What is a plugin
What is a plugin?
Plugins, also known as “extensions,” are software add-ons installed in a program to enhance or extend its capabilities. They are code packages that extend the main functionality of software.
Plugins allow developers to utilize existing technological tools instead of reinventing the digital wheel.
Consider the world’s most popular PC operating system, Windows. Used by individuals and corporations alike, Windows offers a host of functionalities, including:
- Creating complex documents
- Browsing the World Wide Web
- Editing photographs
- Using familiar software programs
But Windows can’t do everything. For example, most versions of Windows offer basic audio editing tools. However, these tools lack the in-depth functionality of more robust solutions. Microsoft’s software engineers could take the time to code these audio tools and install them in new versions of Windows.
However, user demands and application functions are constantly evolving. This means that these audio tools will also need ongoing support to ensure they meet expectations.
How plugins work
The idea behind plugins is simple: developers create small pieces of software and add them to computer programs, mobile applications, or websites to enhance functionality. A plugin can achieve this without significantly increasing resource use or forcing the developers of the main software to provide ongoing support for the plugin.
Instead, plugins use publicly available code structures that allow them to interact with existing software tools. Effectively, this code enables them to speak the same language. Plugins can request specific resources or actions from general software systems, allowing them to offer specific functionalities to users.
Plugins also need to strike a balance between security and accessibility. This is especially true when using plugins for enterprise applications in corporate networks or when enhancing website accessibility for consumers.
Software manufacturers and operating system (OS) developers usually define specific usage parameters that govern what plugins can and cannot do in their software environments. In practice, this means that while an audio plugin might be able to request access to the microphone and speaker (which must be approved by the end user), the same plugin will not have access to deeper functions unrelated to audio output.
It’s worth noting that different software developers and OSs have different approaches to plugin security. For example, Apple’s iOS ecosystem has historically favored more restrictive policies than Windows or Android, resulting in generally better security but reduced plugin functionality for users.
How to install a plugin
Installing plugins is very straightforward; all you have to do is go to the corresponding website, click install, and start using the plugins. Some popular websites for downloading plugins are:
- Mozilla Firefox
- Google Chrome
- Microsoft Edge
- Apple Safari
The aforementioned browsers offer their own collection of plugins, extensions, or add-ons that make downloading and using them easy for users.
Additionally, plugins found on these websites are usually safe, and if there are security issues, the user will be immediately informed.
Another widespread use of plugins is in WordPress. These plugins are commonly used to enhance the overall content of WordPress websites. At Dazzet, we have been working with WordPress for over 10 years, so if you need help, contact us.
How to Use a Plugin?
Plugins were created to handle functions that a website couldn’t provide by itself.
For instance, how would you encourage visitors to donate to a specific cause if you’ve written a blog to raise funds? Would you prefer to be paid via PayPal, or have donations made through a fundraising software that takes care of all the formalities for you? Most would probably choose the latter, which is precisely what a plugin is for.
In the case of WordPress, there’s a wealth of plugins to choose from, and the good ones are usually free. So, you can leave the complicated tasks to the plugins.
YoastSEO is another prominent plugin that nearly every blogger uses. This plugin provides bloggers with ranking and suggestions for site improvement, allowing them to stay ahead of the competition.
Similarly, there are many plugins available that you can use to enhance the functionality and overall appearance of the website.
Things to Keep in Mind About Plugins
1. Less is More with Plugins
Plugins are great resources because they allow your site to do things it otherwise couldn’t. However, the more plugins you have, the greater the risk of problems within your site. Problems with plugins can be random and unexpected, or more specific issues related to plugin or WordPress updates. Plugins can also conflict with other plugins or even themes.
Moreover, each active plugin slows down your site to some extent. Imagine that each active plugin slows down the site by 5 milliseconds (some more, some less). If you have 20 active plugins, it means each page will take a tenth of a second longer to load than if no plugins were active.
If you ever wonder, “Do I have too many plugins installed?” you probably do.
Here’s a list of essential WordPress plugins.
2. Keep Your Plugins Updated
Developers offer updates for their plugins to:
- Add new features
- Patch security holes and fix bugs
- Keep up with WordPress.
