Should I Use Jetpack on My WordPress Website?

The cool guys over at Automattic have been working hard to bring a really impressive plugin to the masses — Jetpack.

Jetpack brings loads of the features from wordpress.com blogs to your self-hosted WordPress site.

It comes with 24 free modules to beef up your WordPress experience. But are they really all necessary?

Your ticket to the WP Cloud…

Now that’s a lot. And the first thing I thought when I heard about Jetpack back in 2011 was, “Great, a whole bunch of new fluff to load my site up with.” As it has grown though, some really cool features have been added to it that whilst not necessary, definitely make managing a WordPress site easier.

Out of the 24 free modules, there are seven that stand out to me as things you really need.

  • Publicize
  • WordPress Stats
  • Sharing
  • Contact Form
  • Shortcode Embeds
  • Extra Sidebar Widgets
  • Enhanced Distribution

In my experience from creating custom websites for clients, these all come in handy at some stage. You always need a sharing plugin, a plugin to sync your social services, easy ways to add content to the sidebar and so on. Jetpack tackles all these with what you know is going to be air-tight code. It has, after all, been written by the people who wrote WordPress!

There are also a few that I find very handy and cool to have. Not necessities, but they will definitely augment your WordPress blog.

  • Jetpack Comments
  • Carousel
  • Mobile Theme
  • Infinite Scroll
  • Photon

And my favourite of them all is the JSON API.

I’m going to give you a quick run down on why I love these thirteen modules, why they stand out above the rest, and how they can help you with your blog.

The Necessities

Below are the plugins I’d absolutely recommend from Jetpack and a little bit about them.

Publicize

Easily know where each post will be published to.

Publicize is a sweet module that will automatically ping your social services (such as Facebook and Twitter) and post your new content on your behalf. In my opinion, this is invaluable, as I’ve never not been asked to sync accounts in such a way.

There is only one true competitor out there when it comes to social connections, that being Social by MailChimp. Now that there is a “native” alternative that supports more services, I doubt I’ll ever use Social again.

The thing that I love most is the care Automattic has  taken to make the UI as easy as possible to understand. That goes for all plugins in this list. They take special care to every UI detail to ensure the usability of the plugins is as good as it can be.

Publicize at current supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Yahoo connections, which I think is more than enough. It covers social, to business, to leisure networks.

WordPress Stats

Yes, we do have Google Analytics for this. But if you visit the dashboard regularly like I do or have clients that lack the knowledge of how to access analytics, this plugin is great. It’s a life and time saver for everybody.

At a glance, you get to see page views for today. Which is nice for clients because it tends to make them feel like their website is growing.

The cool thing too is that it has a surprisingly good amount of stats for you. Geo stats, pageviews, content count and much more. It even gives you details on comments, users, custom post types, etc. Since it’s obviously a competitor to Google Analytics, they do their best to make it worth your while.

Google Analytics is for power users, WordPress.com Stats are for those who want a nice overview of their traffic.

Geostats show you where in the world your readers are.

Sharing

We all love some beautiful custom sharing buttons. But for the stock standard and solid, Jetpack provides a sharing module that allows readers to share your posts to a large number of popular networks.

All the major social sites are instantly available to share to.

Whilst it doesn’t have blanket coverage of a plugin such as AddThis (300+ services to share to!), it covers all the important ones. Enough for me, and enough for the general user I think. AddThis would be a solution for the hardcore networker.

Contact Forms

Customizer’s dream.

Contact forms have been the bane of a developers existence since the early days of web development. Whether to roll your own or use a plugin, dealing with human verification and validation–all a pain.

There are loads of plugins out there that let you create custom web forms through a (generally horrible) UI. If all you’re after is a simple email contact form, then this is the plugin for you. I daresay you could even create a solid article submission form using Jetpack’s Contact Forms.

Super simple UI that inserts shortcodes to build the forms.

The UI is nice (thickbox), and it uses shortcodes which us developers love. +1 for Jetpack Contact Forms over any other basic solution.

The only limitation is that it is an email form. If you’re after forms that interact with WordPress, it’s best to roll your own.

Shortcode Embeds

Whilst not a complete necessity, I find shortcode embeds a valuable utility. I’ve been asked to embed YouTube videos into websites more times than I care to count, especially when a client or manager cannot figure it out. Definitely handy to have.

Not only easy to use, it supports a huge number of services. Not just popular video sites (Youtube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, etc), but also Google Maps, Slideshow services, images and documents, and even polls.

