At the recent Pressnomics event, WordPress creator and Automattic head honcho Matt Mullenweg suggested that the Jetpack plugin, from WordPress.com, was partly responsible for the success of the WordPress software to date.
Matt has also mentioned that Jetpack and its social and mobile-friendly modules would be a key player in helping WordPress move from its current market share of 23% of all websites, up to the 50% mark and beyond.
Jetpack: The Saviour of WordPress?
I must confess I’ve not been much of a fan of Jetpack and at first I baulked at the idea of Jetpack being the saviour of WordPress.
However, in the cold light of day, these comments do make sense. A fresh installation of WordPress probably doesn’t shape up very well against its competitors, in terms of ease of use, features, functionality, and mobile support.
With Jetpack being a quick and easy way to add a lot of those missing components to a WordPress website, it’s easy to begin to see how important it is now and could become in the future.
So with that in mind, I thought now would be a great time to take another look at Jetpack to see what it has to offer.
Hopefully this post will convince some experienced WordPress users to take another look at this plugin, while also demonstrating to some newer WordPress users how they can quickly ‘upgrade’ their new website in just a few clicks.
Getting Started with Jetpack
Jetpack comes pre-installed with some WordPress installations these days. However, if that’s not the case with your website, it can be added to your site directly from the plugins page.
Simply search for Jetpack, and then install and activate the plugin, before following the prompts to create a WordPress.com account. This will then allow you to start enabling the new features on your website.
The Best Jetpack Modules
The Jetpack interface has come on over the years and is now much more user friendly and visually appealing that it was previously. From the Jetpack dashboard on your website, you can choose from over 34 free and premium modules that WordPress.com users have had access to for some time.
Yes some (two) of those modules are premium services, explaining accusations of Jetpack being a Trojan horse used to generate more revenue for Automattic and WordPress.com. However, no WordPress user will be a stranger to the freemium pricing model, with many free plugins in the WordPress plugin directory having paid upgrades available.
Upon activating Jetpack, at the time of writing, 20 of the 34 modules are auto-activated and ready to go by default.
These modules allow you to quickly add many useful features to your website. Although they might not all be ‘best in breed’, the fact that they are easily accessible once Jetpack has been activated means that you don’t have to go looking for additional plugins elsewhere and can just make use of what is on offer from the Jetpack dashboard.
With so many options on offer, let’s take a look at some of the best modules for Jetpack to help you quickly upgrade your website without overloading it with new features you might have no need for.
When I first started out with WordPress I used to refresh the visitor stats page with abandon. Now self-hosted WordPress site owners can enable the stats service that WordPress.com users have access to on their website, in order to get a better understanding of who is visiting their website and when.
Some of the visitor data you get access to includes:
- Site views (daily, monthly, yearly)
- Top posts & pages
- Referrers to your site
- Views by country
- Search terms visitors used to find your website
- Clicks on outbound links
If you follow the links to your WordPress.com account you can view your stats in more detail and find out additional information about your website.
The settings of the stats module allows you to determine who can access the reports, and whether to count logged in users or not. The module will also add a chart showing the last 48 hours of view to the admin bar to give you a quick overview while you work on your website.
While it won’t compete with the kind of reporting you get from Google Analytics, for many site owners it will be more than enough. The fact that this service doesn’t require any additional integration or accounts removes a potential barrier that might’ve been standing in the way, preventing users from adding this feature to their website.
Monitor is another free module that gives you access to a very useful tool: website monitoring that checks your site for downtime.
If your website is important, or you’d just like to be kept in the loop regarding potential problems, Monitor is an essential Jetpack service you should enable on your WordPress website.
The setup process is straightforward. Simply enter your email address, and then hope that you never receive an email alert. Jetpack Monitor will check your website every five minutes, and if your site goes down you will get an email.
When your website is back online, you will get an email to that effect too. This can help you relax if you are in a situation where you are unable to do anything about the problem, or alternatively if you have been working hard to resolve the issue.
This is a pretty essential feature for any website, and being able to add it to your site in a few clicks with Jetpack is very impressive. If you aren’t monitoring your WordPress website already, the Monitor module is another reason why you might want to think about enabling Jetpack.
If you have more than one self-hosted WordPress website or WordPress.com website then the site Management module of Jetpack should be of interest to you. With this tool you can manage multiple WordPress sites from a single dashboard, hosted on WordPress.com.
Like many of the Jetpack modules, there are also free and premium alternatives to the Site Management tool – some of them with much more features. However, if you are yet to make use of one of those other services, or just in the interest of having one less account to worry about, this module will appeal.
