One of the great things about WordPress is the availability of plugins to do almost anything you want. It saves the cost of hiring a web designer, and for web designers it can save them time on getting a website up and running just the way you want it. Not all WordPress plugins are created equal though, and even being top ranked in WordPress for your plugin doesn’t mean it’s efficient.
One of the hardest things about designing a plugin for the masses is making sure it works on every type of browser or set up that it could be running on. These usually comes at the cost of having to add extra code to make sure it all works correctly and extra code means more chances for a bug to present itself, a vulnerability that allows a hacker in, and a website that loads slower because of all the extra code it has to run through.
In many cases this is the trade off of using a plugin designed specifically for your website, or using one that has to work across the website of thousands, if not millions, of people. Woocommerce is a perfect example. It’s a great little plugin for those looking to open an online store. Obviously there is also a ton of code, and various files, to make sure it works with as many themes as possible. This can slow down loading on a website. On the other hand, having someone code a shopping cart for your website can cost several thousands of dollars and sometime reaches into six figures. For most small stores, and those just opening, that’s an acceptable tradeoff.
There are certain plugins though that go past the point of acceptable trade offs, or they’re just silly things not in the code that one has to wonder why the plugin designer didn’t take the time to do. It’s not that they’re necessarily all bad plugins, but with Google focusing so much on the speed a website loads to determine rankings, and how the coding of a plugin can help or hurt that, it’s something all plugin developers should be paying attention too.
The WordPress Jetpack Plugin is another example. It’s a great plugin with a ton of features that work in so many situations. This includes slideshows, social media sharing setups, subscriber forms, etc. Up until a year ago, we would have recommended it for the free content delivery network (CDN) they’ve built into it called Photon. Besides the other problems we’ve found with Photon, the biggest problem is with the Jetpack plugin itself. Once activated, it adds so many different files to the loading of your website that it becomes a mess. These files are sometimes not even associated with the plugins you have activated.
On a website without too many visitors and a decent server this may not be a problem. Once you start building up traffic though and you’re trying to make the site load as fast as possible, this becomes a huge issue. It’s compounded by the fact that Google is now partially basing their search engine rankings on how quickly a website loads. In this case, you don’t want the server grabbing extra files to load a website when they aren’t needed.