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can free plugins actually end up costing you money?

December 21, 2020

written by
Chantel Keith

One of the major benefits of WordPress is that it has a vast library of free plugins that can be quickly and easily installed on your website to extend its functionality. From simple contact forms to fully functioning e-commerce stores, it’s almost guaranteed a plugin exists that can add any feature to your site. Plugins can be installed with a click of a button, making them an attractive solution when looking to add new features to your website. However, because each of these plugins are built separately by different development teams for individual purposes, they can potentially wreak havoc on the performance, security and maintenance of your website costing you valuable customers.


What is a WordPress plugin?

A WordPress plugin is a piece of code or software that can be installed on a WordPress website to add new features and functionality. There are a ton of free plugins available, as well as paid plugins with one-time fees or subscription based plugins. Plugins can be installed out-of-the-box, directly from the administrative area of your website or custom built for you by a web developer.


What are the disadvantages of free WordPress plugins?

plugin conflicts

To build a full-fledged site utilizing free plugins, you’ll likely need to install quite a few of them to add all of the features your website needs. It’s common for plugins to conflict with each other causing one or more to break, or worse, it could take your whole site down completely.

poor performance

Another unfortunate downside to free plugins is that they’re not always optimized for performance and can end up slowing down your website which in turn reduces your website’s SEO ranking. Because each plugin is built to operate independently, it has to serve up its own Javascript and CSS resources to function each time a user visits your website. As the number of plugins increases, so does the number of files that needs to load on each page which can quickly bog down your website.

lack of customization

Out of the box, free plugins are often limited in their functionality and customization options. You may not be able to configure the exact experience you’re looking to provide to your users. It can also be difficult to customize a plugin to match your website’s theme and company’s brand without additional custom styling by a web developer – and even then, overriding styling of an out-of-the-box plugin can quickly clutter up your website’s code unnecessarily. To have complete control over your website’s user experience, it’s better to have a custom plugin or feature built to your specifications.


How to safely use WordPress plugins?

When selecting a plugin for your website, be sure to choose a reputable source. Check to see when the plugin was last updated by its developers as plugins updated more frequently are often more secure and reliable. Backup your website before installing new plugins to easily revert if there are complications. Consider a paid plugin or a “pro” version of a free plugin for additional features. Be sure to update installed plugins on your website regularly to ensure potential vulnerabilities are patched.

Not all plugins are bad, we’ve written about some of our favorite free WordPress plugins before that our website’s couldn’t live without. Though, we tend to only use plugins to handle backend functionality to improve the administrative interface to make maintaining our websites much easier. For front end functionality, where customers will be interacting with features on your site, we typically recommend getting a custom built plugin or feature created specifically for your website’s purpose, theme and brand for optimal performance.