Don’t install another plugin on your self-hosted WordPress website, until you’ve read this first!
Plugins. How many of us have them? *raises hand* If you’re on the self hosted WordPress platform, you’ve probably installed a plugin or two….or fifty. Those of us on WordPress, use plugins to add additional functionality to our sites, eliminating the need to hire a developer to code it for us. It’s as easy as “click to install”. Most plugins are developed by 3rd party developers and are free, while premium plugins are developed and licensed to users for a small fee.
So why the heck am I talking about plugins today? Well I’ve used WordPress for the last 3 years and two of those years, I’ve been designing WordPress websites for clients. There has been a few times where I’ve encountered foolishness with plugins, where they stop working, cause havoc on your site or even take your entire site down (yes it can happen). I figured there are many people that don’t know the ins and outs about plugins so I thought I would share them with you all.
First before we get started, I am not a developer/programmer. I’m a web designer. There is a difference. I’m dangerous with CSS3/HTML and that’s it. I haven’t and will never offer advice as to, “which wordpress plugin is the best”, or troubleshoot wordpress plugin issues. Why? Well just like when there is a defect in your favorite electronic gadget and they refer you to the manufacture because they are the ones that created it, plugins were coded by authors, so you should always refer your issues to the person who coded the plugin. Most of these author’s have support sites. This helps the author recognize issues in the plugin and create a better updated version to release to the masses.
What I can do is give you a few tips should you have plugin issues in the future.
1. Do not rely solely on plugins. Why?
- • Since plugins are developed by 3rd party developers, the developer could decide “hey, I don’t want to deal with supporting this plugin anymore” and ceases updates on it. This is important if WordPress releases a new version of its software. The newer version of WordPress might not be compatible with your plugin…and might ever be since the developer decided to stop updating it. Womp!
- • If you have an existing theme and you’re looking to switch to a new theme, your existing plugins might not want to play nice with it. Yes I know it sucks, and this has happened to me. My favorite plugin called “Ultimate Shortcodes” decided it did not want to play nice with a new theme I installed. I had to live without my plugin. My website is way more important that some free plugin though, so I quickly got over it. Sometimes you won’t know if a plugin will work with a new theme…until you actually install a new theme. Womp! This is why before installing a new theme; I usually deactivate all plugins first.
- • Plugins do not always want to play nice with each other. Yes. All the developers of these plugins decided not to have a programming pow-wow to make sure all of their plugins were compatible with each other. This is why you’ll see funny things happen on your site after having a bunch of plugins already installed and you installed a new one. Womp!
So from those points we learned so far is plugin functionality/compatibility depends on:
- •The version of WordPress you’re using
- •The theme you’re using
- •What plugins you already have installed.
Plugins feel like speed dating to me. You try it, do or don’t like it, then delete it if it’s not a good fit. LOL.
Before you install ANY plugin, theme or a newer version of wordpress…make sure you have backed up your website/database. If you install some wonky plugin, theme, or a newer version of wordpress, there is a chance you won’t be able to get back into the admin section of your website. I’ve seen it happen…so to be on the safe side. BACK IT UP, BACK IT UP, BACK IT UP.
2. Before you install any plugin, Ask yourself these questions:
- • Do I really need this plugin? Can I live without it? Can I code this in my website without the plugin? Just because you can easily “Click to install” a plugin, doesn’t mean you should. Since neither you nor I can determine the quality of the plugin, don’t install plugins willy nilly. Sometimes plugin authors are malicious for whatever reason, and cause ruckus on your website. Use precaution when installing plugins. Also poorly coded plugins can cause major lag time on your website. You can visit Facebook to get a code to add to a text sidebar widget for the Facebook Like Box instead of installing the plugin.
- • How credible is the Author of the plugin? There are some pretty credible authors out there like WooThemes, Studio Press, Thesis, Elegant Themes (that doesn’t mean they are perfect or will work with your theme FYI) to give you an idea of credibility. Check to see how many times the plugin has been downloaded, the ratings and most of all, check to see that their support site is being monitored regularly.
- • Is there a premium version of the plugin? I pay for some of my plugins because I know I am going to get top quality code and I’ll also get the support I need should there be any issues, and they release updated versions regularly. My favorite place to find these plugins is on http://codecanyon.net/ or the author of certain plugins will have downloads available for a fee on their site (Elegant Themes or WooThemes) . *Note, I am not affiliated with these sites nor am I responsible for any plugins you download and install on your site lol; Just sharing the wealth.
3. So what happens when you do have plugin compatibility issues?
- • Well to find out which plugin is the culprit of your issue, disable the plugins one by one. Then enable them one by one and check your site after each one is enabled to find the culprit. If that plugin is giving you issues, try reinstalling the plugin and reactivating, contacting the author of the plugin and let them know your issue or just deactivate and delete the plugin. Sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice one plugin for another or just the entire plugin altogether. Your content should be the most important thing on your blog, not the fancy little plugin that rotates the pics on your side bar. It’s tempting I know.
- • If you install a plugin and it takes your entire site down, I hope and pray you know what FTP means. LOL. You’ll have to login your site via FTP and find the wp-content/plugins folder and just delete the plugin that you recently installed that brought your site down. If you’re not web savvy, don’t touch anything, just contact your webhost.
Delete deactivated plugins.
If you’re not using a plugin, DELETE IT. This makes a nice little way for hackers to pay you a little visit. If you’re having issues deleting a plugin, there maybe another way of deleting in the instructions or settings. If you are still having issues, contact the support site of the plugin author. You may find other’s have the same issue.
Moral of the plugin story?
- • Only install what you really need.
- • Most plugins you can live without.
- • If you update to a newer version of WordPress there maybe conflicts with your existing plugins
- • If you update your plugins they may not be compatible with the current version of wordpress or your existing plugins
- • If you add a new plugin, it may not play nice with your current theme or installed plugins.
- • If your plugin stops working, contact the author of the plugin
- • Back up your website/database!
I don’t want to scare you into thinking that plugins are of the devil because they aren’t. I have a few awesome plugins that I swear by, and if they stop working then I’ll be a lil miffed, I won’t lie lol. Just use discretion when installing new plugins and make sure you’re always backing up your site. Your entire site being out of commission is not worth a little plugin.
How many plugins do you have installed? Have you had any issues when installing plugins? Let me know below in the comments!
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