WordPress is the most used content management system on the internet. There are plenty of reasons for this, including the expanded functionality made possible by tens of thousands of plugins provided by third-party developers. As a WordPress user yourself, you likely have at least a few plugins installed.
Plugins are great because they expand functionality without you having to be an expert in writing code. But they have to be used judiciously. If you are a heavy plugin user, you could be harming your site more than helping it. Below are three things that might help you understand why. They are things to remember when installing plugins in the future.
1. Plugins Load Independently
It is true that plugins extend the functionality of WordPress without you having to know how to write code. But they are still standalone ‘products’ that have to load independently. Every time someone logs onto your WordPress site, that person’s web browser must first load the base content before moving on to plugins and their content. This takes time.
Do you know where we’re going with this? That’s right – too many plugins can slow down page load times. You can’t afford that in a day and age when people abandon websites that don’t load quickly enough for them. Be careful about using plugins if you find your site is loading too slowly.
2. Plugins Are Not Always Maintained
The WordPress plugin universe is populated by countless dedicated developers who do right by their users in keeping their plugins up-to-date. Unfortunately, there are also developers that begin working on plugins as pet projects or school assignments, only to abandon them a few months or years down the road.
The truth is that many WordPress plugins are not maintained after the first year or two. That makes them a problem on several fronts. Obviously, non-maintained plugins automatically present a security risk. Beyond that is the problem of obsolescence. Plugins that are not maintained may not be up to the current standards of the platform, reducing their functionality or outright breaking them. An obsolete plugin is never good for a website.
3. Plugins Can Be Security Risks
As we have outlined in previous posts, plugins can present security risks if they are not coded properly and continuously maintained. How do you know if a plugin is a security risk? Most of the time there’s no way to know until a breach occurs. That’s why we recommend staying abreast of WordPress security news.
We also recommend only using plugins that are highly rated after a significant number of downloads. For example, a five-star rating on a plugin only downloaded 100 times isn’t all that impressive. That same five-star rating on a plugin with 100,000 downloads is another story.
The vast library of WordPress plugins gives the content management system a tremendous amount of functionality and flexibility. Go ahead and use them, but do so judiciously. Plugins can be your foe as well as your friend.