiest way to add custom CSS to your theme.

This method is good if you need to change or tweak a couple of things on your site. If you want to add CSS for many sections on the site, using a child theme is better.

There is no option to add custom JavaScript in the customizer with the default WordPress theme.  You will have to use some plugins. Some other themes might provide this feature.

Plugins for adding custom CSS and JS

There are a number of plugins that let you add custom code snippets to customize your site.

Custom Header Footer Scripts for Customizer enables you to add scripts to the header and footer of your theme via the customizer.

Simple Custom CSS and JS is my favorite one of all. It makes it very easy to add custom code and has a lot of features even in the free version. It also has options to add custom HTML.

CSS Hero is another plugin that can be used to tweak the CSS of your theme. This premium plugin lets you customize your site live. It gives you an easy interface to edit and see the changes as you are making them.

Using a child theme

There a lot of WordPress themes that you can use to build your site. Each theme gives you certain functionalities along with a certain look/design. If you choose a theme, that gives you the features you want for your site, but would like to change the look and style of it, child themes are best way to do it.

You can use child themes to use the functionality of the parent theme, but change the look and styles of your site. You can add/remove some functionality through the child theme if you like. Creating a child theme requires some knowledge of coding. There are some great tutorials that will guide you though the process of creating a child theme.

Here are some useful links for creating child themes.

Once you have a child theme in place, you can add new CSS and Js files by adding them to the child theme’s functions.php. You need to properly enqueue them.

Importance of strong online presence for small businesses

A couple of weeks ago, on our way back from the beach, we decided to go to an Indian restaurant for dinner. We wanted to try a new place. So, I started googling for restaurants near us and started checking out the ones that we could try. I wanted to check out their menu to see if they had a particular dish that my kids wanted to have. To my surprise, two or three of them did not have a website and even if they did, they did not have a proper menu.

This made me think why wouldn’t somebody who is doing business, not have a proper website? In this day and age, a website is very important for the success of your business. It can make or break a business.

Let’s take the example of restaurants. If they have a website with their menu and hours on it, it would be helpful to a lot of people. People are in a rush trying to find things quickly. People use ‘Siri’ and Google to find things online. If you do not have an online presence, they will not find you. You need to optimize your site to show up in the “near me” searches. Having your business address registered in Google search is not enough. You need to have a website and at least a couple of social media profiles that talk about you and your business.

Wider Audience

Having an online presence helps you gain wider audience. Your website is accessible to people around the world. You might think that your products/services are local, but never underestimate the power of the web. Even if it is local, your site will help you gain more customers. People usually tend to search for products and services online first. Even if you don’t sell anything online, your potential customers will checkout your site and if they like what they see, they might actually come to the store to buy the products or contact you for your services.

Website accessible at all times

Your website is accessible to people even when your office/store is closed. People don’t have the time to go and visit different stores before buying a product. Many of them prefer online shopping in the comfort of their homes. So, having a website means that your will show up as an option for your potential clients.  Some services cannot be bought online and in that case give your potential clients a chance to read about you and get to know you. That will make it easy for them to make the decision to hire you.

One of the reasons people ignore their websites and social media is because they do not know where to start. There is so much information thrown towards us, that we are utterly confused on what is important. 

Here are the three main things a business needs to thrive online. These are just the starters, but can quickly evolve into much more. 

  1. A website
  2. Social media presence
  3. Strong SEO


Setting up a website is one of the easiest things and also one of the first things you should do. Here are the things you need to setup a site:

  1. Domain Name 
    As soon as you decide on your business name, check if you can purchase a domain name the same as your business. If your business name is a unique one, then it should be easy. You can do a search for domain names easily – https://www.name.com/domain/search
  2. Hosting 
    Once you have the domain name, purchase a hosting account to host your website. You can find some good hosting options here. I use SiteGround for my site and recommend it for my clients as well. Their customer service is excellent. You can check out Site Ground’s hosting options here.
  3. CMS 
    Using a Content Management System like WordPress will make it easier to add new content and maintain your site in the long term. Although WordPress is easy, there might be a learning curve. Once you install WordPress on your site, you can add pages and content to your site. There will be some options to customize your site. You now have a brand new site that you can show off to the world!! 
  4. Design for your site: WordPress comes with a number of themes to choose from for the look of your site on the front end.  You can choose a free theme and setup your site. If you want a custom design for your site, you will need to hire a professional to help you with the design and the building of the theme. Here are some tips to choosing the right theme for your WordPress site.