Some of the capabilities of the Site Management module include:
- Activate and deactivate plugins in bulk or on a site-by-site basis
- Update plugins across all the sites you manage
- Publish posts and pages on any of the blogs you manage from the central dashboard
- View site stats across all the websites you manage
The Site Management dashboard is fully mobile optimized so you can look after your sites and create new content from your smartphone or tablet with ease.
Although the Site Management module lacks features such as cloning websites and changing themes that you will find with premium services like ManageWP, for most users looking for an easy way to keep all their sites up to date, this free Jetpack module should suffice.
If you’d like to display posts that are related to the current piece of content your visitors are reading at the end of each article on your site, the Related Posts module for Jetpack is just what you need.
While there are third party plugins that offer this service, as this and many of the other Jetpack modules run in the cloud, this related posts option won’t put any extra load on your server while its analysing your content and working out which posts are related to each other.
This means your website won’t suffer from slower loading pages, while increasing the chances that your readers will go on to view the other posts on your website when they are finished with the current article.
Once you’ve activated the module, you get a few options covering how the related posts are displayed. This includes displaying a ‘related’ header and whether to display a featured images or not.
While you don’t get all the settings and features of a dedicated related posts plugin, the fact that the computing takes place in the cloud, as opposed to on your server is a big advantage of this module.
This module gives you an easy way to let your visitors subscribe to your blog in order to receive notifications of your latest posts and comments.
Again this is another module that lets you harness the cloud computing of the WordPress.com servers, as they take care of emailing out the notifications.
Once you’ve activated the module your readers can subscribe via the form at the end of each post. Furthermore you can add the subscription widget to your sidebar or other widgetized areas of your site, increasing the ability of the subscription form. There is also a shortcode for inserting the signup form into your posts and pages in any position.
This all makes the Subscription module a hands off and flexible way to let readers subscribe to your blog, with WordPress.com taking the effort and load out of managing the subscriber list and sending out the emails.
With every year, as more and more people are accessing the internet on mobile devices, it’s becoming increasingly important to offer your visitors mobile-optimized version of your website.
Most good, modern WordPress themes will feature a responsive design for compatibility with small screen devices. However, if your current theme isn’t built this way, then activating the mobile Jetpack module is a quick way to remedy this issue.
Once this theme module is activated, mobile users will see the content of your website rendered for their devices. This includes a custom menu drop down menu and a mobile friendly search box to help your visitors quickly access and find the content they are looking for.
Through the Mobile Theme settings you can opt to display either full posts or post excerpts on the home and archive pages, as well as hide or display featured images, and some other options for more advanced users.
However, once you’ve activated the module, you can just leave the theme to work using the default settings with no extra effort on your part required.
VaultPress is one of the premium services mentioned earlier. For a monthly fee starting from just $5 per month, you can have your WordPress website backed up on an automated basis, either daily or in real time, depending on your chosen plan. The security bundle also includes daily security scans and one click security threat fixes.
While there are free backup plugins for WordPress, having a Dropbox-esque backup service running in real time is something worth paying for, especially when you consider the ease with which you can restore those backups – perhaps the most important aspect of any backup solution.
Obviously the best list of modules will vary from user to user, depending on what type of website is being built. However, the above Jetpack modules should help you add some useful features to your website, while avoiding some of the less valuable options.
Perhaps the recent comments from Matt Mullenweg about his Jetpack plugin were made with the intention of generating more interest in the service. However, even if that is the case, it’s fair to say it does have some useful modules that are easily accessible and can quickly turn a fresh installation of WordPress into something a lot more powerful and user friendly, helping it to better compete with its rivals.
A lot of the features of the Jetpack modules can be found elsewhere in already existing free and premium plugins that have been launched into the WordPress ecosystem by third party developers.
However, the lack of intuitiveness of the WordPress.org plugin repository, and the absence of a central premium plugin store probably represents a sizable barrier that prevents new WordPress users from finding the features they want to add to their website.
So while a lot of these ‘modules’ do exist already, Jetpack makes the same features much easier to find, and in turn makes a fresh installation of WordPress much more useful to new users. Whether Automattic should be focusing on making those pre-existing plugins easier to find, rather than creating their own versions and adding them to Jetpack though, is a matter for debate.
What are your thoughts on Jetpack? Are you happy to use it, or do you begrudgingly install it for one or two modules? Do you believe it has played a role in propping up WordPress, or is it harming the third party plugin ecosystem? Let us know in the comments below.