Stop! Do You REALLY Need That Plugin?

by Martin Malden

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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