Extra Sidebar Widgets

The highlight of this plugin for me is the ability to add a Twitter feed. Seriously, that’s probably all I’d use it for. I would occasionally use image widgets for promotional reasons, but that’s usually handled by some sort of ad manager service (i.e. Google’s DFP).

Once again, when building client websites I’ve always been asked to embed a Twitter feed. This takes the pain out of doing so, and is totally customisable via CSS.

Enhanced Distribution

The key to ad sales online and selling your content or product is by far coverage. You want to make sure your stuff is searchable in all the major search engines.

Whilst SEO plugins are good for this (Infinity SEO is an excellent solution), pinging search engines to let them know you have new content is important to get these well optimised pages and posts to the masses.

Simply, Enhanced Distribution automatically pings Google, Bing, and other third party services to let them know you have content ready to be indexed. You can sit back and relax, and watch your content show up in Google. Brilliant.

The cool things

Whilst not 100% necessary, the following modules have a special place in my heart for being cool additions to great websites.

Jetpack Comments

I used to work for SitePoint, and an ongoing discussion we had was whether to stick to default WordPress comments, use a custom solution we built ourselves called Podling, or go with the already established Disqus.

Jetpack comments are what we should have gone with. We would have gotten social connection (via commenters logged in through Twitter or Facebook), kept ownership of our comments through the admin panel, and had a sexy form.

Most of this cool form is hidden until you focus on the text box- then the rest slides down for users to provide their details.

I don’t often design blogs (usually custom portfolios or websites), but if I were to I would absolutely use Jetpack Comments to handle that issue.

Carousel

My favourite thing about the Carousel module is that it’s mobile ready. It’s responsive, looks beautiful, and just works. You have options on what data to display (title, caption, even EXIF data from the photos themselves)

It uses built in WordPress galleries to make these excellent swipeable image carousels, which makes building them in your posts and pages even easier.

Mobile Theme

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m all about responsive design. I love it. I think watching a page collapse as you make the browser smaller is one of the finer things of the modern web.

But. It does take a lot of work and planning, and can sometimes be too time consuming to be worth it.

For those people who want an instant yet simple and beautiful mobile theme, this module is for you. It looks great, and gives you just enough customization options to make it look like yours. In conjunction with the Custom CSS Jetpack module, you have a mobile theme ready to go at your fingertips.

The only lame thing is that it has a small advertisement at the bottom prompting you to download WordPress for iOS.

Infinite Scroll

Do I really need to convince you? It’s a big novelty, but I’m a massive fan of infinite scroll for a number of reasons. People are lazy as all hell, and will read less of your site if they have to click next page over and over to reach more content. This in turn, means you’ll end up displaying more ads to the reader (if you’re in that business).

The only downside of infinite scrolling is that your pageviews will drop a little- people are no longer visiting 5 pages to see 50 articles, just one.

Photon

Last but not least, Photon is great for speeding up your blog. All your images get uploaded to a content delivery network hosted by WordPress. This means the browser can download more images at once resulting in a faster page load, and happier readers. Combine this with some sort of lazy-load plugin, and your pages will load blazing fast.

A special place in my heart

I’m a huge fan of data. Raw data. WordPress is great, because it makes it really easy for designers to create good looking websites easily.

For the developer though, one would understand that rendering content on the server is lazy and gives you lack of control.

Cue the JSON API

Yes. Ah. I love it. If you’re building something totally custom, whether it be a backbone powered site, or even a native iOS or Android app, a JSON API is the most invaluable tool you will come across.

Having a JSON API at your fingertips enables you to create data-driven websites, and have totally custom solutions. It’s even extendable via PHP, so you can get anything in your WordPress database with ease in JSON format.

If you don’t know what JSON is, it’s a data-structure that has absolutely no HTML in it- just the data. Imagine an enormous PHP array but for Javascript and other coding languages. It takes up a load less bandwidth to send (it’s raw data and not thousands of lines of HTML) and well, if you’re into Javascript you’ll know why this is such a boss tool to have.

Okay… So Should I Use Jetpack or Not?

My vote is yes. It provides so many functions and tools that you’ll search for otherwise in one tight package. It’s written by the guys that wrote WordPress, so you know it will be solid and tested. All the modules have a good UI, which makes using it a pleasantry.

And quite frankly, I’m sick of wrestling with 3rd party plugins to get what I want. Jetpack just works.

For the full list of modules available, check out the Jetpack website.

