In Part 1, we explored what a WordPress plugin is and how it functions. Now we’re sharing how WordPress plugins can sometimes cause problems and what to do about it!

Not Always Dependable

Unfortunately, as technology continues to adapt and change, a website can break if all components are not integrating seamlessly. Free WordPress plugins are no exception and often have a reputation for causing problems.

Many plugins function in ways that while WordPress may have the availability to do, the capability hasn’t been added to the WordPress site’s standard interface. The very nature of a plugin slows things down. How? While a plugin can sometimes extend and enhance the built-in operations, it can also duplicate the core function to make it an easier interface – leading to redundant processing slowing down your website. Too many plugins can also cause superfluous information loading, slowing things down as multiple versions of the same resource are loaded onto the site. The last version of a resource to load is the selected asset, and if the plugin isn’t compatible with the most recent version of the website, things break.

Reasons why a plugin could break or otherwise negatively impact a WordPress website include:

  • HTTP requests overwhelm: Every time a user visits your website, a request is sent to the hosting server to access each item displayed on the site – images, forms, theme design, headers, etc. For every plugin, additional HTTP requests are also created whenever a visitor accesses that page. Many plugins mean many HTTP requests, which can begin to slow down the site. When GRIT optimizes a site, one of our goals it to reduce the number of HTTP requests – with the most common large-volume items coming from JavaScript and CSS (both included in plugins). When those large-volume requests are combined and reduced (a service that is part of GRIT’s optimization), the number of requests drops significantly.
  • Lack of updates: Many plugins are created by third-party groups, and while they may function very well at first, they may begin to glitch, not function properly or break other areas of your website over time. This may be due to the plugin developer not updating the plugin to work with updated versions of WordPress or other web best practices for optimization. Unfortunately, there are no regulations or rules requiring plugins to be updated for optimum performance, so when they are not, your site may be affected. A solid website management agency will select the right plugins for your site, knowing those plugins that have good reputations, reviews and technical support, as well as only recommending plugin use for complex functional additions to a WordPress site. GRIT tests plugins thoroughly in a development environment, working out all glitches before pushing to a live website.
  • Not integrated well: Not every plugin will integrate smoothly with every other plugin. Depending on how they are coded and how they intersect (or even if they are featured on the same page), the coding may not maintain its functionality without additional adjustments. For example, there’s a very popular contact form plugin that doesn’t play well with other plugins that rely on some of the same JavaScript libraries, causing the contact form plugin to stop sending email unless some of the dynamic features are disabled. That’s why testing is key here to confirm an additional plugin will not disrupt functionality of already-in-use plugins and ensure everything is working correctly before pushing live. The right vetting process will help to select plugins that can function without interrupting others in use.
  • Not secure enough: Hackers are getting more devious as they try to access websites and their related information. Not every plugin is as secure as it could be, and not every plugin developer will keep the plugin updated if a threat occurs. At GRIT, we focus on ensuring the websites we manage are always secure from hackers and can quickly optimize a website to close common security loopholes. We test for vulnerabilities before launching a site (and as ongoing maintenance) and have deep experience with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) compliance.
  • Designed poorly: Since WordPress plugins can be developed by anyone (it’s an open-source platform), there may not be a way of knowing if the plugin will be safe and keep your website from crashing. The GRIT team completes an extensive vetting process before recommending or using a plugin and has developed a list of quality plugins we work with (a list we constantly update).

What You Can Do

To begin ensuring plugins on your WordPress site aren’t causing too much trouble, a good start is to use GTMetrix, a free tool that reviews your website for page load times and performance, followed by recommended general best practices. Not every best practice will apply to your site, so it’s best to work with a consultant who understands the nitty gritty details of how-to best approach optimizing your company’s WordPress site. At GRIT, we use our digital expertise to resolve issues such as:

  1. Plugins that need to be updated
  2. Plugins not compatible with your WordPress website
  3. Plugins without a good reputation
  4. A site becoming slow after a new plugin is installed
  5. Plugin providing duplicate functionality
  6. Removing or changing plugins taking up a lot of bandwidth
  7. Updating your WordPress version

While plugins come with some risks, the right approach to researching, testing and maintaining them will help keep your website optimized. Without plugins, a WordPress website might not provide what your customers need, empower your marketing, or bring a sleek and professional brand to the public. If you are intentional and strategic, WordPress plugins can drastically improve a WordPress website!

For help understanding how to optimize your website (are your target audiences finding you and connecting with you?) or choosing the right WordPress plugins for your needs, contact us anytime at [email protected] or 717.885.0014.