WordPress plugins can greatly enhance your website’s functionality and performance, but installing too many of them can also risk diminishing its speed and security. How do you know when to stop? How many plugins is too many? In this article Tom Beavan, Boson’s senior WordPress developer and user experience designer shares his expertise on the matter.
A brief introduction to WordPress plugins
WordPress is by far the world’s most popular content management system; we’ve already explored the reasons why we use WordPress as our website platform – as well as some of its pros and cons – in other articles.
WordPress plugins are extra bits of code that allow you to build on the basic functionality that comes with WordPress. They can perform a vast range of tasks, from playing specific types of media to capturing contact information to logging web stats.
There are almost 50,000 plugins currently listed in the WordPress Plugin Directory. They range from simple plugins that do one thing, too much more complex plugins with multiple features. The appropriate use of plugins is a key part of any WordPress web design, and so it’s important to know that your developer understands them properly.
Why too many plugins can be risky
There are three main reasons why installing too many WordPress plugins – or the wrong kind of plugins – can potentially be problematic:
1 .Increased maintenance demands
The more plugins you have, the greater your support needs will be. Plugins need maintenance – checking, updating, customising – and this can eat into your web budget.
2. Threat to security
The use of unreliable plugins can pose a risk to your website’s security, for example by introducing dodgy code or allowing hackers to gain access to your site.
3. Impact on site performance and speed
Running too many plugins – or even just one unstable plugin – can affect the speed of your website, making it run slower or not load properly. In the worst case scenario it may even crash.
How to avoid problems with your plugins
The best way of minimising these risks is to a) make sure your plugins are updated, b) remove any inactive plugins and c) choose them well in the first place (see below).
As part of our services, we offer WordPress Rescue, which means that we will sort out issues a client might be having with their WordPress website, applying our in-depth knowledge of WordPress. This includes fixing problems with plugins.
Quantity vs Quality: A checklist for choosing the best WordPress plugins
Anyone can write a plugin, so how can you tell which ones are reliable? Our checklist will help you choose wisely:
Use recommendations from trusted sources (eg your web designer)
Read reviews and use plugins with consistently good ratings
Check when the plugin was last updated – is this done regularly?
Look at how many times it’s been downloaded compared to others
Check whether there is any support available for the plugin
Finally, it’s worth noting that you should only install as many plugins as you actually need for your site and plugins that you trust. And that it isn’t always the number of plugins that cause the problems. Instead, the quality of the plugins that can affect the performance of your website. Make a list of all the additional functions you require and check that there is no (or little) overlap between your plugins, as some have multiple features.