40 Responses

  • New Recruit

    I think Jetpack is a great concept, but I can’t use it and here’s why:

    1 – At least half of the add-ons included should not under any circumstances require authentication with Automattic’s servers. I was absolutely appalled when for some reason my twitter widget, contact form and comment forms stopped working, just because in the background my connection with Automattic had been severed for just a brief moment. The biggest problem of all was that after losing the connection, it couldn’t resume it without manual intervention.

    2 – Some add-ons should not be part of this commercialized plugin to begin with. Imagine how many cool hacks developers could come up with for that awesome gallery. Jetpack’s only involvement should be to load the JS from it’s own server whenever possible, like you can do with jQuery. But worst of all is your favorite, the JSON API. Do you really think this sort of functionality belongs in a proprietary plugin? It is my quite possibly flawed understanding that Jetpack might make the authentication part a bit easier and secure, but I think this should be added as an extra layer on top of an existing JSON API in the WordPress core.

    We had a developer who wanted to make an app for our site, so he asked if we had a JSON API available. We didn’t, because in order to have one we’d have to enable Jetpack and with it comes a whole slew of possible complications with failed authentications, add-ons slowing your site down and incompatibilities with existing plugins.

  • New Recruit

    I might as well add what I think would be a much better solution:

    Jetpack needs to work more like CBOX. The way this plugin works is that it acts as a parent for a nice bundle of individual plugins. So say I have 2/10 CBOX plugins already installed when I install CBOX, what it’ll do is it’ll recognize that those two plugins are already installed, take “ownership” over them by hiding then from the default admin plugins panel and forcing me to manage them via its own panel instead (which is a bit jarring at first but it makes sense).

    So imagine that for Jetpack. Any widgets or plugins that don’t really need authentication with Automattic (i.e. every plugin in Slim Jetpack could be installed as a stand-alone plugin, independent from Jetpack. Once you install Jetpack though, it’ll add these plugins to its own interface along with adding any extra layer of functionality that might be enabled through the power of Automattic authentication.

  • New Recruit

    Great article. I use Jetpack on ALL my sites and client sites as well. However, it is important to keep in mind that everyone has a different set of needs on their site, so not everyone is going to use all the options of the Jetpack plugin. The nice part of this plugin is that you can activate or deactivate any and all options of the plugin, allowing you to truly customize it for your site.

  • Bob
    WPMU DEV Initiate

    Thanks Harley. I agree – it’s not great, there are better individual plugins, but it’s so effortless and easy a package that it’s hard to deny. And they seem to be continually working on it. That said, the authentication is a bit frightful to customers. Would love to see more info on it if you feel like doing another blog :).

  • New Recruit

    Author,

    I wonder that you write about the plugins without learning about them and even the basic knowledge.

    I still remember many of your posts without proper research. We all remember your post about BuddyPress Multiple Instances which was misleading.

    Your authors at edublog are much careless that they even encourage users to go beyond regulations. They suggest the readers to create multiple accounts in FaceBook which is against to terms and conditions. They just don’t understand even they were warned.

    Don’t just make the false statements with your popular blog.

    • Hi Anil,

      I’m sorry you feel that way. Personally, I’m a new writer at wpmu.org and the reason I was hired to ensure the research IS done before articles are written. I promise I’ll never write a mis-informed article, and always stick to good practices.

      I’ve been working with WordPress for over 5 years now, so without tooting my own horn, I know my stuff. I’ll never write about something without researching the topic thoroughly. That’s why I was hired here. So we do the research for you.

      My sincerest apologies for any inconvenience other authors have caused you. My posts will always be well-researched.

  • The Bug Hunter

    Great article. Something that I was intending to research. One thing though that I find lacking on these articles is the focus on WPMU. I think all articles here should be bias too or at least mention a little more about the ease of use or lack there off on WPMU websites / multisites.

    @Harley, any thoughts?

    • I see where you’re coming from. At Incsub (wpmu.org’s parent company) we aim to be “Your WordPress Team”. My job is to speil out all my knowledge and research on WordPress, and we have other writers that focus on WPMU, which is actually named WPMS now. WPMU is our brand as much as it is what we’re about- if you have a look at our plugins, they’re all (mostly) WPMS targetted, or at least compatible.

      I’ll take that in heed though Jason. What would you want to hear about? Anything in particular you want to learn? Tell me and I’ll tailor articles to it :)

  • New Recruit

    As a designer I thoroughly enjoyed your article and have been using Jetpack since it came out for self hosted sites. There is a bug in the mobile module with the Menu, the mobile site doesn’t replicate the website, instead it lists ALL of your pages alphabetically, which is a bit Grrr, other wise I really like the stats and the edit css feature.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    When I first saw JetPack I was very excited because it solved several pain points I had. Having been created by the makers of WordPress I had high hopes.

