Over the past several years of running my online store course, I’ve noticed some very disturbing trends with a fair number of students in my class.
First off, I want to preface this post by saying that most of the students in my course do not have a programming background nor do they join my class with a solid grasp of how web technologies work.
As a result, whenever they need or want a certain feature for their shopping cart that hasn’t been covered in the class, they do what any normal person would do…
They do a search on Google, look for a plugin, widget or piece of code that will do what they want and then they blindly install it on their website.
And 90% of the time, the plugin seems to do what they want so they keep it installed without realizing the potential ramifications of their decision.
With such power obtained over a website from a small piece of code, you really have to trust the code you are using. Below are some of the problems my students have faced as a result of blindly using 3rd party code.
One of my students was getting a decent amount of traffic to her website from Google but her traffic wasn’t resulting in many sales for her online store.
As a result, she decided to show some CPM ads on her site (generally not a good idea btw). After all, if her visitors weren’t buying products on her site, she wanted to make “some” money by showing ads in the meantime.
One day, she sent me an email asking me why no one was buying products from her store. And when I went to look at her site, I was horrified.
First off, her site took almost 20 seconds to load and when it finally did load, there were flashing animated ads all over the place. When I did a web page speed test, this is what I found.
Another student in my class was looking for a plugin to boost the number of likes on her Facebook fan page. As a result, she found this piece of code that made a customer “like” her Facebook fan page before exposing a coupon code that would incentize a customer to buy.
It seemed innocent enough and the plugin worked like a champ for quite a while. But then one day, this student emailed me frantically telling me that her website was broken even though she had not made any changes to her site.
When I went to her online store to investigate, I found that her website header and logo were loading just fine but the rest of her shop was completely blank.
And because this code was in the header of her store, it prevented the rest of her site from loading because it couldn’t get past the call to the bad server.
For information about this, you can read Glen’s post in its entirety here
What To Look Out For
But make sure that you fully trust the author of the code you are using.
- Try not to use code that makes calls to a 3rd party server – Sometimes this can not be helped but try to limit this if possible
Anyone who has worked with me in the past knows that I’m super anal about introducing any additional points of failure with my site. As a result, I keep all 3rd party code to an absolute minimum.
Now you don’t have to be as anal as I am but you should at least understand the ramifications of your actions. Just make sure that you know what you are getting into when using someone else’s code and make sure you trust them.
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