The Trade-offs of Third-party Add-ons
Third-party apps and add-ons can enhance an ecommerce platform. Examples include exit popups, customer reviews, product recommendations, and marketing automation. Some add-ons, such as heatmaps, provide data about site visitors while others, such as live chat, improve customer support.
But third-party add-ons can create more problems than benefits. I’ll address it in this post.
Risks of Add-ons
If they aren’t properly integrated or managed, add-ons can slow a site down. Slow pages prompt visitors to leave. And slow pages are now a Google ranking factor — the slower the page, the lower the organic rankings.
Moreover, add-ons that don’t sync well with a platform can create a disjointed look and feel. For example, product recommendations that appear different than native customer reviews can confuse visitors.
Collecting data via an add-on can also create disfunction. Exit popups could prompt users for their email address if, say, an earlier form for marketing automation already collected it. The result is a frustrating experience for shoppers.
To be sure, third-party apps can add helpful functionality at a low cost. Take these steps to avoid problems.
- Critique the provider. Get to know the add-on vendor. Does it have positive reviews? What about product support? Consider sending a test inquiry before committing.
- Monitor performance before installation and after. Analyze the impact on site speed (via WebPageTest and Google’s PageSpeed Insights) and the user experience. Ideally, the add-on did not impact page speed, but it did improve the experience. If not, consider reevaluating.
- Review the actual results. Did metrics improve the way you expected? Conversions, average order value, requests for info — all are key, potential data points.
- Review your hosting. Look for a hosting service (or SaaS provider) that is focused on performance and load times. Ask your provider how it can help improve your metrics.
Remember, too, to remove unused add-ons. Don’t leave old scripts in your code. Also, create a process for periodically reviewing installed add-ons to ensure they’re providing the benefits you expected.
Many variables — design, images, videos — can impair site performance. But, in my experience, add-ons are a frequent culprit. Often, owners install them without considering the downsides. Recognize that every add-on could slow a site or damage the user experience. Consistent evaluation, maintenance, and measurement are key.