It used to be that getting a professional-looking and productive website required hiring a professional coder. These days, thanks to content management systems (CMS) and WYSIWYG website builders, just about anyone can build a decent website. Plugins make the experience even better. But are they worth using?
Plugins are little snippets of code or small embedded apps that add functionality to a website. WordPress, the most commonly used CMS in the industry, relies heavily on plugins. But they are not alone. Platforms from Joomla! to Shopify give users access to full libraries of plugins to extend functionality.
Plugins have their pros and cons. How they are used can impact a website’s marketing potential. Plugins can affect page speed, user experience, and even lead generation. That’s why you need to be careful about using them.
Plugins: The Pros
Plugins were purposely designed to give site owners the ability to build fully functional websites without having to learn code. Therein lies the biggest advantage. They can be installed with just a click. Most are easily configurable or can be learned with minimal effort.
Consider the task of building an e-commerce site. There is a lot to learn about e-commerce website design if you were to do it professionally. But without any formal training, you could download and install an e-commerce plugin that provides the whole experience – from individual product pages to a shopping cart.
The other big advantage of plugins is that they give website owners access to some worthwhile services at a reasonable cost. For example, a paid SEO plugin set up with the right parameters can be as effective as hiring a professional, but at a lower cost.
Plugins: The Cons
Despite offering website function without formal training, plugins do have their disadvantages. The top two are slower page speed and potential security risks.
Plugins need to be loaded whenever someone visits a website. That takes time. The more time it takes, the less likely visitors are to stick around. Professional coders are reluctant to use plugins for this very reason.
As far as security is concerned, website owners rely on plugin developers to keep their packages up to date. When they don’t, plugins become security risks. Even worse is the reality that some plugins are developed by bad actors purposely to create security risks.
There Are Other Ways
Website plugins are valuable to website owners who don’t have the knowledge and skills to code their sites from the ground up. Plugins have their pros and cons. Know this: there are other ways to achieve what you want with your website.
The most complex websites, including those designed around e-commerce, really deserve custom coding. It is worth paying for professional web design services to ensure that you are getting exactly what you want without a heavy dose of plugins.
It goes without saying that professional web design can get expensive. Though it may be worth the investment, you might not have the money in your budget. Depending on the type of site you need, you can sign on with a provider that offers a prepackaged site requiring minimal customization from you. It is a cheaper way to go, but it will not do much for boosting your brand or helping you define your value proposition.
The best advice we could offer is to use plugins sparingly. If you can avoid them altogether by paying for professional web design services, you are far better off. A professional can give you exactly what you want, maintain it for as long as you want, and help you with SEO and marketing along the way.