Building a website isn’t rocket science, but there are some things to keep in mind while you are building or setting up your site.

Websites make lasting impressions on people. You have a few minutes to make them interested in your products/services. So, you should make sure that your brand value/personality shows through your website. That will help people make the connection between you, your products/services and your website. Make the website easy to use and have the information easily accessible.

Your website should speak about you and your business just like you would in person. Your website is one of the best resources you have to convince users to purchase your products/services.

How much do I spend on my website?

So, now the big question that bothers every small business owner – How much should I spend on my website? Unfortunately, there is no magic number anybody can give you. You have to figure it out based on your requirements.

The good news is that you do not need to put down an enormous amount for a starter website. 

Just like you would not start a company with 10,000 employees on day 1, you do not need an expensive website with all the bells and whistles to get started. You can have a starter website for about $2,000.00. As your business grows, you can add more features to your site.

Does my website need a re-design?

Social Media

Social media is as important as a website. People like to engage and get updates and information through their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. Having these for your business will definitely increase your customer base and result in more sales. Social media channels are a place where you can interact with your clients.

You do not need to have a profile on every social media channel out there. Some social media are preferable for some businesses. Facebook and Twitter are generally relevant to all businesses. There are other social media channels like Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc which you should definitely look into.

Post about product updates, offers, new products etc on your social media. Make it so that your potential customers are guided back to your website from all the social media channels.


Search Engine Optimization ensures that your site will show up on major search engines. Most people end up on a site from search engines. If your site does not show up in a search, it is very likely that you won’t be found on the internet. 

SEO is an ongoing process. You have to keep working on it to make sure your site shows up for relevant searches. If you use WordPress, there are a number of free plugins that will help you with SEO. I use the Yoast SEO plugin which offers a number of options even in the free version.

You can dedicate entire days for your SEO and there will be still so much more you can do. But, since you also need to focus on your business, you can start with a few things and learn as you go.

  • Add your site to the Google Search Console and the Bing webmaster tools. The webmaster tools help you see how your site is showing up on search engines, how your pages are ranking and what search phrases or words are people using to land on your pages. You can use the free Yoast SEO plugin for this.
  • Add an XML sitemap. XML sitemap is like a table of contents for your site. This helps search engines crawl all the pages on your site more efficiently. Sitemaps also include information about when the pages have been updated and the meta data of the pages.
  • Make sure your pages are loading quickly. If you have great content on your site, but it takes forever for your pages to load, people will quickly leave the site.
  • Have a mobile friendly site. Most of the website traffic these days comes from mobile phones and tablets. So, making your site mobile friendly is very important.
  • Optimize your page content and images – There is a lot you can do to optimize the content of your pages. Get started by having a title and description for your pages. This can be done using the Yoast SEO plugin if you are using WordPress. Adding descriptions to images using the alt tags and optimizing the image sizes helps.

There is a lot more you can do to have a strong online presence for your business. Get started with the minimum and add as you build your business online.

Get tips and tutorials on using the new block editor, WordPress themes and plugins!

WordCamp Sacramento 2018

Word Camps are always fun places to go to. This year my first Word Camp was the #WCSAC. I was super excited to be with the people who speak my language and I was not disappointed.

I met some wonderful people, made new connections over networking sessions and lunch. The sessions were awesome and well planned. There was something I could attend every hour.

The event was held at the Sacramento convention center which reminded me of the Seattle convention center where I had helped organize the Word Camp in 2016. 

Here are my favorite parts of the weekend:

Happiness bar

There was a separate room for the Happiness Bar. They had tables and chairs where I could just go and unwind if needed. As much as I love to attend sessions back-to-back, I sometimes feel like taking a break. Especially, if I attend a developer session where there is a lot of code, my mind just needs to absorb all of that before I can move on to the next session. So, the happiness bar room helped a lot. It was away from the noise from the hallway, which made it easy to unwind or even talk to some of the awesome volunteers and speakers in there.

Lunch with the food trucks 

On Saturday, we had a choice of lunch from 4 food trucks. It was a gorgeous day and Capitol Park was perfect for having lunch. The organizers took into consideration the various dietary needs which was nice. I had good vegetarian options to choose from.

