Do I need an Extension or a Plugin?

That will depend on a few factors, but in short, if you want to solve one single problem you use a plugin. If you want your website to have considerable additional functionality you’ll probably want an Extension.

That’s obviously quite a vague description, which is why people have to ask the question. But while the short description can help it doesn’t always hold true. You may be reading this thinking of extensions that just do one function or plugins that add a range of functionality to your website, well you’re not wrong.

Because that used to be the case. Now, a Plugin is what WordPress call packages of code that are used to extend your website. On OpenCart you’ll find Extensions in their Extension shop. So often when you’re looking for additional functionality for your website you simply go to your CMSs store.

What can Extensions and Plugins do?

Here are a few examples of popular current extensions. As you can see they extend functionality beyond what a website can normally do

  • Themes – Themes are a brilliant example of an extension, they change the very core of the website, taking a blank page and turning it into a fully functional website, including galleries, menus, forms, and much more built in. Their setup, however, is extremely long and arduous.
  • Shipping Extensions – Shipping extensions help ecommerce websites manage customers shipping, this saves businesses having to hard code all of their shipping into their back end making ecommerce businesses possible for even smaller businesses.
  • Simple Zip Generator – Smaller extensions do more specific jobs, like our Simple Zip Generator. Used to easily zip and download packages from your own website. It gives you much easier access to your files.

And below are a few of the most popular plugin examples. These help the user manage a certain aspect of their website

  • SEO Plugins – These plugins give you easier access to relevant data to improve your SEO, often analysing your SEO to give tips to improve performance.
  • Cookie Plugins – These plugins simply manage cookie consent, usually including a popup or banner and manage users consent.
  • Contact form Plugins – These plugins allow for users to fill in a contact form on the website, without an extension managing forms a basic website has no way for visitors to contact the business directly.

As you can see their scope and functionality vary quite drastically. That’s mostly now due to the expected functionality of the websites on each CMS.

WordPress websites will often be created using a Theme, which is an extension that will give it most of it’s functionality. There will then be plugins to create any smaller functions that are necessary.

OpenCart sites even with a Theme will require much more functionality from Extensions. This is because OpenCart is used for much more complex eCommerce sites.

How do you use Extensions or plugins?

This will vary greatly depending on the platform and the plugin, some will be installed on your website’s back end at the click of a button and will automatically function however they are meant to.

Some extensions will need to be installed by other means. This will still depend on the extension or plugin as there are a variety of ways to install software onto a computers back end. Whether directly or through your Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or OpenCart.

And once the extension or plugin is installed you may still need to set it up. Again the difficulty here will vary greatly depending on the extension or plugin. Fortunately, most will require minimal changes or simple steps. These will often include configuring settings and integrating with other tools.

Your extension should give instructions on where and how to install it in the documentation provided with the extension or on its download page. If you’re having problems installing extensions or need help with your website its worth talking to a Web Developer.

Where can you get extensions and plugins?

Often CMSs have their own store to buy extensions, for example our extensions are available on the OpenCart Extension Marketplace. It’s also possible to buy extensions and plugins elsewhere and upload them to your store, for example we have those same extensions available on our own shop website.

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