February 28, 2020 –

Surely there’s a plug-in for that?

Author: Emma Yemm
Emma Yemm
Senior Digital Account Manager
Photo by: Vincent Botta
In short, there probably is.

With thousands of plug-ins available, the probably of finding one to create a specific feature or functionality on your website is very high, but is this really the best route to go down?

A plug-in is essentially a software component that quickly adds a specific feature to an existing system or website, in order to add new functionality or enhance it. For example, if you want to add a video to your website, you may need to install a plug-in in order for it to play automatically.

For this reason, and whilst most commonly associated with WordPress (an open-source platform with over 50,000 available), plug-ins can at times perform a vital role within any website; particularly for smaller businesses looking for a temporary, low-cost solution.

That said, there are a number of factors to consider before adding them to your site, including but not limited to:

  • Security: in short, hackers love plug-ins - not only is the user base large, but the code is often diverse and easy to manipulate; making any website which uses them unarguably more susceptible to security breaches.
  • Site speed: using too many plug-ins or plug-ins that don’t work well together can significantly limit your site speed and overall performance
  • Potential conflicts: as each plug-in is likely to have been written by a different programmer, conflicts are unfortunately quite common – e.g. your new plug-in may have been given a fairly generic name by Programmer A, which is also being used by Programmer B for an existing plug-in on your site; thus resulting in an a series on conflicts and errors being presented to the user
  • Increased risk of downtime: poorly written plug-ins can often result in website crashes
  • Upgrade: as new software becomes available, it’s often possible to update your website to a newer version of software and/or content management system (CMS). That said, if multiple plug-ins have been used then unfortunately there’s no way to guarantee that these will be compatible with the newer version, potentially resulting in website downtime or errors
  • Number: there is much debate around the number of plug-ins which should be used on a site with developers arguing that multiple plug-ins may heavily impact the usability of a site. Whilst true in some cases, as a rule it’s more the quality of the plug-ins (opposed to the number) which you need to be wary of.

In summary and whilst plug-ins can be useful (particularly for smaller companies or less business-critical sites), adding endless amounts to a site may prove detrimental to the site speed, security and overall user experience. They should therefore be used sparingly and intelligently, and ideally not in instances where an alternative, bespoke solution is available.

Interested in hearing more? Please do get in touch!