Tying Yourself To A WordPress Plugin

in Blog

The vast majority of WordPress users install plugins in order to improve their site in some way; whether it be to add new functionality, speed up the loading time of their website or change their design in some way. Everyone has their own favourite WordPress plugins that they tend to use on all of their WordPress powered websites. I’m no different :)

A few months ago I spoke about ‘Why I Don’t Like To Style My Content Using Theme Short Codes‘ as any content that is styled using a short code that is built into a theme will not display properly when you change to another design. One solution to this is to transfer the short code functionality to the functions.php file of your new theme.

There are many plugins that tie yourself to them once you start using. In particular, plugins that help you format your content in some way. One good example of this is syntax highlighting plugins.

Syntax highlighting plugins are used to style code in posts and pages. On WordPress Mods I use WP-Syntax. Whilst it does work well, I’d love to try another syntax plugin out such as Syntax Highlighter Evolved.

Tying Yourself To A WordPress Plugin

Unfortunately, changing the syntax plugin you use isn’t so easy due to these plugins using different short codes to wrap code. With WP-Syntax you need to use wrap code inside pre tags e.g. <pre lang=”PHP” line=”1″>. Syntax Highlighter Evolved uses simply language short codes instead e.g. or . One way to fix this would be to use a ‘Find & Replace‘ plugin to replace any instances of <pre lang=”PHP” line=”1″> with though I’d have to make sure I did a replacement for every language I’ve ever displayed code for in my posts.

Tying Yourself To A WordPress Plugin

Most plugins can be activated and deactivated on your site with no problems. For example, I frequently use the WP PageNavi plugin on my blogs to display numeric navigation links at the top and bottom of my archives page. If I wanted to stop using the plugin I could find another navigation plugin, hard code a navigation solution or revert back to the standard older/newer navigation links.

Plugins that require you to use short codes in order to display content could be a real pain in the future if you want to stop using it. This includes syntax highlighters, video plugins that help you insert videos into posts using short codes and plugins that add a data box underneath your post editor.

So the question is: Should you still use plugins that require you to add codes to your content?

In my opinion, if you are only going to be using the plugin on a few pages, there’s no real risk of relying on a plugin. For example, on WP Mods I originally created individual archive pages for each category with a template solution but later used the List Category Posts plugin installed as the plugin short code was only being applied to 6 pages (this also saved me from creating 6 new templates every time I changed design).

If, on the other hand, you are going to be using a plugin to add or style content in all of your blog posts, it’s worth looking at whether there is an alternative solution available. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t use a plugin that lets you insert videos or add tables to your posts however you should bear in mind that the special code used to display the videos or tables could be used in potentially hundreds of even thousands of posts and pages. This ties yourself to the plugin somewhat (though as I mentioned previously you could perhaps resolve this issue by using a ‘Find & Replace’ plugin).

Have you ever found yourself tied to a plugin in some way?


Comments (4)

  • Comment by Nick Davis
    Nick Davis

    Yup, I see this all the time, I think less is definitely more when it comes to plugins and this is one of the reasons why. Not to hate on plugins in general of course, but often with a very little bit of tweaking (even if you’re not a programmer) you can easily replicate many of the same functions without using the plugin (I’m thinking any header/footer script (e.g. Google Analytics related ones) for example).
    There are of course many useful ones that are still worth using, I think one of the key things also is to look to see how frequently the plugin is updated and if it is a ‘name’ author, so if you’re locked in at least you are locked in in a better way. It depends on the project but I typically use Yoast SEO, Gravity Forms and a few Genesis Framework related ones.
    On a slight side note, but to give an example of being able to live without a plugin with a bit of tweaking, I also recently recreated the bits I needed from the ‘Share’ part of Jetpack for my blog allowing me to remove that plugin entirely and get much the same functionality in a much ‘lighter’ way (you can see an example at the bottom of any of my blog posts e.g. http://iamnickdavis.com/web-design-outsource-templates/ ).
    Although getting locked in to a ‘dead’ plugin is hardly an issue (you would hope!) in this case, as it’s provided by Auttomatic, I noticed that – even with caching – Jetpack was slowing down my site significantly (adding about a second to a normally 0.5 second load time) so for that reason alone I took that one down (even though it can be a useful addition for many WP sites).
    Another benefit of a low plugin diet of course!

  • Comment by neeraga

     @Kevin Muldoon Yes, Kevin. I misread that. There are infact some of those Shortcodes based plugins which can be painful in long run. I have seen few Google Maps based Plugins, where you have to put the particular Shortcode to make the Maps Appear via Shortcode in Page or Posts.
    Once you decide to switch to some new Map based plugin, you find that the old map shortcodes no longer works and you manually have to edit all those pages and posts where you have applied the Shortcodes.

  • Comment by Kevin Muldoon
    Kevin Muldoon

     @neeraga I think you misunderstood my point. You can change the stats program you are using on your website at any time with no problems.
    You can’t do this easily with other plugins such as syntax plugins as those require you to wrap code inside plugin-specific short codes. So moving from one syntax plugin to another isn’t as straight forward as deactivating one plugin and activating another.

  • Comment by neeraga

    You are right, you just can’t do without some plugins. I find myself tied to the Real Time Analytics Plugins. Few of them are just awesome.