So, you have just built a shiny new WordPress website. You’re looking at the dashboard and wondering what the ‘plugin’ tab is. For many individuals, understanding how website plugins actually work is beyond them, best left to the IT aficionados. That said, here’s the lowdown on how your website plugins work; the pros and cons and how many is too many for your website.
What is a plugin?
A website plugin is like an ‘add-on’ for your website. Its desired purpose is to give your website added functionality. Plugins are made up of code, thus adding extra details to your websites’ initial code. Some website plugins make a small change to your website while others can make significant changes. For example, with the addition of plugins, your website can be a fully functioning online shopping conglomerate or social media hub. Smaller or less significant functionality changes could include the additions of Instagram feeds or duplication functions to make editing and expanding your website easier.
Plugins can be employed to improve the front face or back end of your WordPress website. For example, a plugin may be installed to monitor and control search engine optimisation and analytics, such as Yoast or Rank Math.
How do plugins work and where do I find and download them on my website?
WordPress plugins are found on the Dashboard section of your website labelled ‘plugins’. There are a wide variety of plugins for various purposes and a lot of them are free to download. You also have an extensive library of paid plugins which allow for even better functionality. These usually carry an annual subscription fee but can make a world of difference, due to extended features. They are usually offered by trusted sources and are updated and maintained more often.
You can search for, and download, the type of plugin that you are looking for from your WordPress dashboard. We suggest you research your desired plugin before adding it to your site, ensuring the plugin gives you the functionality that you are searching for.
What to consider before installing a plugin on your site
If you have made the decision to install a plugin on your WordPress website, you need to make sure the plugin is sourced from a reputable supplier, has good reviews and is regularly maintained and updated. As plugins involve installing third party code to your website, installing a dodgy plugin can cause you a whole world of problems. The wrong plugin could cause an error on your website, reduce your website’s speed performance or open your website up to unnecessary security risks from compromised code.
When dealing with plugins, if your website is managed by an IT support company, you can ask them to consult on the installation of the plugin, and they can inform you of the best approach to achieve your desired functionality.
The benefits of plugins on a WordPress website
The main benefit of a plugin is, of course, to add functions to your website, but each plugin offers varying functionality. Having said that, the addition of a plugin can be a massive time saver. Considering that there are tens of thousands of plugins available, having them on a website reduces the need for unnecessary coding by your IT technician, saving your business time and money. Plugins that are made by reliable developers can also add extra reliability to your website. The added functionality of your plugin is maintained by the WordPress development team which means that your website will be able to consistently operate with the reliable plugin intact.
The disadvantages of plugins on a WordPress website
While the addition of plugins might sound like a dream come true for developers, there are possible disadvantages too.
A huge disadvantage of plugins is that third party plugins can open your website up to vulnerabilities. Poorly designed plugins are more susceptible to hackers and as such, your website can become compromised. Hackers can access your website through your plugins and access personal data and information. They can also change the code within your website, make detrimental changes to your website and even overrun your website.
Another disadvantage of using plugins on your website is that they can conflict with each other. As they are so easy to install, it is possible to make the mistake of installing multiple plugins for similar functionality improvements which can mean that plugins can conflict with each other. These conflicts can have an inverse effect on your website’s functionality.
So, how many plugins is too many plugins?
Less is more, when it comes to the installation of plugins on your website. There’s no magic number of plugins that you should or shouldn’t have – this will depend on your website’s needs and also the server where it is hosted.
Having said that, for shared or budget hosting services, we recommend you stick to 5 plugins or less, to reduce the risk of decreased site speed. If your website is hosted on a cloud-based server, you can handle more plugins without too much site speed reduction, but we still recommend to keep your plugins to essential use only. This includes ensuring you do not have multiple plugins creating similar functionality.
If your site is flooded with plugins, best to go in and have a look at your ‘inactive’ plugins and uninstall any that are unnecessary or no longer in use, in order to reduce any risk of security breaches.
All in all, plugins offer some great benefits by providing your WordPress website with more capability and enhanced functionality, saving you time and money. But be warned, plugins also have grey areas that don’t necessarily make them the best choice for some aspects of your website.
It is still possible to achieve certain functionalities from modern WordPress website with the addition of page builders such as Oxygen and Elementor. When in doubt, always consult an industry expert. The team at Jezweb can help you get your website looking and feeling amazing! We can run a health check on your website and assist you with managing the use of plugins throughout your website. If you need advice from experts who know plugins and websites, contact Jezweb today and ‘plug in’ to some amazing service and award-winning websites.