The Cost of Free Plugins

As of today, there are 27,303 free plugins in the WordPress plugin repository. This isn’t counting the thousands of plugins hosted elsewhere by authors who don’t host their plugins with WordPress.

Out of the 27,000 free plugins in the WP repository, I dare say that there are approximately 100 worth your time.

Now, this isn’t intended to be a griping post, this is a wake up call for those of you who like to use free plugins instead of paid plugins. For the record, neither OTM nor any of our employees have any paid (premium) plugins out there so this isn’t a sales pitch.

Free plugins can be great. They add a lot of extra functionality for the great, low price of free and can *usually* be installed with just a few clicks. The real price, however, will come in terms of time and sanity paid. Most of these plugins aren’t coded to work well with other plugins or are made for a very narrow use case – one that likely won’t fit your website.

This means you’ll spend countless hours recoding, restyling, configuring and just trying to make it work. You see, that’s the real cost of free plugins. In the end, if you really want to make use of the functionality, you need to either buck up and buy a real robust solution or you code your own. Because it will take less time and you can dissect and fix it if you need to.

We just had a real case of this on one of our somewhat recent projects. We were using a free plugin for a base functionality on said project. On the surface it worked brilliantly and was plug and play. However, as we went through the project and the styling and functionality needs got more and more robust, the plugin started showing its true colors. In the end, we just coded our own home-grown plugin and it works brilliantly. We know the code in and out, it fits the client and project perfectly, and we can style or output it however we please.

The more you do with your website or with clients’ websites the more you’ll see that this is the case. It’s worth your sanity to simply buy or code a solution to meet your exact business needs and use case. Your sanity will thank you later.

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