The Best (and Worst) Plugins for Your Website

Posted / 10 February, 2016

Author / Enginess

Plugins are amazingly versatile. They are basically mini apps that can be implemented into your website or CMS to give your users or administrators added functionality.

Plugins are amazingly versatile. They are basically mini apps that can be implemented into your website or CMS to give your users or administrators added functionality. Need an image gallery? There’s a plugin for that. Want a form or survey? There’s a plugin for that. Carousels? Plugin. Auto suggestions? Plugin. Parallax scrolling? You guessed it – plugin. Whatever you want your website to do, odds are you can accomplish it with a plugin (or three). Here are some plugin/website relationships that we think work like two peas in a pod, plus a few that we think should be avoided.  

MenuAim

menu aim You know when you’re trying to find something on a dropdown menu, but you keep hovering back over other options on the way to select new ones, and it loses your place? Like when a sub menu  has more sub-menus? Well, begone submenu frustration! MenuAim is a jQuery plugin that works to make sure that doesn't happen. Usually, this problem is solved by developers setting timers on menus, ensuring that users have to hover over a menu item for it to ‘activate’. Menu Aim works a bit differently, basing menu behaviour on the direction of the  mouse. What this means is that your menus seem to respond almost magically, doing what the user want before they even know they want it. Play around with this live demo to see what we mean.  

Tubular

tubular Have you ever wondered where big, beautiful websites get their background videos? Well, the answer might be YouTube. Tubular is a jQuery plugin that lets you set a YouTube video as a background on your website.  Of course, there is the caveat that a plugin like Tubular will slow down your site loading time, but for smaller sites, design projects with smaller budgets, or for prototype testing, Tubular is a fantastic resource.  

WP Super Cache

WP super cache WordPress is a haven unto itself for plugins. And among the masses, there are some high end options. WP Super Cache is one such product. It’s a caching plugin that builds HTML files that are then accessed by Apache directly. Basically, this circumnavigates the need to use PHP scripts, which are clunky and slow, since most people only need the HTML version anyways. The result is a speedier site with a plugin you’ll never even notice.  

Datedropper

datedropper Our favourite plugins make small user interactions just a little better. And that’s exactly what Datedropper does. It’s a small plugin that lets you more effectively manage entering dates online. You can choose design elements (fonts, colours) as well as formats and max/min date ranges. We realize this sounds like a pretty boring “feature”, but entering dates (especially on a phone) can be an infuriating task, so we’re big fans of anything that makes it easier.   Sadly, with something as ubiquitous as plugins, there's bound to be some riffraff in mixed in. Here are a few plugins you might want to avoid.  

Supersized!

supersized plugin Supersized is a jQuery plugin that’s designed to be a full screen carousel. While it is well-meaning and effective for some projects, there are a number of underlying code problems, making it cumbersome to deploy and update. But updating your carousel regularly is essential to keep your site looking fresh and relevant. Without it, a carousel isn’t worth the data it takes to load.  

Raptorize

raptorize It’s a plugin that literally sends a raptor racing across your screen. C'mon – no website needs this (okay, maybe a Jurassic World promo site). Ditto: flashing lights, falling snowflakes, etc. Basically, any plugins implemented for the sole purpose of attention grabbing should be avoided.  

Broken Link Checker

broken link checker Broken Link Checker is a WordPress plugin that seems like a great idea at first. It’s a plugin that checks your website for broken links and tells you where they are. For larger, content-heavy websites, this is a great piece of functionality – your site might have hundreds of links, and it would be impossible to check all of them manually. However, Broken Link Checker has two major problems. First, there are security problems. Broken Link Checker was one of dozens of plugins that was caught up in the XSS Vulnerability, a serious concern for all WordPress site owners at the time. Second, it’s heavy. All that scanning and documenting is hard on your server. For sites based on managed or dedicated servers, this shouldn’t be an issue. But for small sites on shared servers, it can cause major problems with site speeds and can even crash the server. So despite the great service that it provides, we'd recommend steering clear of Broken Link Checker.  

Conclusion

Some plugins and websites are like Bert and Ernie – the perfect couple, each balancing the other out. Plugins like MenuAim, working to make your site just that little bit better, or WP Super Cache, making your site load that little bit faster. And while not all couples are quite so cute, and the number of plugins out there might be disheartening, don’t despair! There’s a perfect plugin for every great website problem. You might have to hold out a little bit, but eventually you’ll find The One. Happy searching!

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