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Stop! Do You REALLY Need That Plugin?

If you read (and remember) any of my articles from a few years back you can take me to task now.

Because back then I raved about plugins and added them to my WordPress sites at will.

But I’ve changed my mind.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some excellent plugins that do great jobs.

But they can also slow down your site, create PHP errors and create problems after WordPress upgrades.

There are more than 4000 plugins available now, which enable you to add almost any functionality you want to your site.

But there are a few questions to consider before installing one:

  1. Does this plugin need to access external sites during the site load process (like share this or related sites type plugins)?
  2. How often is this plugin updated? (But keep in mind that simple plugins probably don’t need to be updated that often).
  3. Does the plugin author look as though they’re here to stay? (Do they have other plugins? Is their site professional and does it look as though it’s been around for a while? Does the author provide quick and responsive support)

Accessing external sites

If your plugin needs to access an external site to do its thing (such as a share this or related sites type plugin) you may be dependent on that site being available and responsive for your site to load fully and quickly.

It depends on where the plugin sits in your page, but if it sits above your content in the HTML (source code) view, and the site it needs to access is slow or down, this will greatly slow down the load time for your site and may stall it altogether.

In which case you’ll lose a reader.

Two plugins I’ve used in the past have caused slow load times and PHP errors, that were initiated by the sites they needed to access for information.

I removed them.

How often is this plugin updated

This one goes hand in hand with point 3. Some plugin authors simply stop supporting their plugins. Remember – the majority of plugins are free and most authors do it for love.

But if something else comes along that takes their focus away from their plugin they may well stop supporting it.

This means that at some point (usually after a WordPress upgrade) it will cause a problem on your site, because it won’t have kept pace with new WordPress functionality and design.

Again – this has happened to me in the past, although only once (so far!).

More to go wrong

And finally, adding plugins creates more opportunities for things to go wrong.

They could have security holes, and they may clash with other plugins, or with your theme. They may even clash with your version of WordPress.

And they increase the size of your site.

I recently removed 3 plugins from this site (and by ‘removed’ I mean deactivated and deleted), and the overall number of files on my site was reduced by a little over 250. (That reduced bloat on my site by 14%).

So I’m now steadily reducing the number of plugins I have on my WordPress sites and using alternatives wherever possible.

For example, I don’t have any Twitter plugins – my posts are Tweeted by RSS.

I don’t use a plugin to manage the number of times my site pings the ping services – I use the Review function in WordPress and only publish or update my post when I’m happy with it.

There are lots of excellent plugins that do great jobs. But if you have plugins on your site that you don’t absolutely need, then remove them.

Update:

I wrote a post recently in which I identified the base set of plugins I recommend for WordPress sites. If you have specialised functionality on your site you will need specialised plugins, but these will cover the basics.

You can find it here.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Brad Harmon 12 November, 2009, 6:07 pm

    Martin,

    I am running 18 plugins right now. Perhaps I should reconsider why I am running that many? Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    Brad
    .-= Brad Harmon´s last blog ..A Veterans Day Reminder =-.

    • Martin 13 November, 2009, 6:55 am

      You’re welcome..!

      Martin.

      • Brad Harmon 14 November, 2009, 9:52 am

        Okay, I eliminated 3 and also did away with 2 blog directory links that weren’t really doing much for me. Still looking for more cuts.

        How many plugins do you run?
        .-= Brad Harmon´s last blog ..5 Ways to Tell if Your Small Business is a Social Media Lemming? =-.

        • Martin 15 November, 2009, 9:49 am

          I’m running 13 on this site at the moment, down from a high of 27!

          Martin

  • marvin 13 November, 2009, 7:24 am

    I have 13 active plugin on my personal blog. And since I am on a shared (free) hosting (don’t have the funds “yet” to go to paid), I am having problems with memory limits on php during plugin upgrades. I have to deactivate them, then do the upgrade, then reactivate them.

    Unfortunately, I am still thinking which of the plugins I have I could remove.

    • Martin 13 November, 2009, 1:18 pm

      Hi Marvin,

      If you want to improve the performance of your site you should start reviewing plugins that go to other sites for information. Review them first, against the benefits they’re bringing you, to see if you can drop any of them.

      Then look at plugins where you could achieve what they’re achieving by other means.

      Again, measure the benefit they’re bringing you and see if you could get the result more efficiently by doing it another way – e.g. using RSS in the example I gave above.

      Cheers,

      Martin.

  • Melanie 14 November, 2009, 2:48 am

    Thanks for the post. Will be reviweing my several Wotrdpress blogs to see what I can really live without, which is probably quite a few of the plug ins.

    • Martin 14 November, 2009, 6:42 am

      You’re welcome – and happy unwanted plugin hunting! 🙂

      Cheers,

      Martin.

  • Keith Davis 24 December, 2009, 4:36 pm

    Hi Martin
    Easy to get carried away with plugins and just keep adding them. If you read the plugin author’s blurb, you need them all!
    Thanks for applying the handbrake to the plugin juggernaut… could stop a serious smash in the future LOL.
    .-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..The eyes have it! =-.

    • Martin 24 December, 2009, 5:13 pm

      Yep – removing plugins has become a bit of a crusade for me..! 🙂

      Cheers,

      Martin.