Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Search Authors: David Sprott, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Roger Strukhoff, Elizabeth White

Blog Feed Post

WordPress Plugins – Be Smart About The Ones You Install

WordPress PluginsOne of the great things about WordPress is the ability it gives us to extend the capabilities of the core software with plugins. The official WordPress Plugin Directory now has nearly 23,000 plugins. That’s an amazing amount of extra features we can add to our websites.

However the old adage is still true: with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately there’s a lot of junk in those 23,000 plugins. You can bog your site down to a crawl, expose your site to hackers or even worse if you aren’t careful.

So here are some things to think about when you are looking for plugins to install. If you pay attention to these things you will be much smarter about the plugins you install. And you will save yourself a ton of grief in the long run.

Plugin Guidelines

Before I get down to it, please know this. These are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.

At the end of the day it is your website and you can do whatever you want. There may be other factors in your case that may cause you to disregard one or more of these considerations.

However, if you at least think through the potential consequences of your choices you will be making much more informed decisions. And it just might help you see some “gotcha’s” before they get’cha, if you know what I mean.

Do You Really Need That Functionality?

So you’ve got your new website. You’ve discovered how easy it is to add plugins from your WordPress dashboard. You went a little wild, didn’t you? You keep seeing cool features on other sites around the web and you want them for your site too.

Now you’ve got a hodgepodge of plugins installed. Dozens of them.

Don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there. The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?

I once had over 80 plugins installed on one of my sites. Now they weren’t all activated. But that’s still nuts!

My rationale was that I needed to “test” plugins to see what they did so I would know whether to recommend them to my clients. OK. Fair enough. But delete them after you’re done testing them.

That site’s down to 15 active plugins. Much better. Because at the end of the day you really don’t need all that crap (can I say that word here?) on your website.

Before you install a plugin ask yourself what the value of that feature really is. Will it attract more readers to your site? Will it add to the bottom line by helping to increase revenue somehow?

Is it necessary? Or is it just flashy and cool?

If it isn’t contributing to a better user experience, or actively furthering your website objectives delete the plugin. Or better yet, resist installing it in the first place.

Does the Plugin List Compatibility with the Current Version of WordPress?

This one is a biggie. I do a lot of WordPress support and am asked to add and configure specific plugins quite frequently. Assuming we crossed the first hurdle and the functionality is truly necessary, the first thing I look at is what version of WordPress is the plugin listed as being compatible with.

For every plugin in the WordPress Plugin Directory you will see an info box on the top of the right hand column. One of the pieces of info there says:
Compatible up to: 3.5

The number there is the version number of WordPress that the plugin developer says his plugin is compatible with. Ideally that number should be the most recent version of WordPress.

There are a ton of plugins in that 23,000 number that have been effectively abandoned by their developers. Many haven’t been updated in years. WordPress recognizes this as a genuine problem. That is why they started filtering out any plugins that haven’t been updated in the last two years so they don’t show in the search results when you use either the search box on the website or in the “Add New” plugin page of your WordPress dashboard.

Those plugins still show up in Google searches so they added a warning notice to let people know they haven’t been updated in a really long time.

Keep in mind out of date plugins is one of the more common attack vectors that hackers use to gain access to WordPress sites. So having an insecure out of date plugin on your website is a pretty big deal.

Now WordPress just pushed out one of their semiannual (approximately) major updates to the core software and it’s the holiday season. So if a plugin lists the previous version it might not be a show stopper in and of itself. However take that into account when you are evaluating the plugin.

What about paid plugins? Sometimes it’s hard to find any compatibility info listed on plugins available for purchase. If you can’t find the info listed publicly before you purchase the plugin, then reach out to the plugin developer. If they don’t give you a satisfactory answer, move on.

The only thing worse than installing a plugin that breaks your site because it hasn’t been updated in years is paying for a plugin that breaks your site.

Are Support Issues Being Addressed?

Every plugin in the Directory has a support forum where people can reach out for help. Since plugins are offered for free there, the plugin developer has no obligation to support their plugin.

However the best ones always do maintain an active presence and answer questions. That’s one of the things I love about the WordPress community. People are willing to help one another.

However if there are a ton of major issues being raised by users and the plugin developer is no where to be found then maybe that plugin is not the best one for your site.

