You have a WordPress website and have heard about plugins, but are not quite sure what a plugin is. What exactly are WordPress plugins? Definition from WordPress.org, WordPress plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress. Plugins range from adding a contact form to the website to implementing the functionality of converting a simple WordPress site into a powerhouse eCommerce store. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of WordPress plugins and how you can make sure you have the right plugins installed for your WordPress site.
WordPress Plugins – The Good
Plugins are wonderful components to add specific functionality to a WordPress site. For individuals who are not WordPress programmers, plugins are a way to add a component to the site without asking the developer to program. Think of it as an app being installed on an iPhone. Before installing any plugin, it is best to perform due diligence on the plugin and the author who developed the plugin. For example before downloading the plugin and installing the plugin onto the WordPress site, read the reviews that are left by actual users. You can see what customers who use the plugin are saying and if anybody is experiencing any issues with the plugin itself. We’ll provide an example for supportive purposes. You research and find the following plugin, Deprecation Checker. Here’s where you perform your due diligence. You’ll notice a couple of red flags with this plugin. First the plugin is outdated which is indicated by a banner at the top of the page. The banner reads, this plugin hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress. A superb way of informing users that this plugin is no longer being kept up and should refrain from using.
Second, you’ll notice the plugin is not compatible with WordPress 3.4 or higher. You never want to install a plugin that is not compatible with the most recent WordPress version. As of this writing the most current version of WordPress is 4.2.2. If a plugin is not up to date, the plugin can cause issues within your WordPress site. More on this subject in the next section. Overall this specific plugin is outdated and is not supported by the developer. The plugin should not be installed on a WordPress site and avoided at all cost. Let’s go over the con of plugins and why plugins separate WordPress from other platforms.
WordPress Plugins – The Bad
There are multiple ways of obtaining plugins. There are dedicated repositories for WordPress plugins that you can download for free such as WordPress.org/plugins or premium plugins from third party sites like ElegantThemes, Themeforest, and iThemes. Why are WordPress plugins bad? Let’s start with outdated plugins. Let’s say you download a free plugin and install it on your WordPress site. The plugin is used on a daily basis. Time goes on, the WordPress core gets updated as well as themes. Months pass by and the installed plugin has not been updated for quite some time. Even worse, the developer who made the plugin decides to no longer support the plugin, what is a small business to do in this instance? For starters, do not panic. The good news is most WordPress developers have the ability to comprehend the plugin code and take over the plugin to determine what can be salvaged. If a plugin is poorly coded then chances are you will have to deactivate, then uninstall the plugin, and hire a developer to program a new version of the plugin, which may be costly. The solution is to always download or purchase plugins from developers who plan to stick around for the long haul.
Plugins take up space on the web server the website is hosted on. Managing plugins is no small feat and having multiple plugins not in use can possibly slow down the website’s performance. One other aspect of having multiple plugins not in use can leave a security hole. If plugins are not updated when new releases come out and the plugin is not updated, this leaves a possible vulnerability that hackers can use to access the website. We discussed the importance of keeping plugins updated in another blog post.
WordPress plugins outweigh the good more than the bad. WordPress was able to separate themselves from other web platforms by including this unique feature. By allowing non-website individuals to install plugins without having to pay a developer a fee to program a new feature saves the business owner money. The goal is to make sure you perform due diligence when installing a plugin, making sure the plugin is constantly supported by the developer, and the plugin is keeping up with WordPress changes by staying compatible with the most recent instance of WordPress. Happy plugin hunting!