A client recently shared an article with us about using WordPress plugins to "streamline your business". The article provided a list of more than 20 plugins within 9 categories. The author of this article feels that these plugins will enhance your web site by expanding communication between you, your staff, and your customers. In my time working with WordPress, I have read many of these articles.
However, these articles rarely mention the need to carefully vet all plugins before implementing them on your web site. Many plugins can cause conflicts that will stop other features of your site from working properly. Some plugins can cause conflicts that will actually crash your site. Other plugins can cause problems with the speed of your site, sometimes reducing your score within the Google Page Speed Insights test, which could lower your placement within search results.
As the Acorn team has worked to build our WordPress based turnkey and custom sites, we have built a list of plugins that we include within each site. Building this list took many months of research and testing. For every plugin that made our final cut, we tested between 2-20 plugins with similar functionality. In many cases, we had to modify the plugin code to get it to fit within our overall site function without conflict or damage to our page speed.
Even with this carefully built and tested set of tools, we have to continually monitor page speed results and watch for conflicts. All plugins are developed and maintained by their programming teams, and new versions are released on a regular basis. Each time we update a plugin, new problems can appear. More than once, we have had to replace one of our chosen plugins after a new version created conflicts within our sites.
The WordPress Plugin Repository currently offers 35,011 plugins that have been downloaded 803,820,328 times. Plugins are an essential piece of any WordPress site - offering vital security features, as well as visual and functional enhancements that make WordPress the most popular Content Management System available. However, it is very important that any plugin you wish to use be carefully examined, to make sure that it will fit within your site environment without disrupting the finely tuned balance of your site's performance.
We recommend that you talk to your webmaster before implementing any new plugins within your site. They may have experience with that plugin, and be able to provide information about how it will work within your existing site structure. They should be willing to help you install and test the plugin to make sure there are no conflicts or unacceptable speed reductions.
If your webmaster does not offer this type of assistance, there are steps you can take to be safe when testing a new plugin. Always back up your site before installing a new plugin. Be ready to restore your site from this back up in case something goes wrong. You should have access to either your hosting control panel or FTP, in case the plugin crashes your WordPress admin panel. Test your page speed with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool before and after plugin installation and compare the scores. Review each page of your site to make sure none of your other site functions have been damaged by the new plugin.
It is also important that you test multiple plugins that have similar functionality. Many times you will be able to find an alternative plugin that will offer similar features, but work better within your specific site environment. Of course, if you need help or guidance with this process, the Acorn team is available to help you choose the right plugins for your site.