What are plugins?

WordPress  Plugins are PHP scripts that extend the functionality of WordPress. They enhance the features of WordPress, or add entirely new features to your site. Plugins are often developed by volunteers, and are usually free to the public. Plugins are available via the WordPress Plugin Directory. Although plugins you find here are thoroughly tested and considered safe to use, they are of varying quality and are often works in progress. The WordPress content management system software, or WordPress core, provides the primary functionality for publishing content and managing users. Each WordPress plugin is an additional piece of software that can be easily installed to extend the functionality of WordPress core.

This allows you to customize your WordPress site with your desired functionality. Since so much functionality is provided through plugins, WordPress core is full-featured and customizable, without having to include everything for everyone.

WordPress Plugin Pros

The popularity of plugins is not by chance. They offer several benefits to developers and website administrators, including:

  1. They save time. The main reason so many developers use plugins is because they save a lot of development time, which in turn can save on a website’s overall budget
  2. They offer some flexibility. Plugins provide developers the flexibility to customize site features and functionality. Most plugins allow some settings to be turned on and off and styles such as fonts, colors, and sizes to be changed to match the rest of the site.
  3. They can be very reliable. Plugins have become so essential to WordPress development that many of them are created and managed by reputable companies who regularly update them to fix bugs and improve security.

Cons of WordPress Plugins

While plugins sound like a developer’s dream, there are some downsides to consider too. Those include:

  1. They can leave your site vulnerable. Not all plugins are regularly updated or built to the highest standards and these plugins can leave your site vulnerable to hacksThese actions help to reduce the risk of plugin vulnerabilities. 
  2. They limit functionality. Part of the trade-off with using a plugin is that you are limited to what the plugin offers and which settings it lets you change. The good news is there are so many options out there you can usually find something that fits what you need.
  3. They can conflict with each other. Since plugins are so convenient it can be easy to rely on them too much. Unfortunately that isn’t a good idea. It is not unheard of for plugins to have compatibility issues with other plugins on your site. This could result in broken functionality or even your site going down. 
  4. They can slow down page speed. Plugins can affect page speed because they often require additional CSS and JavaScript files to be loaded on the page. That means your site has to load more assets each time a user visits the page.

Plugins have become an essential part of a WordPress developer’s toolkit and help to enhance the experience for users and administrators. Researching and maintaining your plugins will keep them functioning properly on your site and help you to avoid some of their pitfalls.