August 30, 2017

Should you avoid plugins on the blog?

This article applies to Wordpress free/ personal/ premium/ business blogs as well as blogs created with wordpress.org CMS.

Wordpress bloggers are fascinated with plugins because these little bits of software can add great functionality to the blog, ranging from improving SEO to installing a beautiful comment box to what not. And in most cases, you don't need to know coding at all.

Wordpress plugins add functionality but might hurt the blog.
Yes, plugins are a wonderful way to add great things to the blog, which you cannot do without knowing a lot of PHP - the computer language used by Wordpress. Moreover, a number of plugins are free. Wordpress offers more plugins and allows you to install third-party plugins as you go for paid plans. On Wordpress-created self-hosted blogs, you can install plugins by dozens.

For self-hosted blogs on Wordpress CMS, the number of plugins available is growing by the day. Its depository already has around 52,000 plugins!

In all, plugins are such an important part of Wordpress ecosystem that without plugins, Wordpress blogs would be all plain and similar looking.


But plugins can harm your blog if...


Let's start with numbers: would you stop at a few or can install a large number without hurting the blog/ website? At any rate, free Wordpress blogs do not have much choice; there are some available and you need to choose from them. In paid plans or self-hosted Wordpress blogs, you can put a large number of plugins.

Techies from Wordpress community tell us that number does not matter as long as they are good plugins. Some say that even  a hundred plugins won't slow down or create any perceptible loss in performance if they are properly coded. But these users are coders themselves and tweak the code in such a way that the plugins work fine, without interfering with other code and delivering results fast.

Coming to quality of plugins, one must be sure on many counts before putting a plugin.
For example, 'Is the plugin really required and will add value to the blog?' It is very important that we look at the need for and value of the plugin on the blog. Most plugins, like widgets, fascinate bloggers but do not add real value to the blog. Some plugins are useful but are either not relevant or do not go well with the subject of the blog.

'Is the plugin trustworthy?' There are millions of app, widget and plugin makers and all of them might not be trustworthy. Some have malicious code included in it.

'Is the code good enough?'  Some plugin makers have good intention but their coding is bad, which makes the site slow down, even crash. Some plugins are created and then forgotten; these might have been good at one time but may not be fully compatible with the updated Wordpress code or new browsers.

It is often said that paid plugins are better than free ones. I won't vouch for that, but yes, if a plugin is selling well, it could be an indicator that people are buying it for its quality. It is good to search Wordpress community for what people are talking about a particular plugin.


Even good plugins can slow down the website


Plugins of some types require additional HTTP requests and database queries, and they load scripts and style code, and that should not slow down the speed much. But if they call a number of resources not located on the site, there could be a problem. Also, if they need to perform complex tasks, load scripts from faulty websites or call heavy resources from busy servers, they might lead to slow loading time and even the site crashing.

The best advice in case you feel a particular plugin is really needed on your blog/ website but know that it involves calling external resources or a bit of complex computing, test the site speed with and without the plugin, and then take a decision.


Still, some plugins may be greatly useful


Having cautioned you about use of plugins on Wordpress blogs, let me hasten to add that some types of plugins are almost a must for any blog. These would include plugins for
  • backing up the blog
  • social sharing
  • SEO
  • security

I won't be able to recommend specific good plugins of these categories, but you could look at the ones recommended by Wordpress itself and those recommended most by Wordpress community members.

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