When you need to extend WordPress, you have three main choices for how to do it. You can find the code on WordPress.org, you can write the code, or you can buy premium code.
Which is right depends more on your situation and skills than your space cash.
Find It Find It
This is the cheapest, though it can be time consuming. Finding a good plugin or theme on WordPress.org is less a factor of the search function, and more a function of being unable to codify ‘need’ clearly. For example, if you want a slider plugin (no judgement here), there are around 2000 possibilities. Newspaper themes? You’re looking at 70 or so that may fit the bill.
Finding what you need means you must narrow your search. You have to decide what kind of sliders, or what format of newspaper, you feel is the most important. You want a slider with text overlay? That’s different than one that supports animated images. Newspaper themes don’t always have the same formatting options.
Once you find the features you want, you still have the headache of reviewing the developer and the code. Oh yes. If you’re installing plugins without looking into the developers or the code, you run a high risk of damaging your site. This isn’t a huge deal for a hobby site, but if you’re trying to make a business or a successful niche site, this can make or break you.
So. Should you rely on what you find? For the most part, yes. Provided you can vet the code, you’re going to save yourself time, effort, and money. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.
Write It Write It
This is the most expensive choice. Seriously. Think about how much you get paid a year. Let’s say you make $80k. Divide by two to get $40k. Now. You’re worth about $40 an hour. So if it takes you ten hours to write a plugin or theme, that’s $400. Surprise.
So why would anyone write their own code? Basically because you cannot find what you’re looking for in a way that meets your requirements, be it security, stability, or functionality. Often you will find very close versions of what you’re looking for, but when the magic bullet is missing, it’s up to you to build it all your own. This is how forks happen, in software, by the way.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it requires time and skill you may not have. But should you do it? Yes. If you can’t find what you want, and you know you can write and support the code, this is a perfectly viable option.
Buy It Buy It
People always seem to not want to do this. And really the only reason I can understand not wanting to buy premium code is that you can’t vet the usability or security until you buy it. That makes freemium code like Yoast SEO or Monster Insights my favourite kind. You can use their free code, see how well it works and if these are people you could work with.
But when you argue that you shouldn’t have to pay for code, I gesture towards the door and ignore you. Because yes, yes you should. Remember how 10 hours of writing your own code is around $400? Plus ongoing upkeep? Okay, that plugin you want is $60 a year. That means six years of the plugin is the same cost as writing it yourself. Which is a way better deal.
Should you buy it? Yes! Absolutely yes, buy the plugins but only if you can vet the plugin shop first.
Wait… You said yes to all three! Wait… You said yes to all three!
Surprise twist ending!
Here’s the thing. Every single decision you make has a cost and repercussions. They’ll all cost you time, money, and a bit of a headache no matter what you pick. So the real answer, the one I can’t give you, is what’s worth more to you?
For me, I will use free if it exists, I’ll write my own if it doesn’t, and I’ll buy premium if they do it so well I’m just whistling dixie.