Over the years, WordPress has evolved from a structure for blogging websites to a full-blown content management system (CMS) that can be used for virtually any type of website – including ecommerce websites. Plugins are a key component that improve the functionality of WordPress websites and provide an easier way to add certain features… instead of coding them yourself.
What Are Plugins And Why Are They Used?
A plugin is a piece of software that adds a feature or functionality to a WordPress site or a browser. The same thing could be accomplished by coding the feature or functionality yourself, but by using a plugin it’s done faster and easier without having to know anything about coding.
Are Plugins and Extensions the Same Thing?
Yes and no. The question of whether plugins and extensions are the same thing applies to browsers, not WordPress sites and other Content Management Systems. So, in that regard… no, plugins and extensions are different things.
In terms of browsers, a plugin is a separate module that is always executable. An extension is a piece of source code, so they are different things. However, browser plugins have waned in use since 2021 while extensions still flourish. Lastly, some people use the terms interchangeably – which can lead to confusion.
What Are Examples of Plugins?
Plugins can be used in the design and development of a website as well as being added to a browser to visit websites. For example, a WordPress plugin might create a contact form that then emails the information submitted through it to the website owner. An example of a browser plugin would be something like Macromedia Flash Player, which let website visitors view Flash animations.
While “premium plugins” exist, most plugins are free downloads. Unfortunately, some free plugins are more of a problem than a help.
Pros and Cons of Using Plugins
As with everything, plugins have benefits and drawbacks. The benefits of using plugins include:
- Free or inexpensive
- Save time
- Easy to update
However, plugins can also have downsides – including security holes. The 2021 Sucuri Website Threat Research Report found that plugins “account for far more website compromises than out-of-date, core CMS files.” While some plugins may have been designed with malicious intent – such as trying to skim credit card information from an ecommerce website – the more common problem is a security weakness that can be exploited by third parties.
A security flaw in a plugin can lead to a hijacked website that can then send out spam, host malware, and more… especially if the webmaster left default configurations in the CMS control panel and never implemented multi-factor authentication (MFA). Keeping plugins up to date can help to prevent such breaches.
Other drawbacks of using plugins:
- Plugin conflicts
- Bloat from too many plugins
- A plugin update breaking something else
In short… while plugins are useful and can save time, using them does require some experience as well as careful monitoring of security news to stay on top of potential problems.
Call Efferent Media for All of Your Website Development Needs
Every business today needs an attractive, effective website. It’s the first impression people get of your brand and a good website can help pre-sell prospects before they walk in the door of your brick-and-mortar business.
But good website design requires a blend of an attractive look, solid security, good user experience, fast load times, logical structure, SEO optimization, and ADA and privacy regulation compliance. It’s more efficient and cost effective to leave it to the experts. Give us a call and find out what Efferent Media can do to create successful, productive website for your business. Contact us at (631) 867-0900 to get started.