WordPress Plugins: Finding Your Balance
Yona GidalevitzFebruary 05th, 20168 minute read
Yona is Codal’s Technical Writer. At Codal, he is responsible for content strategy, documentation, blogging, and editing. He works closely with Codal’s UX, development, marketing, and administrative teams to produce all manner of written content. In his free time, Yona is an avid guitarist, cook, and traveler.
If you are just now arriving on the WordPress scene, doe-eyed and ambitious, you probably ought to arm yourself with some plugin know-how, so that your business doesn't suffer. We'll begin with one simple truth:
WordPress plugins are like double-edged swords.
That is, while they can add some much-needed value to your WordPress presence, plugins can also have you pulling out your hair in seconds flat.
Whether you're new to WordPress, or a veteran of the popular CMS, you've likely seen much debate around the viability of loading up your site with nifty plugins. We'd like to clear up some of the confusion for our readers.
Good news first.
Tipping the Scale: The Good
1. There are a lot of WordPress plugins.
No really--as I write this, the number has climbed to 42,766 plugins. In total, there have been 1,167,124,205 WP plugin downloads from the official site alone. If you are brave enough to venture into uncharted territory, you can also check out one of the many unofficial WP plugin directories, such as the aptly named The Unofficial WordPress Plugin Directory.
2. WordPress plugins are very easy to install.
Finding a WordPress plugin is easy, and implementing one is almost as easy. Once you've found one that suits your fancy, installing a WordPress plugin is as easy as learning to use an FTP server--which is a must if you're running any kind of site.
Here's how to install a WordPress plugin:
- 1. Download the plugin from your chosen directory.
- 2. Double-check the readme file in your download directory, so that you don't miss any special instructions.
- 3. Using your FTP software of choice, upload your new plugin folder to the wp-content/plugins folder in your WordPress directory.
- 4. In WordPress, access the Plugins selection from the sidebar, and find your new plugin.
- 5. Activate it, by clicking "Activate".
3. WP plugins are easy to use.Once activated, using WordPress plugins is a pretty straightforward process, although it changes from plugin to plugin. For this reason, we won't go too into depth on the basics of using WordPress plugins.After you've downloaded, installed, and activated your chosen plugin, you can visit it's entry in the WordPress plugin directory, and read the detailed instructions provided by the plugin developer.
Counterweight: The Bad
4. WP plugins can cause your site to become bloated.
This one goes hand-in-hand with point number one. I can't even prepare you for how many plugins will catch your eye as you peruse the WordPress directory. It's pretty dangerous, actually--soon enough, you'll be installing plugin after plugin, and next thing you know, your WP site will become heavily bloated.
Bloatedness can occur, to put it simply, when there are too many things loading at the same time. This can be caused by something as simple as improper image optimization, or by an overabundance of plugins.
Sometimes, it's just one of your many plugins that has caused your site to become bloated--and if you're not careful, you won't know which plugin is causing the issue.
5. Plugins are limited in functionality. Many first-time WP site owners that refuse to work with a development partner (or hire in-house developers) like to rely on the argument that they don't need WP developers because "there's a plugin for everything".
While it's true that are an incredible number of plugins available, there certainly isn't a plugin for every possible problem that needs solving. And if your chosen plugin comes ever-so-close to performing the precise task that you need it to, you won't be able to edit it's functionality unless you know how.
6. WordPress plugins may contain a backdoor to your website.
Many people fail to realize that most WordPress plugins are made by third-parties--even the ones hosted on WordPress's own directory. This means that when you install a plugin, the files and functionalities that get added to your WP site are completely at the mercy of the developer that made them.
This means that unless you yourself can read and understand the code behind the WP plugins that you install, you won't know about a potential security issue until it's too late.
A quick Google search not only turns up evidence of this problem, but even a number of guides for people to create backdoors in WordPress.
(Results for Google query "wordpress plugin backdoor")
Running a WordPress site is very much a balancing act--on the one hand, there are the functionalities that you need, and on the other is the performance and security that you refuse to lose. Sure, you can find a handful of plugins that will more-or-less get you there, but for most business owners, that just isn't good enough.
This is why it's crucial to have the right people working with you. Working with the right development partner could mean the difference between a fully functional, lean, secure site, and one which relies on third-party plugins at the cost of speed and safety. What are you willing to compromise?
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