To plugin or not to plugin – My 2 cents on using plugins
One of the really great things about WordPress is you can achieve almost anything with no to little code knowledge.
You have thousands of themes to choose from and a gazillion plugins ready to enhance your online presence.
However, all these options come with great responsibility!
You need to constantly check security (yes, some plugins add security vulnerabilities!), check on your site quality (yes, some plugins are just poorly coded!), and you need to keep an eye on those site speed gauges (the more plugins you use, the bigger chance to have a slower website).
- They add A LOT of functionality to your website.
From simple widgets you can add to your sidebar up to e-commerce ready-to-use solutions, your options are close to unlimited.
Today you have a small blog and tomorrow, just by tweaking a few plugins, your blog could become a full featured teaching platform. Or a social network. Or an online shop.
- Most of the plugins are free or very cheap compared to their added functionality
- Most plugins are extremely easy to use. Usually, plugins come with detailed documentation and most of them require no to very little code knowledge.
- Plugins usually have manners and play nice with each other.
- Some of the added functionality is really not needed.
Because plugins are so easy to use, people are tempted to just add more and more and more without really analyzing necessity.
What if a plugin costed $4,000? Would you just impulse buy it and activate it? Or would you do some extensive research on the value it ads?
Would you try to find out if you or your visitors really need that feature?
- Each plugin is like a little black box. You know it is there, you know it adds the value but you don’t have any clues on how it does things.
You need to do a lot of reverse engineering to get an idea on how / why / when things happen.
This means the more plugins you have on your site, the more little black boxes doing their magic, the less control you have.
Each and everyone of these little black boxes can slow or even crash your site (or parts of it)
- Some plugins add security holes to your setup.
Fortunately, there aren’t that many in this group. Usually, the frequently used plugins get reviewed by a lot of people (and coders) so security vulnerabilities (if any) are quickly fixed.
- Some plugins are poorly coded
How many plugins are too many?
I hear this question so often… it definitely makes it in my top 5 most answered questions.
It depends! I bet you didn’t see this coming.
Jokes aside, it really depends. There are bad performing, poorly coded websites only using 10-15 plugins out there and there are websites using 40-50 plugins without any noticeable performance impact.
My advise is always the same: the fewer and better plugins you use, the higher chances to have a well performing website.
As a conclusion: use plugins sensibly!
Always think twice before adding new functionality. Maybe ask your visitors / customers for some feedback, see if they really need the new feature or not.
Try to make (and keep) a coder friend (we are mostly anti-social, i know) and get his advise on things. A second opinion will never hurt.
Read as much as you can about a plugin before jumping in and clicking Install / Activate.