What are plug ins?

pager-beeperYes It’s true. The best invention since the beeper. Ok well the beeper (pager) is probably something that some people have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about.

It used to be a device in the 90s people used to get text messages before cell phones were affordable. Anyways, plug ins are devices used for CMS systems like wordpress or joomla although they can be implemented or embeded into regular HTML style websites without a content managements system.  Here’s the wiki so you can get all technical about it. Most of us use them for sites like wordpress or blog sites.  They make our lives easier by giving us instant feeback from stock charts on wallstreet, to the daily news feed, quick contact forms, or even social networking updates from our friends.  But there is a major caveat! If the whole website is built upon a single plug in, and that plug in stops working,  hasta la vista baby (using a fake Schwarzenegger voice), you’re whole website is fuuuuucked.

In real life, we know if it goes bad, easy…buy a new one or upgrade.  It’s that simple. As the years go by and we rely more and more on our website to do things that these little plug ins offer to do, they might break in the long run. Break!? yeah, it’s a loaded word.  It means a lot of things but I’ll mention the 3 most crucial ones that happen a lot.

clapper-old-school1. Expiration date. The person who developed the plug in stops updating it for the future and it’s not compatible with future versions. It won’t work for future browsers, the code is old or deprecated, or can get klunky or slow. Ok so then we think, let’s just replace the batteries on it like an old pager? Ah, the simple view of the world.  Yes, that’s how my dad would think and it makes sense.  The problem with that mentality is that the world begins to use cellphones, they need to talk immediately to get work done and cell phone company start to discontinue the service or cancel the support to make those pagers work anymore.  What do you mean, you don’t sell cassette tapes!?

2.  Plug ins like to be the Superstar of the room. Sometimes they conflict with other plug ins and cause the theme or other code to malfunction. How so?!  Well some plug-ins rely on a unique ID.  What’s that? ok so now we get into the gotcha moments in coding. Let’s just say that Javascript or php in this case is a Teacher in your class. You have four kids in the room named, John. The teacher says,  Ok I want “John” to leave the classroom at 1pm and if they do it, I will give them and A for the class. So all four kids are excited and exit but they get stuck at the door, although the first one might be faster or slower. You get a problem. That’s a real small way to look it. Now imagine, you have 5,000 students and half of the have of them have the same name, and you get them to do multiple things at once. Things start to get very busy and so does the performance of your website speed.

duct-tape

3.  In the 99 cent aisle, they last forever…until they break.  Plug ins are made to compliment your website. They aren’t supposed to be the main function of your website.  They are generally put on the sidebar or footer of your website so people can click or press on them to do little tasks here and there.   How many plugs in do I use? I use about seven.  Actually, I can probably slim it down to 5 but that’s because I’m too lazy to create a custom bootstrap for this site so I just use the free one that you can find online. It works pretty well and it makes your website look clean.   Plug ins are…Well they’re kind of like the duct tape for everything but it should be kept light and simple. Content writing and photos are the meat of a website. If you are making software or an application, than that application should be made with a lot of support and tested to the point of perfection, not a plug in device.

I can recommend a few good free plug ins:

wp Super Cache

Contact Form 7

(more coming soon)

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