Plugins can definitely crash an entire WordPress website, but
Not all plugins are created equally.
Some plugins only work inside the admin area of the system and have no impact on the exterior visitor facing website.
Other plugins are just the opposite and only work on the exterior facing part of the site.
Many have an admin function and also an exterior impact on a site.
Some plugins might effect every page or post of a WordPress website globally.
Others only touch a single page or a group of pages or posts.
As an example, a client just installed a simple plugin that generates a list of all posts within a category. This list is displayed on any page or post where a shortcode ( WordPress jargon for a snippet of web/computer code that causes something extra to happen). If this plugin were to fail, odds are likely that its failure would only be noticed on the pages where the shortcode had been copied and pasted.
Shortcode is sort of like a firewall against plugin problems. Even if that plugin were to stop working the shortcode would stop running the sub program and the list of posts would no longer be listed. Instead we would just see the shortcode itself displayed on the exterior facing page of the website. If the same program had been hard coded into the them or a page template as an alternative, if that hard coding broke becoming incompatible maybe after a WordPress update it could crash the page if not the theme (depending on how gracefully the code shuts itself down).
When we are choosing WordPress plugins to potentially use we look for a number of factors to increase their reliability :
- Is the plugin listed in the WordPress repository where some vetting of new plugins is done as well as reviews for older plugins and the code in those plugins to protect against Malware
- Does it come from some other known and trusted programmer or company?
- Does the plugin receive regular and timely updates, preferably when WordPress updates and to show a continual process improvement of the code
- Do the ratings in the WordPress repository indicate any problems?
- If there are problems, are they serious or extensive?
- If there are problems do they indicate whether the plugin functions with the current version of WordPress?
- Are there any indications that the plugin might be incompatible with the theme being used on your intended site or with other major plugins on your site such as Gravity Forms or WooCommerce or All In One SEO or Yoast SEO ?
- Have a large number of people installed it? 5 negative reviews from a million installs might be better than 5 positive reviews from 3 installs!
Have you run into plugin problems and learned other great lesson? Please share! 😊
Written from a funny laundromat on vacation in the mountains while messengering with a friend and client!