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Plugins vs Custom Code in the Thesis Theme

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In this session we discuss whether or not to use a plugin or create custom code yourself for modifying the Thesis theme. We talk about a few reasons why it is better to create codes in a plugin rather than to just adding it in your Custom Functions file. While it may be true that some plugins can make your site slow or take up resources, plugins are useful in a number of ways. You just need to make sure that you don’t install plugins that you don’t absolutely need and that they are safe and won’t create problems on your site.

Video Transcript

Rick: There’s a culture around the Thesis theme that says plugins are bad.

Member: Right, right. That’s true.

Rick: And I don’t subscribe to that at all. I mean, it’s true that plugins can take resources and it’s true that plugins can slow a site down. But it’s also true that if you’re a beginning coder, you are not going to be able to create the code in as efficient a manner as somebody who’s a confident
programmer. So you balance those things. You balance the question of whether or not you’re going to create a plugin or you’re going to use a plugin or whether or not you’re going to try and code it yourself.

Now, when you’re trying to make that decision, you have another decision. Do I want to put the code in a plugin itself or do I want to put the code in my custom functions file? Now, I am of the opinion now that for many things, you’re better off creating a plugin than simply putting it in your custom functions file. One reason is that, you have discreet control over it. You can say, “Okay, something’s not working with my site so I can deactivate it.” Whereas if it’s an integral part of your functions of your theme you know, you have to go find out where that stuff is and comment out things you know, so that part of it doesn’t run. But if you got it in as a plugin, all you have to do is deactivate it.

Member: Yeah.

Rick: And it’s also the case that if you need to upgrade something or if WordPress upgrades and you got to fix something because your code no longer is appropriate for the condition. If it’s in a plugin, it’s a lot easier to find and a lot easier to find all the instances of it rather than if it’s in your code. If you’ve got a few hundred lines of code in your theme then you know, it’s probably not that big a deal. But BYOB website has thousands of lines of code, of custom code. And so I’ve been  here and there, pulling out chunks of code out of my theme files and putting them in plugins, just so that I can easily dispense with it… so I can easily troubleshoot. If I’ve got a problem, I know exactly where to go to fix it. I don’t have to try and find those places in the code where I have it.

So I do not subscribe… I’m not a member of the anti plugin group and I think it is not really particularly, a useful stance to take except that you shouldn’t use any plugins that you don’t absolutely need. And you should do diligence on the plugins to make sure that they’re safe and that they don’t cause problems on your site and that sort of thing. So there’s a certain amount of responsibility that comes with choosing plugins. But if you do that part of the job well then I think plugins are an integral and necessary part of a WordPress site because that’s the way you add that kind of functionality.

Member: Yeah, I agree with you 100% and I was listening whatever, a year and a half, two years ago, whenever it was, to Chris on a webinar on SEO. And he was just ranting, you know? He rants. He just hates plugins. I’m like, I don’t get it. There are certain things a plugin can do that your site, that your child theme or the Thesis theme cannot do. Therefore, you need to use a plugin to do it. Hello?

Rick: Well, Chris was a blogger. And much of the advice that comes from that part of DIY Themes is based on blogs. And if you’re using a blog, you probably can get most of the functionality that you need for blogging without adding a lot of plugins. But if you’re running a content management system for a small business, it’s a whole different story.

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