The networking reception on Saturday

Usually I don’t attend the after parties because I am tired at the end of the day.  So, when I am out of the venue, I just want to go to bed. The networking reception being in the same venue helped. It was nice to eat something while having fun conversations.

Sunday schedule

Sunday was a late start and I am so thankful for that. I really needed that extra time to sleep in and recover from Saturday. The snacks on Sunday afternoon were nice.


Leverage Linting To Be A Better Developer – Matt Vanderpol

This was a great start to my Saturday. I have been a developer for a while and have been using linting. Matt explained linting very well and gave some excellent resources. He talked about CSS, JavaScript and PHP all of which I use on a regular basis.

Optimizing The WordPress Admin For UsersCristina Robinson

Christina’s talk was very informative. We all have been using WordPress for a while and have been developing websites for clients. We are always looking at improving our client experience and making things easier for the client. Making the dashboard customized and easy to use is one of the best ways to help the client navigate through the various options in the WP dashboard. I learned a lot of things from her talk.

Speed Networking: Meet Other WordCampers And Grow Your Network

I loved this idea. I am an introvert when it comes to meeting new people and introducing myself. Once, I am acquainted with someone, I feel very comfortable to talk endlessly. But, taking that first step is always hard. This session helped me fine tune my elevator pitch and make new connections. Since this session was right before lunch, it was easy to continue the conversations during lunch.

Single Page Applications In WordPress Built With AngularJS And The WP REST APIKenneth Schnetz

This was a very good session. Kenneth made it seem a breeze to develop single page applications. He went through the entire process from start to end. There was so much code, but I loved it. I was able to sit through a code heavy session right after lunch which really was a confirmation to myself that development is what I love to do! Now, I just need to get the slides and start working my first single page application!

Building Blocks: Atomic Design In A Gutenberg WorldMichelle Schulp

Michelle talked about Gutenberg from mainly a designer’s perspective. I love the positive spin she put on the new editor. She talked about how web design and development evolved and how Gutenberg can help fix some of the problems we have been having all along.

She talked about the ‘A, B, C, D, E, F’ of the ideal content management experience. That was awesome!

Dealing With Problem Clients: Fencing In The Friendly MonstersNathan Ingram

Nathan’s talk was very refreshing at the end of the day. He talked about how we can use ‘Clarity’, ‘Commitment’, ‘Communication’ and ‘Documentation’ to keep our bad clients in check.

How Gutenberg Will Empower WordPress End-Users And ProfessionalsAlonso Indacochea

This was another awesome Gutenberg session which was very impressive and encouraging. Alonso and his team built some amazing Gutenberg blocks which were very visually appealing and also some of the most common ones that are needed in the WordPress system.

Alonso gave the demo of all the blocks they had built and I made me see all the possibilities we have with Gutenberg.

I also had a nice conversation with Eric Debelak, Alonso’s partner at wpblock.party.

I was very happy to see so many talks on Gutenberg from different perspectives. I personally like the new editor. I know that there is a lot of room for improvement and many users might not like it right away. But, from a developer standpoint, there is so much that can be done. Loved all those talks!

Once again I thank all the sponsors, organizers and volunteers for a great event!


Mobile Friendly or Responsive site?

One of the things to consider before you decide to redesign your site is to check if your site looks good and is accessible on tablets and mobile devices. This is very important as more people view content and purchase products/services using their smartphones.

Depending on your site, your audience and your budget, there are a number of ways to make sure your site looks good across all devices and screens.  You can either make your site mobile friendly or build a responsive site. Both of these are ways to improve your site on the smaller devices.

Mobile Friendly Sites

Mobile friendly sites are those where the content has been made to look mostly proportional to the screen size or sometimes specific to the device like phone or tablet etc.. These sites do not necessarily have the same design/look on desktop and mobile. They are usually slimmed down versions of your desktop site. Having a mobile friendly website is a requirement by Google for site rankings. Mobile friendly sites are functional, but do not necessarily provide the best user experience.


  • This is one of the cheapest and quickest methods
  • Not much maintenance is required from your side other than regularly updating the plugins as needed.
  • These plugins come with a bunch of custom options that can be used to customize your mobile site.


