The Problem With Plugins

Plugins are everywhere. Whether you use a plugin-centric platform like WordPress or your design tool of choice (i.e. Sketch or Photoshop) you have many plugins at your fingertips. Have a problem? There’s a plugin for that. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it…

What’s the issue?

Plugins are made to make our lives easier and workflows faster. They do this well and often in a few clicks which are fantastic in theory. The problem lies in authenticity. Creating pre-generated code, design elements, patterns, websites, etc… creates a lot of duplication in the public space. How many websites, themes, dribbble shots, logos and more are truly unique anymore? To me, it seems like that number is falling rapidly due to automation and plugins.

Social Validation

We as humans lack patience for anything today because we can get the information we want in just seconds. I’m guilty being impatient as I noticed I can barely get through a 30-minute television show without checking my phone or texting a friend. We are keen on one-click solutions to solve our problems and exchange the convenience over originality. The problems may get fixed but are often lackluster. Don’t believe me? Go search for WordPress themes or even dribbble today for anything and you will see a lot of duplicates/ strikingly similar content.

Mundane Patterns

We build on frameworks and patterns set in place by others which inherently create a very artificial presence publicly. Patterns are important in web development if working in teams, but often these patterns are way too predictable to the end user simply because we were unwilling to get uncomfortable.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily but from a web designers perspective, my eyes are tired at what I see today. No longer am I “wowed” by a website unless someone goes outside of their comfort zone to roll out something completely new.

What’s even worse is when someone “crosses the line” and gets scoured for it simply because they chose to not conform.

Oh, your website loads in over 4 seconds? Crucify him!

The site not completely responsive (because it’s not supposed to be)? Cast him out of the city walls!

Plugins used in design applications

Sketch is a big inspiration for this writing. Every day I see a new plugin published to do something automatically for the designer it’s targeted. When did automatic design become a good thing? Maybe I’m becoming a dinosaur…

I’m excited about plugins that get released as much as everyone else in the Sketch community, but what I’m finding is that the developers’ of such plugins are looking for ways to automate what a designer is supposed to think through on his/her own opinion rather than their own. Whether the automated pattern they’ve invoked is a good one or not, having a plugin control your design’s destiny is pretty darn scary to me. Not to mention boring and predictable.

My main concern is that Sketch will turn into a Web/UI builder rather than an actual tool used to create unique designs. Is this automated process the future? It seems that way with services like Squarespace, Wix, or Divi. I’m concerned for designers who adhere to these automated principles. Yes, there are many time-saving benefits but is it truly worth the time saved to create the same design over and over again? I’m not so sure.

Check out my more recent vlog about how I use pretty most of the design apps that exist today: