19 common mistakes about Joomla extensions - Part 1
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself,” is a famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote. In this article series, we list the most common mistakes users make when choosing and using extensions for their Joomla website(s), and how you can avoid them.
1. Installing too many
Having lots of extensions to choose from when you need to add more functionality on your website is great. The Joomla Extensions Directory is like a candy shop, and once you’ve set foot in it, you might want to install all of those awesome extensions.
Install them on a testing environment, check out if everything still works and if the extension does what you installed it for. If not, remove it and see if you can find an extension that does fit your needs. Once you’re happy with the extension and certain it’s safe to use and does the job, you can install it on your live site.
2. Not keeping them up to date
All websites developers and integrators are happy when their websites are up and running and sometimes forget that it’s crucial, in order to continue having their website up and secure, to keep them up to date.
Sometimes, we could be tempted to only update the core of our CMS, thinking that having Joomla up to date would be sufficient and ignoring the fact that an out of date (and maybe vulnerable) extension would result in an open door for malware or attacks to the website. So to have a secure website, every piece of code that is online should be up to date.
3. Not removing when not needed
Following what has been said in the Mistake #1, when something is not needed or not used anymore, the best practice is to “keep the house clean”, uninstalling unused extensions or those who are not needed anymore. A clean install, with only the needed extensions, is an efficient way to reduce the “attack surface”, limiting the codebase that is online and the possibilities of attacks and breaches.
4. Removing essential ones
Sometimes it’s the other way around. We’ve heard about site admins asking other admins to uninstall firewalls, just because they got locked out (they don’t even know getting blocked is usually only temporarily). Or users not knowing what extensions such as Regular Labs Articles Anywhere are doing, thinking they don’t use them and breaking the site when uninstalling them. And last but not least: users removing essential Joomla plugins because they think they don’t need them.
5. Insufficient research
Not doing proper research may result in installing extensions that simply don’t do the job. Or installing huge overkill extensions that have too many options apart from the functionality you’re looking for.
Before choosing and installing an extension, make sure you have a good idea of the functionality you need. Do not hesitate to seek advice at your local JUG, social media or a forum. That’s what they’re there for. Read the reviews on the JED, look at the demo to see the extension in action, and test it if you can. If there’s a free and a pro version, install the free on your localhost or a test environment to explore the possibilities.
6. Not knowing what they do
Familiarize yourself with what’s going on on your website. You can easily see which extensions are installed by clicking on Extensions -> Manage. After that, click the ID column on top of the list (right corner), twice. You now should have the list sorted by ID descending. Any ID over 10.000 is usually a third-party extension. If you see something you don’t know, check it on the JED to see what it’s for.
7. Installing extensions from dubious sources
When downloading an extension it’s crucial to check the source of such download, ensuring that the file is taken from the original developer’s website or using the download link you can find on the Joomla Extensions Directory. Downloading extensions from a third-party website or from a warez website (where paid extensions are distributed for free) could result in downloading compromised packages and even loading malware in your website.
8. Thinking an extension is the only way to solve an issue
Sometimes you don’t need an extension to get the result you need. If you don’t like the output from the Joomla core, using custom fields and/or overrides might be a better solution. With overrides, you can change the view of any native Joomla component, for example, modules, articles, category blog pages and contacts.
9. Thinking it should be free
“Joomla is free to use, so extensions should be free to use as well.” We have heard that many times. And we get why you might think that. But extension developers often make a living from their work, and by choosing a paid extension, you support the developer to continue to work to upgrade it or even keep their doors open. A second advantage is the support you get on paid subscriptions.
10. Wrong assumptions about support on free extensions
You have installed the free extension, you don’t understand what it does or how it works, you ask the developer and he or she says if you want this kind of extensive support, you need a subscription. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It’s fully up to the developer to decide what support they give and in what way.
OK, you might think, so I won’t get support on a free extension ever? Think again. Many developers are so committed, they even give excellent support on their free extensions.
So before you install a free extension, check out what the reviews say about support and check the developer’s website as well.
Next month: the nine remaining common mistakes. Stay tuned!
Read more on choosing and using extensions:
From our August 2020 issue: Joomla extensions: where to find them?
Jaz Parkyn wrote this really helpful article: Choosing the Right Extension
A little older, but still very useful is this series about finding and choosing extensions:
Steps you can take when selecting an extension: How to Choose an Extension? Part 1: Selection Steps
How to find out if the support fits your needs: How to Choose an Extension? Part 2: Support
What to look for in documentation: How to Choose an Extension? Part 3: Documentation
How to search the JED: How to Choose an Extension: Searching the JED (Part 4.1)
These awesome people took time to tell us what they consider the most common mistakes about Joomla Extensions: Radek Suski, Chris Keen, Michiel Verhoef, Julie Steffers, Elisa Foltyn, Andy Connell, Morten Hansen, Chris Jones-Gill, Manu Beladevan, Laura Rosenbaum Gordon, Alison Meeks, Louis Jansen, Maurice Molenaar, Tom van der Laan, Troy Hall, Patrick Smits, Victor Drover, Norm Douglas, Crystal Dionysopoulou, Eoin Oliver, Rachel Walraven, Peter Martin, Gio Bulo, Rolf Dautrich, Mirek Dronkers, Dimitris Grammatik, Anibal Sánchez, Ruud van Lent.
Thank you all :)