WordPress plugins are like hand-me-down Christmas lights.
When they’re all working properly, it’s nice to look at. But once a tiny bulb goes out, the string gets tangled, or a fuse blows, you’re out of luck, and you’ve ruined Christmas! To get it working properly again, you’re either going to have to do some risky repair work that might involve a rickety ladder and some super-sus DIY wiring, or worse — you’ll have to hire an expensive specialist if the damages extend to the electric circuit in your home.
Web design is the same. If you cobble together a makeshift setup or inherit someone else’s, your website will probably need constant repairs. Jury-rigging a tangle of outdated, insecure plugins and crossing your fingers won’t cut it when you need to build something that lasts.
Luckily, most top plugins used by WordPress sites can be replaced by functionality that already exists in Webflow — no shaky connections or dicey repairs required. Here’s what you need to know about WordPress plugins and how Webflow can replace them.
What is a WordPress plugin and what does it do?
WordPress is one of the most ubiquitous web builders out there, and it’s been around since 2003. For context, and to make everyone feel old, that was the same year the songs “Stacy’s Mom” and “Crazy in Love” were released. WordPress moved from private ownership and became an open-source tool in 2010, and that’s when plugins really took off.
As an open-source tool, the platform (like any) has some limitations. To resolve these limitations, creative developers designed over 50,000 plugins that fill in the gaps where WordPress’s product can’t reach or fit. For example, some plugins add functionality like content backups, two-factor authentication, and Google analytics connections. Others facilitate social sharing through social media accounts or email marketing.
You can find these add-ons on WordPress’s Plugin Directory on wordpress.org. While there are many free Wordpress plugins, there are also premium versions that require a start up or subscription fee. And almost all of them are designed by third parties.
Usually, installing a new plugin is a straightforward process that involves authorizing the third-party plugin provider to access your WordPress website via single sign-on or API key. Then, you can find your plugins in the back-end admin side of your website and manage them directly within the WordPress dashboard.
Since WordPress doesn’t have a number of functionalities built directly within the product, you have to install individual plugins for contact forms, spam comment filtering, on-page search engine optimization (SEO), and “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) drag-and-drop visual design options. (Yep, that’s already four basically-mandatory plugins that you’ll need to add to your one website!)
The limitations of WordPress as a website builder mean that you’re going to have to use plugins for your website to function properly. You have no choice – but you also have 50,000+ plugin choices to evaluate.
WordPress plugins pros and cons
Plugins are like a tire patch kit. They’re not the most reliable or long-lasting solution to your problem, but in a pinch, they can save you a little bit of trouble and get you back in business quickly. Here are the pros and cons to keep in mind before you hit “install.”
Pros of WordPress plugins
- Flexibility and customization: If you want something added to your WordPress website functionality, chances are, you’re not the first person to want that feature. You can enhance your user experience, search visibility, site features, and more using plugins. (That is, if they’re dependable.) When you don’t want it anymore, just uninstall it.
- Variety of solutions: There are over 50,000 plugins available to you. Often, plugins are grouped in categories, and the Directory includes user reviews and rankings. If you don’t like the plugin you tried, you can try the next-highest-rated plugin in that category, and so on.
- Beginner-friendliness: If you’re new to web design, installing a plugin can make you feel like Hackerman. Since most open-source tools are designed for developers, not non-developers, plugins can function as training wheels to help non-developers (like me, hi) create effective websites with advanced features without having to phone a dev friend... in theory. More on that in a bit.
- Quick troubleshooting when an issue arises: Often, you’ll find yourself in the Plugins Directory scouring the tags and sections for a specific solution to a problem you’re experiencing. If the plugin works and solves your problem, you can go back to actually doing the stuff you like to do, like front-end design or taking naps.
Cons of WordPress plugins
- Security: Using 10-20 plugins to operate a basic eCommerce website means your website is connected to that many companies. Unless you take the time to have your lawyer read over every user agreement when you install a new plugin, there isn’t a lot of safety built in. This is pretty typical for open-source tools – “buyer” beware, and if someone steals your stuff when you’re not looking, you’re on your own.
- Complexity and maintenance: In a perfect world, all of your plugins operate in harmony, but unfortunately, reality doesn’t always pan out like that. Depending on your plugins, you may need to regularly install updates or work around the limitations presented by the plugins themselves. Plus, your plugins need to get along: one unwieldy line of code can slow down your whole site. You can’t know they will until you install them and see for yourself.
- Dependency on third parties: Established companies who make plugins, like WooCommerce and Elementor, are usually trustworthy, but most plugins are not built by wildly famous and huge software companies. If your plugin developer goes out of business tomorrow, so do you! (And where would your data go?)
You pretty much can’t run a WordPress website without at least a handful of plugins. The immediate gratification of solving your problem with a plugin can be nice, but it often incurs technical debt down the road. If you’d rather not have the fuss, it just so happens that Webflow natively replaces several top WordPress plugins and saves you the trouble of having to maintain, update, debug, and monitor them.
