Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video How many plugins is too many plugins?, part of WordPress: Ask the Instructor.
- Once you have a WordPress site up and running it's tempting to extend its functionality by adding plugins and then you go on the internet and you start searching for plugins and you'll find lots of tutorials that tell you how to do things with plugins. One of the great powers of WordPress is the plugin capability where you can say I need this specific feature and you're likely to be able to find a plugin you can quite literally plug into WordPress that automatically adds that feature fore you. The challenge as you maintain your WordPress site is to make sure that you have the right plugins and that you also only have the plugins you actually need. When you start building WordPress sites it's very easy to end up adding way more plugins than are required or you may add plugins that do one thing at a time so you have a ton of small plugins that do a bunch of different things instead of finding a plugin that does all of them in one go. Why is this a problem? Well, each individual plugin can be seen as a separate program and because WordPress doesn't have what's known as a dependency system, it mean, for each of the plugins, if they're dependent on some sort of feature like jQuery for example, then each of the plugins has to call jQuery independently. And if you have ten plugins then that all use jQuery, then you'll have a call to jQuery ten different times because each of these plugins could theoretically be running on their own. And depending on the quality of the code written by the plugin developer, that may or may not be done in the correct way. So with each plugin you may add a layer of complexity to your site that makes it slower to load and makes it less usable for the end user. So how many plugins are the maximum number of plugins then? Well, it all depends. So my general rule is I only add a plugin if I absolutely need the functionality that exists within that plugin. And anytime I add a new plugin, I try to go and see are there plugins that do a bunch of the things I'm already doing in one go so I don't need to install a bunch of different plugins, I can just install one that does a bunch of things at the same time. If that's the case, then I'll maybe go in and deactivate a bunch of the plugins I already have and then install one of these plugin bundles. You have Jetpack and you have Google Sites, Site Ccare I think it's called. You have all these different plugins that combine features within them. But there's no hard line here, it all depends on the site you have. So in some cases, your site may need one plugin. In some cases, your site might need 20 plugins. It depends. What you have to do is test to see every time you add a plugin what does that do to the user experience? Does it make it easier to do what you want to do as a publisher? And does it make it easier for the user to get the information they need? Or are you adding a level of complexity that is too high by doing this? You also need to look at the performance of the site is it slowed down because you added that plugin? And you need to look at the maintenance because every time you add a new plugin you're adding a level of maintenance to your site because each of these plugins needs to be updated whenever an update comes around. The may change functionality over time and you then need to relearn things. And there's also other considerations around maintenance that need to be taken care of. So generally speaking, I recommend keeping as few plugins as possible on your site, trying to find plugins that bundle up features so you don't have to install so many. And whenever you use a plugin, make sure that that is a plugin that solves your particular problem because the reality is for every problem there's usually like maybe four or five or ten or even 20 different plugins and actually testing them in the context of your site will tell you whether or not they conflict with other plugins, maybe they solve the problem in the way that you want in relation to all the other plugins you have and if it's the right plugin for this particular situation.