How many WordPress plugins should you have on your site? There are thousands upon thousands to choose from, for every conceivable tweak or addition to your WordPress website.
It’s great for options and for extending WordPress’s already versatile and powerful abilities. You can transform your site and add amazing capabilities.
But at some point it all becomes too much. You might notice your site getting slower, visitors start bouncing, every time you log in you have warnings about something or another, there’s a weird bit of code appeared in your sidebar and you can’t get rid of it…
These are all problems indicating that your WordPress plugins might have got a bit out of control.
Bigger is not always better, sometimes less is more. Those are truisms that definitely apply to how many WordPress plugins you should have on your site.
So let’s get started.
5 simple reasons you do not want too many WordPress plugins
We all know that the more moving parts something has, the more likely it is go wrong. That’s an overall theme to keep in mind.
More specifically, we’ve got 5 simple issues you should think about when you are deciding how many WordPress plugins to have on your site.
First and foremost is that each plugin is an opportunity for hackers to get into the backend of your WordPress installation by exploiting holes, insecurities and vulnerabilities. Not all plugins are made equal so some will be more secure than others.
The basic maths is that the more plugins you have the more vulnerable your site is. You can mitigate that with security plugins, making regular backups and keeping your site and plugins up to date. But a hack could be catastrophic for your site or business. At the very least it will be a pain to sort out and waste your time and energy.
Simply put, the more plugins you have the slower your site will be. Some plugins are much faster than others and will only add a fraction of a second to the wait time. But every second counts. Website visitors are harsh when it comes to site speed. If a site is taking “too long” – a subjective measurement but often pegged at a few seconds – visitors hit that back button or close the tab ruthlessly.
It’s not just the quantity either. Poorly coded plugins could make more database calls than they should, slowing things down. Their size also contributes.
#3 Site size
Although it does affect the speed of your site, the size of your code, database, WordPress installation and all the components can cause its own problems and is worth mentioning on its own. Because size, after all, matters.
Some plugins are a lot larger than they need to be, referred to as bloat. This could be because of ambition, unimplemented but planned features, or poor or inexperienced coding.
#4 Hassle updating
The more plugins you have, the more you have to update. Simple as. That’s more time, more backups, more checks, more work for you.
A plugin that is regularly updated is actually an advantage because it means it is being worked on for improvements, fixes and compatibility issues. And WordPress does make bulk actions on plugins pretty easy. But it is something to bear in mind when you are thinking about how many WordPress plugins to have on your site.
WordPress gets updated a lot. These can be fixes or whole new features but either way the update could break your plugin, or your plugin could break your newly updated site.
A benefit of freemium or premium plugins is that the developers have the time and resources to keep maintaining the plugin. This means it is much less likely to cause a compatibility issue than an older plugin that has long since stopped being updated.
Those are the problems, what about the solutions? However many WordPress plugins you have or need, here are some tips on choosing the right ones and looking after them.
Look after the plugins you have
Make sure you update your plugins regularly and investigate any that haven’t had an update in a while. Check their compatibility and keep an eye on your site for any strange behaviour. Run regular tests and check ups for speed and site size to see if any plugins are causing a problem.
Then it is just regular maintenance of backups, security checks and so on. Most plugins aren’t going to cause a problem, but the combined effect of too many or one that starts acting up will be problem enough.
Look after your plugins so they can get on with looking after your site.
Check for redundancies
If you set up your site a year or more ago you probably installed some plugins and then left them to do their own thing. Even if nothing goes wrong it is worth checking back on your selections regularly.
Maybe you don’t really need a particular plugin any more or you don’t use it how you expected to. Or, as is likely, another plugin now does the same job and you’ve got two plugins trying to do the same thing.
A good example is WordPress’s own mega plugin, Jetpack. Jetpack has a tonne of features that previously you might have used a tonne of different plugins to achieve. Connecting to social media accounts, subscriptions, backups, thumbnail optimisation and much more are now offered by Jetpack.
So not only can you get one plugin that does many things but if you have Jetpack and a social media plugin or a thumbnail optimiser for example, you have a redundancy with two plugins doing the same thing.
That can also be true of core WordPress updates too. A plugin to fix something on the backend of your site might become redundant when WordPress receives a fix or improvement.
Maybe you prefer the way your plugin deals with something than a bigger one, or WordPress itself. That’s fine! But it is worth keeping an eye out for potential redundancies among your plugins and perhaps think about combining functions to cut your plugins down.
Choosing the best WordPress plugins
The next question is how to choose the best WordPress plugins. The vast array can be bewildering, especially for someone new to WordPress.
Look for curated lists of plugins, preferably specific and by someone who uses those plugins themselves. Hit up Google for “best WordPress plugins for…” and whatever you are trying to achieve.
There will probably be a few different options so have a read of their info, see if you can look at some screenshots or demos of how they actually work and which you like the feel of best.
We’ve got lots of articles on the blog about the best plugins to use for certain kinds of websites or to achieve certain things.
- What WordPress plugins do you need to go viral?
- 18 of the best WordPress plugins for amazing ecommerce sites
- How to get Facebook style images in WordPress
Check the WordPress listing carefully. Some useful parts to keep an eye out for are the date the plugin was last updated, if it has been reported as compatible with the current version of WordPress, how many active installations there are and how often questions or support requests are answered.
Those are general indicators. Obviously if you are looking for a plugin to do a very niche job there won’t be hundreds of thousands of installations – not everyone will need it. Or just because compatibility hasn’t been confirmed doesn’t mean the plugin isn’t compatible or doesn’t work, but it’s a good indication of the activity and whether it is still being worked on.
Use powerful, premium plugins
There are lots of great, free WordPress plugins. But if you are looking to keep your plugin count down and to have the most effective, most professional plugins, you should also look at premium plugins. Paying for a plugin from a reputable source means the developer has the time and resources to invest in making a professional, clean, powerful, well maintained and properly supported plugin.
Support can be worth the price alone if you have a dedicated ticket system, forum, or maybe even from the developer themselves. You won’t have to rely on Googling half-fixes. There might be the facility to suggest features and track developments. And supporting the vast ecosystem of WordPress developers mean more, better plugins that are likely to come along in the future.
Do more without a plugin using themes
Finally, before we wrap up, there might be functions you assume need a plugin or dozen to achieve but that can actually be done simpler with a WordPress theme and minimal plugins.
For example, check out how to make a site like Reddit with WordPress, to see the power of a theme and single plugin.
Themes can do more of the heavy lifting than you might think – they can be more than colours and styles. The right theme could cut down on your plugin usage by a lot.
How many WordPress plugins you need is going to depend on lots of factors but those are your 5 simple reasons you don’t want too many WordPress plugins and some advice on how to do more with less.
For more WordPress plugin related news enter your email address below!
P.S My first eBook is now available. It’s about how I got started, and how you can too. Find out more here.
Join me along the way
Will I succeed, will I fail? Either way I'll be doing what I love. Sign up to keep up to date with my story.