One of the reasons we all love WordPress is the thousands upon thousands of great plugins which are available for it. Plugins make WordPress so versatile. They can change WordPress from a simple content management system into a host of different websites types including photo and video galleries, review sites, classifieds, forums, and much more.
However, we have all become a little lazy because of plugins. It only takes a few seconds to install a plugin so the first thing we do when we have a problem with our sites is search the plugin directory, instead of trying to hard code the solution ourselves. This is usually the most practical thing to do though, particularly if you want to add some major functionality to your site like a gallery, forum or an advanced contact form.
Quality of Coding
It’s easy to forget the code behind the plugin. Some plugins are coded beautifully. However many are not and are filled with functions and classes that are never called. Plus, whether a plugin is coded well or not is irrelevant if the extra functions slow your site down considerably.
Another factor to consider is validation. Most bloggers don’t worry too much about validating their websites code but it is something which all good designers should aim to do. However, it is close to impossible for designers to validate a WordPress website and get no errors if there are several plugins installed. This is usually due to depreciated HTML elements being used in plugins.
I personally gave up trying to validate my WordPress powered websites a long time ago as it just isn’t possible to clear a page of validation errors when you have dozens of different plugins installed. However I would be the first to admit that this is very lazy as we should all be striving to validate our code correctly.
The quality of coding within plugins is something we may have to worry about less in the future if WordPress starts pushing official core plugins but we will have to wait and see how that develops.
Plugin or Hard Code It?
If you want to add some major functionality to your blog then a plugin is the way to do it. There is no need to spend weeks hard coding the WordPress files if a plugin solution already exists.
Though hard coding is a good alternative to small plugins. There are thousands of WordPress plugins out there which only add one or two lines of code to your page. So it might be better to just hard code the solution yourself rather than use a plugin. However, if you need to edit core files rather than template files, it’s wise to use a plugin. As this will save you editing the files again every time you upgrade WordPress.
The quality of coding within a plugin is something most of us don’t really think about, which is silly when you think about it. Why spend all of your time making sure your blog design is perfectly coded if you are going to add several plugins without checking their code?
I love plugins. They are one of the main reasons WordPress is so versatile. Though I do believe that there are alternatives to using them and we should explore those alternatives if we can.
Do you always check the code of plugins you install? Do you prefer to make edits manually rather than use plugins? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.