  • The mobile theme does not match your regular desktop theme. Even though you can customize the mobile theme provided by the plugin, there are limitations.

Responsive Sites

Responsive sites are those that change/re-format based on the screen width. They are built so that the transition is seamless. If you open a responsive site in any browser and reduce the width of the browser, the site will beautifully adapt as the screen width goes down.


  • Responsive sites are built in a way that the main design/colors/styles of the site are maintained at all browser widths, but the content is moved around.
  • The menu is usually condensed and certain elements like the sidebar are pushed below the main content so as to give more space for the main content on smaller screens.
  • It gives a uniform experience to your users whether they use a desktop, mobile or a tablet.
  • If you care about your branding, then putting in the money for a responsive site will definitely pay off!


  • Converting your existing site to a truly responsive site takes time and effort.
  • This also costs more as you would need to hire a developer to convert the site to a responsive one.

So mobile friendly or responsive site?

If you are having a site or WordPress theme built from scratch, please go for a responsive design and theme. This will help in long term maintenance as well.

If you have an older site and you do not currently have a budget for a responsive site, making your site mobile friendly is still good. This will enable users to be able to scroll through the site and even purchase items online. It might not be the best of experiences, but it still works.

Responsive sites give the users a better experience. The important content shows up right away and the rest is pushed aside.

Tools to make your site mobile friendly or responsive

Depending on your budget, there are a number of possibilities:

  1. Get a new responsive theme built for your business or buy a responsive WP theme. This would be a very good investment especially if your site design is older than 2-3 years. It will give a fresh look to your site and making it responsive ensures that it is accessible on any device. This is also makes your site maintenance easier.
  2. The second option is to convert your existing WordPress theme or your html site to being responsive. This is also a good option as it is cheaper than getting a new theme/design and gives you the exact same benefits of having a responsive site. This also makes the maintenance easier.
  3. The third option is to use WordPress plugins to make your site mobile friendly. There are some very good plugins that you can use. You can read about some of them here – https://www.searchenginejournal.com/5-fantastic-wordpress-plugins-make-site-mobile-responsive/111610/

Whatever method you choose, having a site that works on smaller screen widths in very important.


Does my website need a re-design?

One of my favorite pastime is scrolling through websites randomly just to see the design layouts. This gives me inspiration. There are truly awesome websites that I come across and this is one of them –https://www.spaceneedle.com/home/.

Then, there are sites that clearly look like they need to be updated – not just the design or the layout, but also the content.

Then there are sites which are in the middle – where the design is not so outdated, but the site still looks like it can be pruned up a bit. I sometimes wonder if the site owners know that they need to update their site? But, then again, how do you know if your site needs an update? How often do you update the layout, colors and the content? How much do you need to spend on the re-design? Is it worth it?

So, first thing we need to look at is:

Why do I need to redesign my site?

Your website is mostly your online store – whether you are selling physical products, digital products or your services. You hope to gain new clients and keep your old ones.

Let’s assume you have a physical store. You will make sure the store is presentable, it is up to date, clean and visible to your old and potential new customers. You work hard against your competitors to make sure your site is more visible and visually attractive along with stocking the latest merchandise in the front to attract your customers.

Since for the most part, your website is your online store, you need to work just as hard to keep it updated, clean and visible (through SEO) to your customers. Just having a website up is not enough anymore. You need to work and yes – spend a little money to make it work for you.

Re-designing your site means so much more than just re-doing the design. It means making sure that the content is up to date, the site is updated to the latest versions of any software you are using, and most importantly looking at data to make sure you are giving your customers what they are looking for.

So, again back to our question of how do you decide if your site needs a redesign?

How do you know if your site needs an update?

Let’s look at some factors that will help you decide if your site needs an update/re-design.

  • When was the last time you updated your website?

If you have not worked on improving the look and feel of your site in the past 3 years, then it is high time you do it now. When it comes to websites, a lot changes in 3 years. If you do not keep up, your site soon looks very outdated.

  • Has your business changed?

Has your business model changed? Have you added new products or services? If yes, then you need to make sure that your website has the new

  • Do you have an online store?

If yes, then is the online store up to date? Are the products easily visible and accessible to your users? Are you getting enough sales from your store? If the answer to any of the above questions is a ‘No’, then you should consider redesigning your site.

  • Is your site mobile friendly?

