When creating WordPress websites, webmasters should take the time to make sure the plug-ins they are installing are generating valid markup and meet acceptable standards.
In the development of a WordPress website this month, I have reached into the community tool box and installed several WordPress plug-ins to run on my site. While these plug-ins have saved me countless hours in development time, they have also caused some headaches as well. Realizing that no plug-in is ever going to be perfect, there are some that are very poorly tested and written.
I’m not one to go into all the gory details and name faulty plug-in names. But I will give some examples of weaknesses in the quality of plug-ins that you should think about. By doing so, you can save yourself time and perhaps even money.
- If a plug-in is to archive data to a folder, make sure that the folder exists. Often times the plug in developer will not go the extra mile to create the folder at installation time and leave that up to you. Sometimes those folders are referenced in metatags as well. The problem in that case is if a crawler goes and visits your site and detects a missing or malformed URL, it is going to cough and spit up a 404 error. It is now your problem to make it go away.
- The plugin generates invalid markup not conforming to your doctype. I’ve been through so many of these it makes my head hurt. For example, one plugin I use generates a table. To style the data, the developer chose to use the font tag all over the place. As we know, the font tag is deprecated. So all the rows in the table with this font tag embedded in it are completely invalid. Another case I’ve run into are plugins which generate header tags that are not in proper order. For example if your page template uses h1 and h2 tags, the plugin may skip the generation of h3 and go right to h4. This, of course is invalid markup as well. Realize, it is these kind of bugs that can affect the on page SEO scoring on your site too.
- Plugin fails to run text through the PHP htmlentities() function to generate the proper encoding. For example, if I enter in Barnes & Noble as the text in a plug in, it should convert the ampersand to the encoded entity.
- Plugin fails to inherit user settings. In a few instances, I have seen plugin developers setup forms with settings as stubs and forget to implement the feature. Or worse yet, implement the feature but it doesn’t work. Developers can often times be very lazy in testing implementations. That usually means you are the guinea pig and will need to test and report any problems.
- Developer no longer has interest in maintaining the plug in. This is a big problem for site owners. If you pour your blood, sweat and tears into your website and rely upon a plugin to pull off miracles, if it has bugs it is now your problem. Always choose plug-ins with active developer involvement to be on the safe side. If worse turns to worse, you can always hire a consultant to modify the plug-in to your needs.
The quality of plugins vary. Since most of us would rather not pay for WordPress plug ins, we sometimes have to accept what is given to us. If one has PHP coding skills, then you could change the code to fix the plugin or add more features. Either way, one should always test your plugins and look very closely to make sure they are not breaking your website or lowering your site standards.