If you’re not updating your plugins when the developer provides them, you’re exposing yourself to potential frustrations and security breaches. As plugin developers, we can honestly say we don’t update plugins just for fun; we want to ensure our plugins perform at their optimum level. And that’s what we want for you and your site: optimum performance!
If you manage multiple WordPress sites, keeping up with plugin updates can be tedious. Use a service like iThemes Sync to run updates on multiple WordPress sites, view available updates, and much more. You can also do a lot of other WordPress management tasks from a single dashboard.
3. If You’re Not Using a Plugin, Delete It
Many people keep a library of inactive plugins on their site. As you have the option to deactivate a plugin, it might seem tempting to leave it on your server. But even deactivated plugins can pose a significant security risk to WordPress, so if you’re not using the plugin, delete it completely. If you change your mind later, you can always reinstall the plugin.
4. Plugins Should Serve a Specific Purpose
There are tons of cool plugins that do fun things. But as plugins slow down your site and can pose some security issues, it’s important to make sure the plugin serves a genuine purpose, and is not installed just because it’s cool.
Cool is fine, of course, but probably not a strong enough reason to use a plugin. Every plugin you use should do something important to improve your visitors’ experience on your site. How you use plugins affects your site’s design and ultimately affects your brand.
5. Avoid Overlapping Plugins
Plugins that overlap in services simply take up valuable space and bandwidth, and potentially represent additional security risks. You simply don’t need 4 plugins for handling redirects, 6 for SEO, and 8 for social media sharing. In addition to slowing down your site, it’s just more stuff you have to deal with. Nobody wants that.
6. Use Reliable Plugins from Recognized Sources
Only install plugins that come from the WordPress Plugin Repository or a trusted premium plugin developer (e.g., iThemes, Gravity Forms, or Easy Digital Downloads).
Since plugins have the potential to create security breaches on your site, you’ll want to make sure they’ve been vetted by expert developers who back their work with professional support. Trusted plugin providers will provide updates to address any bugs or security issues, as well as updates to keep up with the latest version of WordPress.
7. When Your Site Has a Problem, It’s Usually a Plugin
If suddenly some part of your website is “not working like before,” it’s likely that there’s a conflict between plugins or between a plugin and your theme. If you’ve recently added a plugin, a plugin conflict is likely the source of the problem. This doesn’t mean you can’t use the plugin, but you’ll have to figure out what’s happening to make an informed decision on how to proceed.
The best way to “find the problem” is to deactivate all your plugins… and slowly (one by one) reactivate the plugins to find the plugin causing the issue. Once you know which one is the
Pros and Cons of Using Plugins
1. There’s a Plugin for EVERYTHING
Yes, you read that right. You can find a plugin for anything. Want to raise funds? There’s a plugin for that. Interested in playing videos? There’s a plugin for that too.
This is possible because WordPress and other browsers are open-source. Therefore, anyone or any group can launch plugins on these platforms.
2. Plugins are Generally Free
Not everyone likes paying for a service, including plugins. But don’t worry, not all plugins are premium.
Most plugins you find in WordPress or in the add-on store are free. And those that are paid for on a specific account aren’t too costly either.
So, happily, you can enjoy the benefits for little or no cost at all.
3. Good Plugins are Always Updated
Although there are many plugins available, if you download one from a verified and reliable source, you won’t have to worry about performance issues because the plugins are regularly updated.
4. More Alternatives Available
Plugins allow you to add functions and capabilities that the website or browser doesn’t provide by default.
1. More Plugins Mean More Problems
Plugins are great resources for enhancing the overall performance of a website. However, having too many plugins will cause conflicts, resulting in a poorly functioning website.
2. Poorly Built Plugins
Not all plugins you discover and install are of great quality or created by a reliable team. Therefore, there’s a chance you might encounter unforeseen issues resulting from poorly written plugins.
3. Security Risks
Since anyone can create and publish plugins, they can be considered a double-edged sword. Some will provide solutions for any possible problem you might have, while others could harbor viruses or cause other malicious activity, ultimately ruining your website’s quality.
In short, there’s a possibility that your website becomes vulnerable to attacks.
4. Decreased Page Speed
Juan Esteban Yepes