All About Plugins
WordPress is built upon plugins. Plugins are codes that extend or add new functionalities to your website. Think of plugins as lego building blocks, they work just similarly. You can consider plugins just about essential in your WordPress workflow. Whether to add a grid, slider or add a full on page builder, plugins can do it all for you. You can find thousands of free plugin in here. Most of the plugins that have a free component have a premium component as well.
How to install a plugin:
To install a plugin, you can either use the WordPress admin panel or use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol), client. Using the WordPress admin panel is more comfortable, but FTP client can make sure that you can integrate your plugin installation and update in your existing workflow. We recommend using the WordPress admin panel if you are new to plugins.
Now let’s take a look at some best practices when it comes to plugins.
Plugin Do-s and Don’t-s:
- Update your installed plugins periodically, minor version updates should always be applied, and major version upgrades should be reviewed for breaking changes and then upgraded.
- Check the review, compatibility and support option before installing a plugin.
- If you pay for a plugin, be sure to buy it from the genuine seller and not from an unauthorised reseller.
- Install free plugins from a reputed website like https://wordpress.org
- Always have a backup plugin to back up your website.
- Don’t use patched or nulled plugins. They often time has malicious code that steals your website data.
- Don’t download free plugins from any other source than the official plugin repository.
- Do not download plugins that have low rating, review or complaints from a lot of users. Remember the saying “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck”.
- Don’t neglect upgrading plugins because the updates often contain important security fixes.
- Don’t use plugins that are not updated for a long time. Those are abandonware. Even though they are not malicious in and of themselves, using them can lead to various security issues.
A note about PHP and site maintenance:
All WordPress plugins and WordPress itself is made by PHP, and thus, having the latest PHP version to support your WordPress is paramount. When you are using WordPress on a production environment, you will be deploying in one of the stable operating systems like CentOS, Ubuntu LTS or Red Hat. These operating systems do not break existing applications often, and thus it is generally safe to do an upgrade as soon as it becomes available. But you still should read if there are any breaking changes in your upgrade path. Especially things like PHP tends to break WordPress often.
If you are not sure if an update is safe to install or not and see yourself constantly dabbling into this rabbit hole, you can always install WordPress via docker.
How many Plugins is too many:
A common occurrence among newer WordPress plugin user is to install too many plugins at once. You should never do it. Installing too many plugins at once not only gives you feature creep but also slows down your WordPress website. That does not inherently mean that plugins unilaterally slow down your website though, there are many poorly coded plugins out there that do, but there are also many well-made plugins. So, as long as you make an informed decision, looking at the reviews and reception of a plugin, you are good to go. More often than not, you will get a recommended list of plugins that you need to install for a typical workflow. We suggest installing plugins following a list tailored for your need when you start out your WordPress journey. Real-world performance impact on website:
We set up a test site with 5 essential plugins. They are:
We host the website on DigitalOcean and use Pingdom to test load time. Our initial load time without any plugins was 93 ms. We then add each addon one by one and measure their performance impact on the website. This is the data we came up with.
As you can see from this test, heavier plugins tend to have more significant overhead (who would have thought).
That wraps up this post. Hopefully, you have enough knowledge about choosing a WordPress plugin for your next website.