What are plugins and what do they do?

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A plug-in, put simply, is a piece of software that adds new features or extends functionality on an existing application.

When it comes to websites, these are paramount to ensuring functionality, improving speed and efficiency, and maximizing your customer’s experience. They can help your website be unique in the way it appears, ie the ability to use certain fonts that relate to your brand, help maintain your site’s security, ensure your site has the ability to be backed up and/or restored (god forbid your site ever gets hacked) and provide your website with great SEO solutions, plus much more.

How did plugins come about?

Early on in the timeline of the Internet, websites offered visitors a very limited experience. Most websites could only display simple text, a few still images and links. Plugins were born as a solution to overcome the limitations of early HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the standard coding language programmers use to create webpages. They very much helped to create a more engaging experience for site visitors. Since then, plugin usage has become a very important aspect of web design. There are now thousands of plugins that people can easily install and use on their websites.

Why you should use plugins

If you want the ability to expand the functionality of your website quickly and easily, then plugins are a no-brainer. Web designers can usually download and install them within minutes. Plugins are also need to be updated frequently, often several times per year, as they regularly offer performance and security improvements.

Some things to consider, if you are creating your own site…

When you download and install a plugin, you are relying on the third-party developer that created the program, to be legit. Some plugins are excellent and function exactly as described, while others are buggy, redundant, or lacking in security.

Security issues– Platforms like WordPress are widely regarded to being very secure, but when external sources – like plugins – are invited in, security can be compromised and leave the website vulnerable to hacking. Even some of the most widely used WordPress plugins, have suffered security flaws in the past.

Drain on resources – Every plugin you install adds “weight” to your website. Plugins consume processing power which can slow down your website and even cause it crash.

Conflicts – Sometimes plug-ins react badly with certain websites. They can clash with a CMS, website theme or even other plug-ins, particularly after the user processes an update.

Paid versus free plug-ins
Thousands of free plugins are available for download, however, they don’t offer much support to the user. Web designers that use paid plugins are more invested in providing good customer service and try to keep the programs bug-free and compatible with the platform they were designed for. It can take many hours of research to make sure that the plugins you’re thinking of downloading have good reviews and are not likely to cause you any headaches down the road.

That’s why at Merge Media, we are the best option for ensuring your website runs smoothly, with no major issues for you, as we have created numerous websites over the years with our clients’ trust, happiness and stress levels in mind!