Those Super Easy Plug-Ins: When Free Isn’t Worth the Price

plug-ins for websites

Remember that old adage: you get what you pay for? Well, when it comes to all those easy-to-install website add-ons and plug-ins that are absolutely free, the platitude can be spot-on. Sure, they make it easy to update the look, feel, and usability of your site, but that no-cost cost can come at a price.

Full disclosure here, we use plug-ins. Especially for WordPress-based sites, those easy-to-use tools can be the most cost effective and efficient means to achieve an end result we want. But with more than 55,000 plug-ins for WordPress alone, there’s room for overkill. And that’s where ease-of-operation can wind up costing a lot.

Here are 5 reasons you may want to reconsider downloading that next plug-in:

Plug-ins Can Slow Down Your Site

Almost half of consumers believe that your webpage should load in two seconds or less.1 Does yours? Even if it does right now, do you know that the more stuff you add on to it—whether that’s images, videos, plug-ins or bits of trackable code—the more slowly your site will load? Especially if you’re trying to attract impatient millennials and those Gen Z people, slow is not your friend. You could wind up losing potential students simply because they’re not willing to wait for your message to load. That means that your savings on the front end could cost you big time on your endgame.

It’s Not Your Security

When you build out a site from scratch, using good, not-so-old fashioned development and code, you make sure it’s safe and secure. You build it with strict security protocols. No easy template or pulled-in plug-in. When someone else is building your stuff, you get what they did. Is that really good enough for your institution? Plug-ins are short-cuts. And sometimes that means short-cuts on security.

Is It Reputable?

WordPress has a great reputation and an amazing selection of plug-ins from which to choose. But not all plug-ins are created equal. If you choose the wrong plug-in, you can do your school’s online reputation irreparable harm. If you use plug-ins, make sure your developers do their homework.  Check out online reviews and see what others have to say about the product.

What About Support?

When you spend money on a tech product, you expect a certain level of support. But when it’s free, there may be none. And while most plug-ins truly are designed to be user friendly, when they go wrong and there’s no one to ask, what gives? You may find yourself down a rabbit hole looking for answers when you barely know what questions to ask.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Once you’ve installed plug-ins and they do what they’re supposed to, it’s easy to relegate them to a back burner. They do their job. You don’t notice them or pay attention to them. But blink five minutes into the future and you may no longer be the one in charge of your website. What happens when the next best shiny object comes along and the new guy installs that? Awesome. But not if s/he doesn’t delete the existing plug-in that’s no longer useful. Stuff on your website that you no longer need can haunt you far into the future.

It’s not that you should never use plug-ins. It’s just that if and when you do, you should download with caution. If you’d like to learn a little bit about some of tools we consider safe and user-friendly, contact us today.

~Linda Emma