WordPress plugins that Webflow replaces
Let’s dive right into the most popular WordPress plugins that Webflow is able to replace.
If you want someone to give you their name and email to book a demo or sign up for a newsletter on WordPress, you’re going to need a plugin. You know, forms — one of those things that are on nearly every modern website — require using a plugin. To me, this is the web design equivalent of having to draw water from a well to brush your teeth in the morning. As in, shouldn’t there be an easier way to accomplish this incredibly simple task?
To be fair, WordPress.com does have a native form builder. Please don’t even get me started on the difference between “.com” and “.org” on WordPress — just know that it’s the non-open-source arm of WordPress that holds the user’s hand a little bit more. And also to be fair, you “technically” can make a form on WordPress without a plugin, in the same way that I “technically” know how to play the guitar. (Meaning: I don’t, but I assume with enough time, fury, and swearing I could figure it out.) Don’t believe me? Look how fun it is to build your own form!
So since this is such an essential feature, and the other options aren’t that appealing, there are quite a few plugins to choose from. Jetpack, WPForms, Gravity Forms, Formidable, and the thrillingly named Contact Form 7 plugin are some of the most popular in the plugins directory.
Sorry, but if you’re trusting something called “Contact Form 7” that a third-party company built over a decade ago to protect your clients’ personally identifiable information — maybe pause and ask yourself, “What am I even doing with my life?” Plus, not all of these form plugins have free versions and the pro versions can add up to hundreds of dollars annually.
I’m not a professional, but I think the 0.6 seconds it takes in Webflow to click “Add Form Block” is far less taxing and only requires me to connect website form submissions to my CRM. Using a WordPress plugin would add an entire extra step to my workflows, sacrificing time (and potentially security).
On WordPress, you actually have to install a special plugin for spam filtering. Otherwise, bots will descend on your forms (which, as you’ll recall, you needed another plugin to build) and comment sections like ants descending on a picnic. That sure seems like a lot of trouble for something your website should just do for you already. And it isn’t free — for enterprise sites, spam protection will cost you $50/month.
On Webflow, you can use reCAPTCHA for free without having to install anything extra. Just add it as an element onto your forms to prevent spam. Then, take the money you saved, and use it for literally any other business purpose you may have that actually contributes to your bottom line.
Yoast SEO is the most widely used plugin for search engine optimization. It’s basically mandatory if you want your website to appear in search results, redirect dead links, and have tidy meta descriptions. These are things most people want from their websites, and which Webflow natively provides.
For those keeping score at home, yes, you’re correct: we are now already at three mandatory plugins from three different non-WordPress sources which mostly require paid subscriptions to have an operable website. Let’s say you use Formidable for forms, Askimet for spam, and Yoast SEO Premium on your enterprise website – you’re now spending $900+ per year on something Webflow already does. WordPress may be free, but the cost of using plugins to keep up with all of your website’s needs adds up quickly.
I did the math, and for that same amount of money you could buy 170 burgers from Shake Shack. If you’re spending big bucks on plugins, my friend, your priorities in life are in need of a serious reevaluation. Best get started on your migration now — burgers await!
If you aren’t a coding whiz, or will need to collaborate with people who aren’t developers, you’re going to need to use a plugin to design your website. You can’t easily drag-and-drop elements in WordPress like you can in other major web builders without the help of a plugin. Elementor is the most popular plugin for this, and though it is free to use, to get additional roles and custom CSS, you’ll need to fork over $199 a year for Pro (which is 38 burgers).
If you want to try to design your site without a design plugin, WordPress does offer some free templates for designing the look and feel of your site. But using a free WordPress theme dates your site and only helps you blend in with the crowd instead of stand out, which can damage your brand’s reputation.
The Webflow Designer enables you to design with a mix of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) and code, and the Editor function allows you to invite more surface-level collaborators and content managers, such as your marketing team — without requiring comprehensive training or a plugin for them to make a quick edit and go on with their day.
If you want to sell anything on your website, you need a way to list products and collect payment information securely. WooCommerce is an open-source plugin that turns WordPress websites into custom ecommerce stores. It’s free to set up, taking a small cut of each payment processed.
If you want to customize your store with themes or integrations, especially for shipping, you may end up paying more or requiring additional plugins to support the WooCommerce plugin. Plugins all the way down, as it were.
Webflow Ecommerce replaces this plugin seamlessly, and it also doesn’t cost extra to incorporate your site theme. Instead of fitting your products into a cookie-cutter mold, you can develop a unique store that works for you, complete with transactional emails that match your website’s brand.
This Webflow feature requires an additional monthly cost, equivalent to other ecommerce providers like Shopify and BigCommerce, with no extra hidden fees for customization or integrations. I’d say that’s well worth the reduced hassle and cleaner customer experience, wouldn’t you?
Swap all your WordPress plugins for one straightforward platform
Ready to ditch the tangle of plugins, save money, speed up your website, and spend less time maintaining your website? Migrate from WordPress to Webflow now, or read the 5 reasons a WordPress user moved to Webflow.