WordPress is a great platform for building a website (self-hosted WordPress from wordpress.org that is). One of the great features is that you can add almost any functionality to your website quite easily — with a plugin. You can add things like an image slider, social media sharing buttons, and backend tools such as google analytics monitoring, just to name a few.
There are tons of plugins available, some fare free and some you need to purchase. Just look on the wordpress site https://wordpress.org/plugins/ and you’ll see what I mean!
So if you find one that’s interesting to you and you’re thinking about installing it on your website, there are some things you should consider before you do that.
First all, do you really need that plugin? If you have too many plugins installed it can slow down your site as each one tries to run and do it’s thing. There are certainly valid reasons for a plugin, depending on your business and the purpose of your website. And yes, some can be fun to have. But consider if the overhead is worth it or not. The overhead for a single plugin is usually insignificant. But dozens of plugins… that’s where you may run into issues.
Next, check the last time the plugin was updated. WordPress is updated often and the plugins need to keep up with the changes. Why does that matter? Well first off, WordPress is used by so many websites that it can be a target for hackers. When any part of your site is not up to date, it can leave a security hole where hackers can break in and wreak all sorts of havoc. A plugin that is kept up to date shows that the author cares that their software works properly and it’s more reliable than one that may be a year two out-of-date.
Speaking of the author, check out the support forum and see how many of the issues have been resolved and how quickly. A responsive plugin author shows they are dedicated to providing a good, solid plugin. Plus you can see some of the issues people have and determine if it might affect you.
Then, check out the number of downloads for the plugin. The more times a plugin has been downloaded, the more reliable it is. That’s because there have been more people putting it through it’s paces and working out all the problems. So you get a more reliable plugin that is less likely to cause you problems! More downloads says that the plugin is a good one — the old popularity rule!
While we’re talking popularity, check out the number of stars a plugin has and read a few reviews. You know the author loves the plugin but what about the people who have used it? If they like it — or don’t — that says a lot about the experience you will have using it. So you get a more reliable plugin that is less likely to cause you problems!
Lastly, double-check with your theme and other plugins you already have to make sure there aren’t conflicts. This is most likely to occur with themes. Some themes have functionality built into them and a plugin may have code that can mess with that. If you have a good theme, it will have documentation that will list all known conflicts with plugins. That said, the plugin you are thinking about may not have been tried by someone else using your theme. But, if it causes problems, you can uninstall it.
Bottom line is, you need to be thoughtful about what you put on your websites. Your site needs to load and run quickly while providing all the functionality you want to offer your visitors to give them the experience you want them to have. If you’re ever unsure about something, get help! Having someone who is more familiar with WordPress help you out will save money and headaches in the long run! If you want to chat about a website or updating yours, click here and we’ll talk!