In my opinion, WordPress is an exceptional blogging platform. I’ve used it for more years than I care to remember. Although I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of others, WordPress is pretty much my go to platform, and I use it practically 100% of the time these days.
There are too many things too list here about why I like it so much: I’ll square that away in another post.
However, one of the things I love are the sheer number of WordPress plugins available and consequently the choice.
Of course plugins aren’t exclusive to WordPress: Joomla, Drupal, Shopify and all other platforms are extendable through plugins. But WordPress being as popular as it is, means there are more people developing plugin solutions for it… hence lots more choice.
While I love the fact there is so much choice, it doesn’t mean that you should stuff your WordPress blog with a bunch of different plugins that you think would be “nice to have”.
I’ll delve into why a little later on.
What Are WordPress Plugins?
If you have a standalone installation of WordPress on a paid host, you can install plugins that enable you to extend what your blog can do out of the box.
You might want a more fancy menu than your theme provides. Perhaps you feel that your contact forms needs to be more sophisticated. Maybe you’d like a special widget to appear on your blog everywhere you type the word “widget” into a blog post!
Whatever you want your WordPress blog to do, someone somewhere has probably developed a plugin to do it already.
Many WordPress plugins are free… you just need to install and activate them without spending a penny. However for more enhanced functions and features you often have to pay for a premium version.
Where Do You Find WordPress Plugins?
You can find WordPress plugins very easily. Firstly, WordPress itself has a huge directory of them.
There are over 54,000 different plugins at WordPress.org. Most of these are free to install but many require payment to unlock the premium version, which have more functions. These are known as freemium plugins, since they are free unless you want to upgrade to the premium package.
Some developers publish and promote plugins on their own sites. These too are are often offered as freemium versions to try out with the potential to upgrade to premium.
To be honest, I’ve often got by using the functions freemium versions offer and never actually needed to pay to upgrade them. However I recognize the improved benefits premium plugins offer.
The potential plugins offer to any WordPress blogger are vast.
- There are tens of thousands of plugins available for WordPress blogs.
- You can easily find a plugin for any function you might imagine for your blog and many are free.
- Most premiums plugins are not very expensive.
- They are very easy to install: all standalone WordPress installations include a tool to do it for you.
- If you don’t like a plugin, the process to uninstall and delete it is simple: again WordPress can do it all for you.
- Premium plugins are usually very well supported. If you have a problem, you can raise it with the developer and they’ll help troubleshoot.
There are some downsides that are a little annoying.
- Some free plugins can sometimes be a bit flaky and may not do precisely what you want. Alternatively, they may do want you want but have a lot of other features you don’t need.
- Plugins can conflict with your theme code or other plugins you have installed.
- They have a reputation for causing page load speed issues. As a general rule, the more active plugins you have, the more likely it is that your blog will be slow.
- Free plugins may not offer support for any issues you have.
- Some plugins may not be compatible with the version of WordPress you’re running. These might not break your blog, but they just won’t work. This can be an issue if you upgrade your version of WordPress and a plugin you depend upon suddenly stops working.
Sadly, some plugins have some ugly downsides.
- Plugins that are incompatible with your WordPress version might bring your blog down. If this happens you have to manually remove them from your server.
- Some plugins can slow down your site so badly it becomes unusable, especially if you have many activated.
- Plugins can make your site more vulnerable to security threats.
- Automatic plugin updates can break your blog, requiring you to delete them from your server manually.
From my point of view, I love the benefits that my WordPress plugins give me. However, I always try to run as few as possible.
I know of many blogs that actively use dozens of plugins without problems, but these are coded very elegantly so they do not impact the performance of their WordPress blogs.
Like a lot of things in life, it pays to be choosy. It can be tempting to install plugins just because they are free and they might be useful one day. This is not the best reason to install a plugin to your WordPress blog.
Before installing any WordPress plugin:
- Be certain you understand the functionality it delivers.
- Research it by reading reviews.
- Make sure it is compatible with your WordPress version.
Thanks for reading!
Anything to add? If you’d like to discuss your experiences with WordPress plugins, please leave a comment in the section below.