WordPress literally has thousands of plug-ins you can install on your WordPress site.
First, let me state the obvious. Going through that many plug-ins to find out what is relevant to you and your blog is not only overwhelming, it’s unnecessary and time-consuming.
The not-quite-so-obvious is that installing a plug-in (or plug-ins) can potentially cause your site more harm than good.
In the best case, a plug-in gets installed and works perfectly like it should. In the worst case, a plug-in gets installed and brings your entire site down to the point you can’t even log-in to your WordPress dashboard to disable or uninstall it. You (the admin!) are locked out!
It can happen. It’s happened to me multiple times.
And, unless you have the technical saavy to go into your web host’s control panel and disable the plug-in via the back-end database (thank God I do!) – you’ll need to hire someone, or spend time on a support call, to get you out of the pickle you didn’t intend to get yourself into in the first place!
When you install a plug-in on your site, you’re essentially adding an additional layer of complexity (e.g. a dependency) on your site and you are trusting that the plug-in will work.
Here’s the problem with that.
Plug-ins are built by developers that contribute their plug-in as an offering on WordPress. Developers come and go. Sometimes, so does their desire to keep their plug-ins up-to-date as WordPress makes changes. And, if the developers do make changes, you are assuming (trusting!) that all the new code will play nicely together. Which doesn’t always happen.
Now, remember the “dependencies” part? If they don’t keep their plug-ins up-to-date, their plug-in can quickly become incompatible with WordPress and make your WordPress site unstable or completely un-usable.
Oh, and one other thing…remember the plug-ins I mentioned? You know, the ‘plural’ part of the equation? If you install other plug-ins, they can potentially stomp on the plug-ins you already have installed and make them not work too!
Now do you see the problem?
So, here are a few tips:
- Do choose a plug-in that is designed to do what you need it to do; don’t just install a plug-in and activate it because it sounds cool;
- Do ensure the plug-in is compatible and works with your current version of WordPress; recent updates to the plug-in and higher version numbers of the plug-in are good!;
- Do look at the user rating and read the reviews from users of the plug-in to determine the plug-in’s reliability from a real user’s experience;
- Don’t install a plug-in that hasn’t been updated recently, has a poor user experience rating or is unrated;
- Don’t install a plug-in you don’t plan to activate or use on your blog (e.g. don’t have a bunch of inactive plug-ins, instead delete them);
- Don’t change configuration settings of an installed plug-in unless you know exactly what that configuration setting does!
Rule of Thumb
If you can’t get yourself out of it, don’t get yourself into it.
It’s All In the Details
If you’re not somewhat technically saavy and can troubleshoot technical problems, experimenting with plug-ins for fun is probably not a good idea. Or, if you think things might go poorly and you don’t know what you’ll do if they do (can you hear me, risk takers?), then proceed with extreme caution.
There’s little worse than a blogger spending days trying to get a site that is down back up-and-running while they troubleshoot the great unknown.
My hope is you find this post helpful!