Learning Hub | Maintaining Your Website
Three Rules For Using WordPress Plugins On Your Website
December 1, 2014 | Jon Teodoro
WordPress has grown from being used in mostly blog-based websites to a market-leader in CMS solutions for both business and enterprise applications. Having worked almost exclusively with WordPress for the past five to six years, I have personally seen how it has evolved to earn this level of adoption. In addition to the user-friendliness of WordPress, the existence of pre-built scripts, called plugins, also play a big role in the pervasiveness of the CMS.
WordPress plugins can be considered a godsend for many non-technical website admins or “developers” because it can reduce, or sometimes completely eliminate, the necessity to code. The mantra of “one-click install” and “there’s a plugin for that” is widespread among the non-technical WordPress community. With a directory of over 34,000 plugins, it can be hard to resist that temptation of one click “problem solving”. As much as WordPress plugins can be a blessing, however, they can also be a curse, especially for the more experienced developer.
I’ll share three personal rules that I use when deciding whether to use a plugin or not:
1. You should be trying to solve a specific and necessary problem.
Using WordPress plugins for your website can be very convenient, however, for someone who doesn’t know how to code it can be easy to go overboard. WordPress plugins are great if you are trying to solve a very specific problem that is crucial to how your website functions. A great example of this would be an add-on extension to handle payment processing for WooCommerce. Sure, you could develop your own payment processing solution, but that can get complicated – even for the most seasoned developers. Which brings me to my next point:
2. The problem you are trying to solve is relatively complex
In the previous case of payment processing, developing a custom solution can get somewhat complex for your average developer. In these cases, time equals money, and budget is always an issue. When executing your own cost-benefit analysis, utilizing a plugin in this situation makes perfect sense.
On the other hand, where we see a lot of “developers” go wrong is that they install a plugin for something relatively simple like Google Analytics or for installing one-line snippets like Call Rail‘s extension. These implementations are very common and can be performed with very little development experience. It is highly recommended that you do not go this route when you need to implement these smaller scripts as you risk problems like plugin conflicts, increased management overhead or the infamous WordPress White Screen of Death, which leads me to my last and final point:
3. Research the developers who built the plugin.
This is an afterthought for many chronic WordPress plugin users. At times where we are desperately looking for a solution, it is easy to over to overlook the issue of software quality. The truth is that not all developers will use the proper coding conventions or techniques to build software. Many do, but many don’t. And at the end of the day, it is their software that you are relying on to power your website which is why you should invest your time and perform your due diligence in selecting not only the right software, but the right developer, to solve your problem.The last thing you want to deal with is an unsupported plugin that needs to be fixed. Yikes.
There is a proper time and place to be using WordPress plugins as a solution and if the criteria fits, go for it. If you can invest even 30 minutes of your time on trying to implement it manually, I would definitely go that route instead of using a plugin. At the end of the day, even if you aren’t a developer, you’ll learn something new!
Attention WordPress Admins! Do you have any horror stories from using WordPress plugins in the past? If so, comment below!