Do you find yourself addicted to downloading plugins? Don’t feel bad! This is completely normal. After all, finding just the right plugin to fill your specific need is like finding your next puzzle piece with a perfect fit. Who doesn’t like that feeling?
You see, WordPress works just fine right out of the box. However, plugins offer added functions that may not come with your chosen theme. And the best part is, plugins enable you to achieve wide ranging functions without needing to be an expert on coding!
Note: If you’re not sure about how plugins work and what they do exactly, we have full tutorials that cover exactly what they are and how best to use them.
Check out our video below. Also check out our Top 7 Must Have Recommended Plugins, here!
There’s truly a plugin for nearly anything you can imagine. From adding a map to your contact page to adding images to a large gallery, lucky for us, there’s a plugin for that!
With over 40,000 free plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory, it can be tempting to go perusing down the aisles and find that shiny new plugin that’s the perfect fit.
But, even with all these helpful plugins, plugin addiction can possibly cause problems with how your site functions. Whether your site is slowed down, glitchy in one or two particular areas like images not loading correctly, or shuts down altogether, too many plugins means potential problems.
So, how many is too many?
There isn’t necessarily a hard and fast quantity that’s one “too many.” Rather, it’s more about how the plugins interract with one another and how much attention they require of your website.
There are two basic ways that plugins impact your site. They either enable features on your site’s front-end (What your visitors see) or on the back-end (What you as the administrator sees).
Front-end plugins may affect the styling and functionality of what your visitors see. Whether buttons, tabs, slider images, contact forms, e-commerce shopping areas, or social media buttons, your users will see these features and be able to interract with them.
Back-end plugins affect what you as the administrator can see and interact with. These may include features such as website analytics, speed enhancements, and search engine optimization. These will be accessibly only to you as the website administrator and are incredibly helpful in many ways even though they’re invisible to the end-user.
Plugins make two primary actions when being used. They’ll either 1. request HTTP or 2. make database queries.
1. HTTP Requests
HTTP in it’s simplest terms, means a relationship that is conducted through the internet between a client (your computer) and a server (a machine or computer that processes requests). When a new visitor lands on a specific page of your website, the visitor’s computer sends an HTTP request for a specific file. This file is retrieved by the server and is sent over to the visitor’s computer. The file is then delivered as a web page filled with the details of the page down to every tiny pixel.
The problem we need to be aware of lies in the action of retrieving a web page from the server and sending the web page back to a visitor’s computer. The longer it takes for this process to occur, the longer it takes for your visitor’s computer screen to load up.
The good news, however, is that this process takes place in a matter of seconds. It may even be completed in less than one second. Yet, this is not always the case. There are plenty of ways to speed up HTTP requests. From cleaning up unnecessary CSS files to seeking the help of professionals, there are ways to make sure your page loads at lightning speed!
At this point, if you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry! We cover ways to help this process later in this article.
2. Database Queries
The other primary action taken by plugins is through database queries. Your website’s information is held on your website’s database. Many plugins request access to the database in order to function properly.
If you have plugins that are frequently requesting information, it’s possible for your server’s performance to be strained and thus your website slowed down. The good news is that most popular plugins are written quite well and will have little affect on your database speed. Yet, it is important to consider which plugins are absolutely needed and which you can afford to remove. You may consider contacting your hosting service for details on how to improve this area.
Too many plugins may cause these 4 problems for your website…
Every plugin is different and each requires a certain amount bandwidth. Chances are that with too many plugins there will be potential problems for your website. We’ve listed 4 here for you and how you can fix them.
1. Website crashing
Although unlikely, it is possible that even popular plugins have the potential to disagree with other downloaded content such as another plugin or a certain theme.
This is because WordPress, by it’s very nature, is to remain an open source licensed project. This means that people from anywhere in the world can create software that’s compatible with the content management system. Due to it’s open sourced nature, there are some programs out there that may be poorly coded.
When in doubt, be sure to check the following on each plugin:
- Ratings (Aim for a high rating of 4 – 4.5 or higher)
- Number of active installs (See how each plugin compares to the others in a given searched keyword)
- Date of last update (You’re looking for a plugin that’s been updated in recent weeks or months rather than years)
- Depth of support (Typically there will be tabs for these options in their FAQ section and Support section. If there is not, you may consider looking to see if they have a website or offer other types of support).
See this screenshot of a popular WordPress plugin, Jetpack, for where these items are typically located.
2. Page Speed and Performance issues
When your website gets packed full of HTTP Requests and Database Queries as we discussed earlier, your website can get slowed down significantly. The more plugins you have installed, the greater the likelihood for a busy server load. That means your website may slow down or not function properly. Additionally, your website may have performance issues if plugins conflict with one another.
Whenever you choose to upload any kind of software to your website, you risk the chance of having it exposed to possible threats. Your hard work can all be lost in the event of some sort of virus being uploaded to the core files in your site. As described in problem #1: Website Crashing, be sure to check the ratings for each plugin or piece of software before uploading them to your site.
As you install more and more plugins, there may be a higher chance for a decreased reliability in each. They may begin to conflict with one another after the installation whereas before they worked just fine.
Tip: Rather than installing and activating multiple plugins in one sitting. Try only activating one at a time in order to check your site after each activation. This will help you in the long run.