    However I’m very careful about reliability and not making a bigger mess in the future. As a WPMU network with any substantial amount of websites, there is a lot of time and frustration risked with a plugin that you later have to replace, or worse, can’t replace.

    3-4 of the JetPack features would sold major pain points but based on reviews of performance issues, broken connections to the mother ship, etc. I fear it’s not ready.

    As a fair disclaimer, I have not yet installed JetPack but I’ve read hours of comments on it and I tend to find such research saves more headaches than diving in myself first.

    I was very happy to see this article listed in the WPMU.org blog and was hoping to get some closure but, with respect to the author, I don’t feel the negative aspects of the plugin were covered, rather the focus was on the shiny features which I agree are tempting.

  • Hi,

    I read about Jetpack also when I already had it installed.
    When I did a speedtest for my website at Pingdom I noticed something from Quantcast. I don’t hear anybody about this at this website.

    I have to admit the Quantcast only slowed down my website ones, but I read more negative things about it.

    Please have a look at http://wordpress.org/support/topic/quantjs-still-there-after-deactivating-stats?replies=9#post-3895380.

    Happy to hear anybody’s thoughs about it.

    Quantcast is in the stats part and I discovered it was in comments part also (they removed it there now temporarly because of my ‘catch’).

    Besides that a lot of people leave comments on my site but almost nobody uses login with facebook or twitter, so I’m not going to miss that part of. So why not use the WP comment systeem itself instead of other service?

  • Thanks for your article – I’ve wanted to take a closer look at jetpack for quite a while now; having all those modules under one hood sure is tempting.

    The comments form offers the biggest value to me; there are other solutions out there, but they’re quite a hassle.

    Since some folks complain about the “broken connection to mothership” problem, I’m curious how often this happens?

    PS: on the trust issue… I wouldn’t worry about that with Auttomatic. They’re not FB after all :-)

  • New Recruit

    I’ve found that Jetpack interferes with AdSense plugins. Somehow, it would interfere and cause the ad code to be inserted in the header.

    The other problem I’ve had with Jetpack is that I simply can’t get Publicize to work. At first it would only work with posts published “live” as opposed to scheduled. But now not even those are pushed through to my Facebook page. The last time Jetpack successfully posted to my Facebook page was over a month ago. I think I’m going to try that Social plugin you mentioned.

  • iAn
    New Recruit

    Since I used Jetpack, I got significant traffic increase. Some of those are coming form WordPress.com dashoard. Unfortunately, I encountered some issues. My administrator interface goes relatively slower. My site loads faster when I’m not logged but it loads the other way around when I am using the admin interface.

    I think of uninstalling but I worry for the traffic I’ll lose.

  • New Recruit

    So speaking of Enhanced Distribution: don’t see any advantages agains the built-in Update Services Ping feature.

    In fact I was using JetPack for 2 years on my blog and disabled it today because none of the features I use really worth the performance loss in downloading of couple more external js (jetpack and its stats that is no better then Google Analytics btw).

    Like yeah, those sound cool, but each of them has no real value. Like Photon: cuts away image EXIF and serves it from other domain… no, thanks. Share… AddThis does better job and so on.

  • New Recruit

    Well, after reading this post and mulling it over for a long while beforehand – I was put off by reports of Jetpack slowing sites down – I’ve gone and plugged in JetPack to my ItalyChronicles.com blog. I haven’t activated all the features and deactivated a few others too and I will move the social share buttons to the top of posts which will require adding a little code to functions.php

    I’m happy that I could remove some other plugins which did what JetPack now does. This may pass some processing horsepower over to Automattic – which is no bad thing.

    Luckily, and unexpectedly, popular posts functionality has not been affected by the change over.

    I’m a little wary of Photon and need to read a little more about it before deciding to let it host images.

    Page load time via Pingdom tools has not changed. Latest test on home page resulted in a load time of 995ms – under a second which is fine by me.

    So far, so good :)

  • New Recruit

    One thing your not pointing out is the resource hog it is, and how many HTTP requests it loads up. All those features, and now there are 34. My site that was averaging 1.5 second load time before installing Jetpack, then after went to averaging 11 seconds load time with only 5 features activated and 20+ HTTP requests. You think that is great? I don’t. I don’t want to lose visitors. I want to gain them, and if I have to remove the plugin, then I will and I did. I will never try it again. 34 features is like 34 plugins in one, especially with all the HTTP requests.

    Plus, GTmetrix does not even recognize photon as a CDN. It does recognize Cloudflare as one.

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