While you are looking at that, see how many times the plugin has been downloaded. If a plugin has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and there are only a handful of people with problems, then it’s likely going to work on your site. But if it has only been downloaded a few hundred times and there are tons of people reporting problems, then steer clear.

Is the Plugin Likely to be Supported Moving Forward?

Now this question is obviously going to be a guess at best. What is the disclaimer that financial advisers use? “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

That said going with a particular plugin because it looks good today, only to have it abandoned and have to change to anther solution down the road can be a major pain. This is doubly true if the plugin has a shortcode associated with it that you use. Going through and changing out shortcodes because you need to switch plugins can be pretty tedious, especially if you have a big site with lots of posts using that shortcode.

So what are the indicators that a plugin is likely going to be supported moving forward?

You can look at how long the plugin has been available. If it has a track record of being updated hopefully that means the developer is committed to keeping it going.

How many other plugins does the developer have in the Plugin directory? You can click through the developer’s name on the plugin page and see. If he has several and he seems to be keeping them up to date, then hopefully he’ll keep this one updated too.

That brings us to the last (finally!) big question I look at.

Does the Plugin Developer Have a Profit Base?

To me this question is a big one. A plugin developer that has a reliable income stream that is WordPress related is much more likely in my eyes to keep up with developing a plugin they upload to the Directory than someone who is just playing around.

Sometimes this profit base looks like a premium version of the plugin. Some people get frustrated by paid plugins. But to me that indicates the author is serious about maintaining and improving their plugin. They’ll have to keep it up if they expect new people to pay for it.

Other times the plugin is related to the developer’s main service. For example the NextGen Gallery plugin is now maintained by a company that specializes in developing WordPress websites for photographers. The plugin is free for anyone to use and the developer maintains it because it ties directly in with their own business. It’s in their own best interest to keep up with the plugin.

Or maybe the plugin developer runs a WordPress development/design business. If they’ve been working with WordPress for a few years and it’s now a major income stream for them, then odds are they will likely continue developing the plugin moving forward.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is really pretty simple. Taking just a little bit of time to think about your site’s needs and researching the plugin just a little can save you some significant frustration. It can save you from installing a plugin that immediately breaks your site because it hasn’t been updated in years. And it just might keep you from having to go through a painful transition down the road when plugin that is mission critical for your website has been abandoned.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Rebecca Gill

Founder and President of Web Savvy Marketing, a Michigan based internet marketing firm that specializes in website design, organic SEO, social media marketing, and WordPress consulting.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Cloud is not a commodity. And no matter what you call it, computing doesn’t come out of the sky. It comes from physical hardware inside brick and mortar facilities connected by hundreds of miles of networking cable. And no two clouds are built the same way. SoftLayer gives you the highest performing cloud infrastructure available. One platform that takes data centers around the world that are full of the widest range of cloud computing options, and then integrates and automates everything. Join SoftLayer on June 9 at 16th Cloud Expo to learn about IBM Cloud's SoftLayer platform, explore se...
15th Cloud Expo, which took place Nov. 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, expanded the conference content of @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit to include two developer events. IBM held a Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5 and ElasticBox held a Hackathon on November 6. Both events took place on the expo floor. The Bluemix Developer Playground, for developers of all levels, highlighted the ease of use of Bluemix, its services and functionality and provide short-term introductory projects that developers can complete between sessions.
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo – to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – is now accepting Hackathon proposals. Hackathon sponsorship benefits include general brand exposure and increasing engagement with the developer ecosystem. At Cloud Expo 2014 Silicon Valley, IBM held the Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5 and ElasticBox held the DevOps Hackathon on November 6. Both events took place on the expo floor. The Bluemix Developer Playground, for developers of all levels, highlighted the ease of use of...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Liaison Technologies, a leading provider of data management and integration cloud services and solutions, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Liaison Technologies is a recognized market leader in providing cloud-enabled data integration and data management solutions to break down complex information barriers, enabling enterprises to make smarter decisions, faster.
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Collecting data in the field and configuring multitudes of unique devices is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that can stretch IT resources. Horan & Bird [H&B], Australia’s fifth-largest Solar Panel Installer, wanted to automate sensor data collection and monitoring from its solar panels and integrate the data with its business and marketing systems. After data was collected and structured, two major areas needed to be addressed: improving developer workflows and extending access to a business application to multiple users (multi-tenancy). Docker, a container technology, was used to ...