WordPress Plugins – Pros and Cons
Many bloggers use WordPress (and we do, too!) which is a fantastic tool to use for an online presence. In addition to very nice built-in functionality, there is a robust community of developers who write add-on features for WP called “plugins.”
Plugins can do anything from add Facebook and G+ buttons to a page, to finding related posts for readers, to adding Google Analytics into all of your WP content. The list is long indeed, and they all seem wonderful at first glance.
However, adding too many plugins (or badly coded ones) to a site can cause troubles from long load times to outright failures – not all plugins play well together.
When adding plugins to your WP site, we recommend adding them one at a time, and testing the site extensively after doing so. That way, if something goes cattywampus, you’ll know who the culprit is and can easily disable it.
Also, when updating an existing plugin, be sure to test the site right afterward, to make sure the update didn’t break anything.
Additionally, if something goes wrong with your site suddenly, we recommend disabling all WP plugins, then adding them back one at a time and reloading your site to see which one is causing the trouble.
In December of 2011, dev4press did a benchmarking test of some popular plugins and how they affect the load times of a website. The results are helpful for those of us who rely upon WP plugins. For busy sites, we do recommend W3 Total Cache, which really cuts down on load times and server overhead by keeping a cached version of the website pre-generated.
The dev4press site also has a tutorial for optimizing plugins which has some excellent information for the intermediate to advanced WP user.
Plugins to be a bit wary of include related post plugins, which can cause very high load times. These plugins tend to search all of your content when pages are pulled up to generate their results, which is pretty silly in our minds. The Efficient Related Posts plugin is one that pre-generates its results, which eliminates this problem, and we recommend using it quite highly.
To add plugins to your WP installation, log into your WP Dashboard and click on Plugins in the left navigational menu. In the Plugin submenu, click “Add New.” On the subsequent screen, you can search for a keyword or phrase (Facebook, Analytics, RSS, et cetera) and press the “Search Plugins” button. This will return a list of all plugins matching your search criteria, and you can easily install them with one or two clicks. Once a plugin has been installed, it will need to be activated, too. Most of the installation screens will offer an “Activate” button or link. If it does not, click on “Installed Plugins” and activate the plugin from that screen by clicking on the “Activate” link under the plugin name. You can also deactivate from here.
Some plugins do require configuration after they’re installed and activated. They may need usernames, API keys or simple behavior configuration. These plugins typically have a “Settings” link next to the “Activate/Deactivate” links in the Installed Plugins area. Some may also add pages to your left navigational menu in the WP Dashboard.
Plugins can really improve upon your WP experience, and your readers’ experiences, as well. They can add tremendous functionality to your website and they offer many powerful tools. The key is use them judiciously, and to test after adding each one. Pay attention to the ratings (number of stars next to it) of a plugin before you install it, and it’s wise to read reviews, as well.
For security reasons, keep all plugin versions up-to-date, and make sure to keep your WP install itself updated, too. We’re always happy to assist you with these matters, too. While we cannot debug plugin code, we can help determine which plugin may be causing shenanigans with your site.