WordPress Tutorial : You Should Have Plugins On A Site

Do you have any idea how many WordPress plugins you should actually have on your site? This is the age old question that confuses WordPress beginners and usually creates a bit of a debate between WordPress developers, because all WordPress users are interested in plugins for things like comment spam moderation and landing pages.

Plugins are one of the main reasons WordPress has become so successful as a blogging platform. If we didn’t have any plugins, what fun would WordPress be? It would be like having an iPhone without the chance to install any apps. Sure, it’s still a great platform, but it doesn’t create the opportunity to complete any task that you can dream up.

However, we see articles all over the internet talking about how to improve the speed, security and performance on your WordPress website. Almost all of them talk about cutting down on the number of plugins you have. The only problem with this advice is that it’s usually quite vague.

What is the golden number? How many WordPress plugins is too much? Is the idea to have no plugins at all? I wanted to write this article to clear the air and make it a little more understandable for beginners to sift through the often misplaced advice out there.

In short, when people say that a plugin will decrease the performance on your site, this is untrue. When they say it will create security holes, this is also untrue. How about when they say WordPress plugins can slow down your site? That’s, once again, false.

Well designed plugins really don’t have any impact on your website, except improving it to make it more functional. Where you run into problems is when you start activating poorly made plugins. So yes, some plugins can hurt your site, but it’s all about the plugin quality.

If you have twenty plugins activated on your website and they are all nicely built, then you shouldn’t have any problems. However, if you have two plugins on your website and one of them is a piece of junk, then yes, it can certainly open up security problems, slow down your site and even make it less reliable for you and users.

Why Do People Suggest Having Fewer Plugins?

WordPress plugins

You’ll often hear developers suggest to clients that they should decrease the amount of plugins that they have on their sites. This is usually talked about for a couple reasons. One, advanced WordPress users think it’s a good idea for site admins to take full control of their site, learn more about the system and complete tasks themselves.

Basically, developers find it wise to create your own functions in the functions.php file and modify your own code so that all of the actions on your site are created and understood by you, the owner. This is nice for learning about WordPress and minimizing some problems you might encounter with plugins.

Developers also occasionally feel that their clients might just install tons of plugins without actually doing any research on how credible they are. This is indeed a problem, considering any one plugin could suck down the resources on your server.

Keep in mind that the first reason some advanced users recommend that you keep your WordPress plugin count down is a little misled. Why? Because if you start making your own functions to perform similar tasks as a plugin you could can mess up the coding just as easy as the plugin developer could.

In fact, there’s often a better chance that beginner webmasters screw up their files and just crush the server reliability.

So, in short, there is no magic number for the amount of plugins that you need to have on your website. You should simply choose the plugins that you truly need and make sure they don’t affect the security or speed on your site. I understand that this might not be the answer that some people are looking for, so I want to outline ways to understand plugins a little more and how to choose the best plugins to keep your site running smoothly.

How do Certain Plugins Affect Your WordPress Performance?

Some plugins affect the frontend of your site, while others affect the backend. A frontend modifying plugin would be something like SEO by Yoast, where it helps you improve your on-page SEO and keyword density. An example of a backend plugin would be any backup plugin since it is simple sending you an email or storing a backup file of your website into storage.

In terms of performance, WordPress plugins can change your site with HTTP requests and database queries. Just about every plugin is going to add additional HTTP requests onto your website. Why? Because most plugins, especially the frontend ones require other files for styling to make things look good and work properly.

In reality, additional HTTP requests are not really going to affect the performance of your site. Each plugin might add the tiniest millisecond of page load time to your site, but you can usually breathe easy knowing that the plugin is designed well enough to see no problems. You can check your performance and identify problems with a tool like Pingdom.

Pingdom

If you feel concerned about this problem then we can really only hope that there eventually comes a plugin or tool that combines registered stylesheets into one, but this has so many problems that it hasn’t been tackled yet.

The other performance issue is with database queries. You’ll notice that this is particularly troublesome with related posts plugins when you start seeing more traffic on your site. Once again, well developed plugins shouldn’t cause many problems, but if you do encounter issues then you need to upgrade your hosting account.

Caching also helps, so tools like W3 Total Cache are always nice. Not to mention, WordPress does a decent job of caching your site anyways.

Choosing Secure WordPress Plugins

Security

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!]

When people start talking about security with WordPress plugins it’s like discussing security with just about any type of technology. There’s no point in saying there is a perfect solution, because there can always be security oversights that pop up.

Nicely-made plugins are the best solution to improve your security, but this problem was more trouble years ago when the platform was so new and plugins were just a playing ground for any type of developer. Now, many of those bad plugins have drifted away because they got crushed by the best performers.

That’s the glory of an opensource project like WordPress. When security holes exist they usually get patched quickly. If you still have concerns then you should turn to a trusty backup plugin like UpDraftPlus. Similar to a home security system, it’s your best chance of not losing anything.

Choosing the Most Reliable WordPress Plugins

Reliability

Photo Credit: Josh Beasley

One of the big questions people have about plugins is about reliability. What happens if a plugin isn’t available anymore? What if the updates or the support stops at some point? Well, with any technological tool this can happen. Any company can go out of business at some point, so it’s just a risk you need to take.

How to you minimize that risk? Go with a option with a good track record. If you buy a smartphone you are much better off going with Apple then some startup that you’ve never heard of. The same goes for plugins. Look at top plugin lists and peruse the reviews and downloads for each plugin you download.

You also have to realize that WordPress is an opensource platform, so this decreases the chances of plugins leaving. Apple is just one company, so if a natural disaster destroys a bunch of their factories then it’s difficult to pick up the pieces. WordPress plugins are built and moderated by people all over the world. Even if the primary developer drops out, other people can jump in and take their place.

Picking the Ideal Plugins in an Ocean of Options

To sum things up, here are the things you should look at in order to choose the best plugin option on the market:

  • Checkout the number of downloads for each plugin.
  • See if you can get great support through the WordPress forums (Are people talking about the plugin?)
  • Ask people if the plugin actually works.
  • Google the plugin name to read some third-party reviews.
  • Checkout ratings for each plugin.
  • Does the developer offer other plugins? This helps to see how active and serious they are about the plugin.

Conclusion

Now is the time to run a test on your WordPress website to see if all of your current plugins are actually necessary. You should walk through your entire list of plugins and see if you have any plugins that perform the same functions and if any of them are known to cause security problems with other plugins on the site.

The primary factor is figuring out whether or not each plugin adds any real value to your site. If you have a plugin that shows your Pinterest posts in the sidebar, but no one ever clicks on these links and they don’t lead to increased sales, then what’s the point of using up the space?

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