The Darkside of Plugins

darth-vader-come-to-the-darkside-we-have-cookiesOne of the wonderful things about WordPress are the plugins. Plugins are small packages of code that add to or change the functionality provided by the core of WordPress. Plugins can help you do all sorts of things, like adding contact forms, doing e-commerce, bettering your SEO, adding a newsletter opt-in, adding a slideshow, adding video or audio players and so many more.

The problem with plugins is that they are easy to use. Most can be installed with just a few clicks making it very easy to test them on your site. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that what’s wonderful about WordPress?” Yes it is, but it comes at a cost. There’s a dark side to plugins, too and many non-technical site owners don’t realize it until they’re stuck with a problem or a hacked site.

The Dark Side

What is the downside of plugins? Too many plugins can slow your site down, especially if you’re on a shared hosting plan. A slow site isn’t going to do you or your visitors any favors, you want them to stay on your site and a slow loading site can make them click away before you even have a chance.

How many is too many? It really depends on the site. A site that’s running WooCommerce with add-ons will probably have more plugins than a site that is primarily a blog with posts to read. Just know that each additional plugin causes a small bit of incremental load for your server and adds to the complexity of your site. If the plugins page in your dashboard has more than a page or two, you might have too many plugins.

Update All The Things!

Plugins are code and code needs to be updated occasionally or maybe even frequently. Plugins that are out of date put your site at risk for being hacked. Plugins are updated to keep up with the latest security issues, they also update to stay in line with WordPress, so they’ll work right. When you don’t update you run the risk that your site is vulnerable to hacking, or that things simply may not work right. Plugins also update to add features or to make them easier for you to use.

But They’re Inactive!

Do you have lots of inactive plugins? This often happens when a site owner has tried a lot of plugins and then leaves them on the server. We’re told to test things on our websites, to try things out and see if they work for our audience. This is good, but when you never remove those plugins that you aren’t using, the files are still there. If the plugin isn’t kept up to date, and say there’s an exploit in the code, a hacker can come and use that inactive plugin to hack into your site. There are bots that do nothing more than test sites for these weaknesses. So clean up those unused things, if you’re not going to use them, delete them. Don’t be a plugin hoarder.

I’m not suggesting that you wouldn’t ever have inactive plugins or that you should get rid of something you need but if you haven’t done some recent decluttering of the plugins section of your WordPress dashboard, you might want to have a look.

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