Having a mobile friendly site is really important. More and more people are viewing and purchasing through their phones and tablets. If your site is not truly responsive, then you are going to lose visitors. But, you do not have to completely redesign to make your site mobile friendly. There are ways to make your current site mobile friendly.

  • Are you trying to get more visitors to your site?

You might have some great products and great content on your site. But, if the content is not easily accessible, you are going to lose visitors. To improve this situation, it is best to think about how to present your content beautifully on the site so that people will stay longer and eventually buy your products or services.

How often do you need to update the layout, colors and the content?

Your site needs to have content updated regularly. In the case of large sites, it is advisable to go through your content monthly and make sure everything is up to date. If you site is small, updating it every 2-3 months should be enough.

Usually having a blog where you are adding new articles on a regular basis helps you add the latest information to your site. This also helps with SEO. The other pages need to be updated on a regular basis too. Make sure your homepage is showing the latest products and other information is easily visible.  If you have a lot of events on your site, you need to make sure that the old events are not showing up on top. Sometimes phone numbers and addresses change and they need to be fixed on the website as well. Keeping your site updated also lets your customers know that you are detail oriented which in turn helps your business.

Regarding the layout and the colors, I wouldn’t necessarily change them frequently (as this takes away the familiarity for your users), but would change it every couple of years or so. This will help you prioritize your content and attract more visitors to your site.

How much do you need to spend on the re-design?

This is the most important thing of all. Many of the sites are not updated as they cannot spend a ton of money on re-design every couple of years. But, you do not need to completely overhaul your site every couple of years. You can change the layout of the home page or blog page or services pages. If you use a CMS like WordPress, it makes it easy to add page templates which you can swap for a new look. Getting a page template created wouldn’t cost you a lot of money compared to a complete site design.

You can change the look and feel of your blog page, or your sidebar by reducing clutter. You can add/remove items or text or images from all the pages and make sure all the content is current and updated. This will keep your site fresh and will help keep your site visitors longer.

But, that said, once every two – three years, it is advisable to consider a re-haul of your site. Many things change in the world of web design and development. New features become available which help make your site faster and give you more control over the site. It is always advisable to make use of these to build a better site for your users. Re-designing also helps you go over the site’s content and remove the unnecessary content.


Nested Grid Layout

I started learning CSS Grid at the end of last year. The more I learn about it, the more exciting it is. CSS Grid makes it very easy to achieve complicated layouts with very minimal CSS. I redid my blog page using CSS Grid a couple of weeks ago and it went much faster than I expected.

Last week, I was working on re-designing the admin page for the Chamber Dashboard business directory plugin and I wanted to do a responsive layout. I needed a sidebar and a right column which in turn needed to have two columns. So, I used nested grids for the layout and it was super simple to get it 100% responsive.

You can take a look at it on CodePen.

See the Pen Nested CSS Grid by Chandrika Guntur (@cguntur) on CodePen.

There is a #main_wrapper div which holds the sidebar and the right column. Here is the CSS for that div:

grid-template-columns: repeat(auto-fill, minmax(350px, 1fr) );
grid-gap: 3%;

Using the autofill and minmax makes the grid 100% responsive. Here is more information on this https://rachelandrew.co.uk/archives/2016/04/12/flexible-sized-grids-with-auto-fill-and-minmax/

In the right column, there are multiple divs which are also displayed in a grid. Here is the CSS for the right column:


I needed the sidebar to take up 1/4th of the width and the right column to take up 3/4ths of the width when the screen width is above 700px. The divs in the right column should in turn be 2/3rds (left div) and 1/3rd (right div). Here is the code that does that.

@media screen and (min-width:700px){
grid-template-columns: 2fr 1fr;

grid-template-columns: 1fr 3fr;

‘fr’ is the fractional unit. Learn more about the fractional unit here:



The div’s 1 & 2 are divided into two columns each, but the 3rd div should again be one column. So, I added a class one_col to the 3rd div. The CSS below makes sure that the 3rd column would stretch the entire width:

grid-template-columns: 1fr;

Here is the screenshot of the actual page.

CSS responsive nested grid layout

Here is the plugin admin page screen cast showing the responsive grid in action.

If you would like to learn more about CSS Grid, here are some resources:




Choosing a Backup Plugin for WordPress sites

Have you ever thought of what would happen if you wake up tomorrow and realize that your site is no longer functional?

