What matters and what doesn’t about plugins in the WordPress world? Frequent questions are often web myths. But don’t worry if you believe, too. The majority of people accept these ideas as truth. False or obsolete ideas regurgitate over and over on blogs without any fact-checking.
We do plugin research and report about it. That is our “thing.”
So here goes a short-course “consumer reports” for WordPress myths:
Q: I don’t see a Child theme set up? Is there one? If not how do we make updates to this theme?”
Child themes are obsolete. This happened when the Customizer was added to WP Core v4.7 released in 2016. The Customizer is where you go to take your site’s Theme to the next level. From this section, you can:
- change your Site Title and Tagline
- add Widgets to a Sidebar or Footer
- create Custom Menus
- change your Homepage Settings
- and more.
To prevent any custom CSS from being overwritten, we use Simple CSS plugin in your Customizer. To add features to the functions.php file, we use Code Snippets plugin.
It’s good practice to leave breadcrumbs for future site workers. Plugins are obvious breadcrumbs. Hidden custom code in core and theme files are not obvious.
Child themes create extra requests. So not using one speeds up your site. There is no big harm in using a child theme. But they are old school now.
Q: You recommend installing a lot of plugins. Are these all necessary?
It’s quality – not quantity – that counts for speed.
Q: Some of your recommended plugins are not compatible with the current version of WP (some as old as 4 and 5 years). Here are the ones of concern – are there newer alternatives?
- Media Files Tools
- Asset Queue Manager
- BlueT Favicon
- Change Table Prefix
- Peanut Butter Bar
- Plugin Logic
Compatible? The warning didn’t say “incompatible.” Check again. Most likely it said, “untested.” That’s WordPress verbiage – a bureaucratic arbitrary staleness set by a committee. These plugins still work.
Want to make your site go faster for mobile users? These are the plugins required for that trickery. We use these vintage plugins often on many sites including our own. They’re not broken – and so they aren’t updated. They are esoteric, simple, and fast plugins. Please read the PDF (link below) about this plugin topic of “How old is too old?” and “How many is too many?”
Pepsi and Coke publish “best if used by” expiration dates. It increases product inventory turnover. It’s not mandated by law. The products have a super-long shelf-life. It’s not a safety issue.
Implied expiration is good marketing. It protects the distributor from legal “noise” and improves profits. With plugins, the warning protects WordPress from legal disputes.
Also, we’re pros. We don’t poison sites. We don’t fluff things up to make it look like we did something cool or mysterious.
Q: We were using a plugin to hide the WP login URL. Is that not recommended?
We’re unconventional thinkers. Hiding login is unconventional. So clever. But … not using the conventional login screws with future conventional developers heads. No indicators for changes and repairs. Is the site broken or did they change the login page? There are no fail-safe breadcrumbs for troubleshooting in this situation. We don’t like it. Do what you like. It’s your site after all.
Q: Some plugins need updates – can you take care of this round of updates?
We update existing plugins when we do plugin surgery. Keeping plugins and themes and WP core fresh is best practice. But good hosts – like Pressidium (not an affiliate) – don’t push out updates immediately for you. They wait a couple of days to see if the Internet breaks first. Wise. GoDaddy (no affiliate either) pushes them out immediately. Painful when a big plugin like Yoast SEO with over 5-million installs stubs it’s toe (like in March 2015). It happened before and it’ll happen again.
Even WordPress makes blunders that they can’t fix. Their team broke the “auto-update function” with an update (February 2017). The irony. Google began to sweat that the bug might take down the Internet. They sent unsolicited and unwanted email warnings. Isn’t that called SPAM? Too weird.
So. The best practice is: update plugins when updates happen. If new ones break something, revert to your latest backup. You do frequent backups. Right?
Generally, we prefer hosts who make updates to themes, core, and plugins on autopilot. But not for our own PagePipe site, why? Because we’re posing as plugin experts. We have 70 plugins active at any given time. We want to know about changes so we can tell clients about potential problems.
Problems occur with WordPress and big popular plugins, too. No one is exempt from open-source screw-ups. That’s the price we pay for *FREE* and even paid plugins, etc.
We use our recommended plugins on our sites – and on most client sites.
NOTE: There is no such thing as a risk-free WordPress website.