If you were to activate 10 plugins in one sitting and find a conflict, you may not know which plugin is causing the problem. Rather, activate one at a time and if everything looks good, go ahead and activate the next.
Here’s the good news..
Although we’ve just covered 4 main problem areas when installing multiple plugins, there are things that can be done to help. The good news is that these can be fixed now with the right steps. They can also be avoided in the future with the right discipline.
We’d like to share our 4 main steps for ensuring a fast and safe website that functions properly. Follow these steps and keep them in mind when considering downloading plugins in the future.
Step 1 Remove Duplicates
Before installing your next plugin, be sure to check to see if you have anything that currently fills this need. What you are looking to download may be slightly different from what you have already. Or it may have an added feature or two. But are these absolutely needed? These are the things to consider before uploading your next plugin.
There are a lot of plugins out there that perform only one primary function. These are great for accomplishing one primary need. However, there are also plenty of plugins that perform these same functions and more. Consider which plugins fill multiple needs and where they may overlap with existing plugins. It’d be better to have only one plugin that does it all than multiple plugins that are being jury-rigged together to accomplish the same goal.
Step 2: Increase Site Speed
With numerous plugins comes a higher potential for slow site speed. One of the top fixes for speeding up your site is to install a “Caching” plugin. The important thing to remember here is to not get caught up in the technicalities of what the caching plugin accomplishes. This may be information overload. Rather, just know it’s often times a needed tool that really makes the difference.
Very simply, a caching plugin changes the files that are requested from your server and delivered to your visitors. These files are changed into static files that are stored “closer” to your visitors than what they were up in the server clouds. This reduces the time that is required to go find and deliver the files to your users. It makes it very simple and will speed up your site significantly.
We recommend to download either of the following plugins:
1. W3 Total Cache
“This is an Easy Web Performance Optimization (WPO) tool that helps manage your caching: browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network support.”
2. WP Super Cache
“This plugin generates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. After a html file is generated your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts.”
Both of these tools are extremely helpful for speeding up your website. They perform a number of functions for minimizing server request time, crunching CSS files together, sending pages as static copies rather than full time consuming pages, etc. They’re incredibly helpful and are proven to dramatically speed up your site.
Step 3: Testing plugin performance
One way to very simply test plugins’ speed is to test your page’s speed before uploading a new plugin. Then test it after uploading your new plugin and compare the results. To do this head over to one of these page speed tests and compare the results:
Just head over to one of these 3 tools and paste the web address you would like to test.
Tip: You can test any single page on your website. For example, you would want to test your home page or landing page. However, you may also consider testing your shop or photo gallery page as well since these may receive a large amount of traffic, yet are incredibly vital for the success of your business online.
The best part about these tools is not just their insights and the fact that they’re free, but also their suggestions on how to go about fixing a certain problem.
In addition to these simple before and after speed tests, another incredible tool to be sure to check out is the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) plugin.
This tool analyzes all your existing plugins and how they interact with each page of your site. It scans your entire site and measures the strain they put on your site as well as their affect on your site’s overall load time. It includes helpful visuals such as pie charts and other graphs to help determine which plugins are more taxing on your site than others.
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
“This plugin creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time. Often times, WordPress sites load slowly because of poorly configured plugins or because there are so many of them. By using the P3 plugin, you can narrow down anything causing slowness on your site.”
Here are a couple screenshots from the plugin’s reporting and analytics features.
Step 4: Security
Although WordPress has a very secure core software package, it is still vulnerable to attack. You never know what could happen. So, we suggest erring on the safe side and backing up your site.
We cover exactly how to do this over on our website at Websites Made Easy.tv. Be sure to check out all our goodies over on our site!
Another thing you’ll want to be sure to do is keep your theme, plugins, and WordPress software up to date. Especially if you have a number of plugins, it’s likely that at least something will need updating nearly every week (often times even more frequently like every day).
Be sure to have these up to date in order for your site to not only function properly, but also to remain as safe as possible. By updating everything it’s as if you’re patching up holes and fortifying your walls from possible vulnerabilities.
In addition to ratings, number of active users, recent updates, etc., be sure to also consider if each plugin or theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress. When in doubt, go with your gut feeling. If everything looks good, but you still feel concerned about a desired plugin, hold off until you’ve done the proper research and assured yourself of it’s security.
Where to go from here..
You should now have everything fixed up and ready to go. But, where to go from here? You’ve been officially warned! It’s important to consider all of these options when deciding on your next plugin.
It may feel like you’re a kid in a candy store when perusing the aisles of shiny new plugins, but don’t get carried away! Really take a moment to consider your next plugin and whether or not it’s the right fit for your site.
- Consider whether or not you need a new plugin
- Check the plugin’s ratings (aim for a 4 to 4.5 or higher rating)
- Check to see the number of active users
- Check when it was last updated
- Check to see the depth of their support in their FAQs as well as their support forum
- Check to see if it’s compatible with the latest version or your current version of WordPress
Also remember to..
- Remove duplicate Plugins
- Increase your site’s speed
- Test each plugin’s performance
- Value your site’s security
With these steps in place, you’ll be able to identify how your plugins are affecting your site. You’ll also be able to determine the value and validity of downloading future plugins to your site.
What about you?
Do you have anything you like to do before downloading your next plugin? Do you have any tips for everyone else when considering your plugins? Drop us a comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!