For many of us, our websites are a gateway to reach our clients and bring in business. You spend a lot of time carefully designing your site and having the best content possible. What would happen if you lost all of that in an instant? Whenever I have posed this question during meetups, many people have asked me “How likely is that my site will crash? Hosting companies do take care of stuff like that right?” Well, yes and no.

Hosting companies do provide you with options to backup your site. Some hosting companies do an automatic backup every day. That is the good news. But, the bad news is that even with hosting companies doing that, it is advisable to have a plan to create a backup regularly and store it away from your server. Hosting companies with very good intentions might also lose your data because of reasons beyond their control. In that case, your backups are also lost.

Using WordPress plugins is one of the easiest ways to backup your site regularly. These plugins let you schedule backups, store them off site, and also help you restore your site from a backup if needed. They make all this very easy. There are many backup plugins for WordPress – both free and premium. Choosing one of them could be very time consuming if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Here are some pointers to help you choose the right backup plugin for your site.


Free plugins are almost always preferred. Even if the plugin is not entirely free, it is always nice to be able to install a free version and get the hang of it. I always start with a search in the WordPress plugins repo to see what plugins I can find.

Ease of use

The plugin should be easy to use for the average user. If you have a dedicated developer taking care of your site, then you don’t have to worry about this. If you are managing the site yourself, then you do not want to spend hours trying to configure the plugin. Most backup plugins are pretty easy to use, but everybody is different and has a different knowledge level when it comes to WordPress. So, if you download a plugin and are not sure about it, deactivate it and download another one. Try out a few plugins before you decide which one works for you.

Provide backup of entire site

You should be able to backup your entire site – the site files and the database. The files include all the WordPress content, your plugins, themes, uploads etc. Some plugins do not provide a database backup or they might just provide an xml file of the content along with the database. That is not enough. You should have the option to backup not just the site files and the database, but also be able to include non-WordPress files in the backup.

Easy restoration of backups

The entire point of a backup is to be able to restore it back when you need it. So, make sure you understand how the restoration process works. The plugin should give you the option to restore only parts of the backup if needed – for example if you only want to restore your plugins, but not the entire site, you should be able to do so.

If you are restoring an entire site, you should be able to keep the downtime to a minimal. Make sure there is a way to restore your site even when you are not able to access the WordPress admin.

Save the backup in a remote cloud storage

This is one of the most important things. When you create a backup, you should save it away from your hosting server. This ensures that even if you cannot access your site via FTP, you will still have a complete backup of your site in case you need to re-install the site. It will be very easy if the backup plugin lets you store the backup in a remote cloud storage like Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon cloud storage etc. Being able to do that takes out one more step in your list. You can also directly download it to your cloud storage, but I prefer to set it up and not have to worry about it. This is especially important if you are scheduling automatic backups.

Setting up automatic backups

Being able to set up automatic backups is another important thing to consider. This is especially true if you have a large site with lots of content. It is advisable to take a backup every day or at least every week. So, you can set up a backup job to run on a particular day or time and forget about it. I would still go in and check randomly to make sure the plugin is doing its job, but at least you don’t have to worry about it on a daily basis.

Customer Support

Having good customer support is important for any plugin (free or premium). If you have a question or an issue about the plugin, you should be able to contact customer support easily. And, you should have your questions answered in a timely manner. They might not always be able to fix your issue right away or give you help without you paying for the support. But, you should get a response from them regarding your question. If the customer support is good, it is likely that they will fix any issues with the plugin.

Plugin Updates

This is as important as customer support. WordPress is constantly changing with new features being added and bugs being fixed. All the WordPress plugins also need to be maintained and updated on a regular basis. They should be compatible with a fairly recent version of WordPress even if not with the latest version. If you look on the plugin page, it tells you when the plugin was last updated. Now, WordPress does give you a warning if the plugin was not updated for more than 2 years, so that’s easy. But, with a backup plugin, I would be slightly wary if it wasn’t updated in the last 6 – 8 months or so. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the plugin is broken, it just means that you should be cautious when you use it.

It might be difficult to find a free plugin that gives you all the above mentioned features. You might have to pick what is more important and what works best for your site. Here are a few plugins that I use for myself and my clients.


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