If youâve used WordPress for a while, Iâm sure someone has told you that you âshouldnât use too many pluginsâ. Itâs obvious â using too many plugins will slow your WordPress site down, right?
Is Having Lots of Plugins Always Bad?
Letâs start at the beginning. Iâm not a developer, but in my reading, Iâm fairly certain that Iâm accurate in saying that thereâs nothing inherently wrong with having lots of plugins.
I mean, I remember reading somewhere that Pippin Williamson has over 80 plugins running on some of his sites! Pippin knows a thing or two about plugins, so Iâm going to trust him on this one.
In a perfect world populated with perfect developers, all plugins would be coded to the highest standards and constantly maintained. If we all lived there, we could pretty much install plugins until the cows came home.
But hereâs the thingâ¦
We donât live in that world. Far from it actually. I mean, just take a look at some plugin lists from a few years ago. Itâs so easy to find plugins that once were popular but now have fallen into disrepair. They look like this:
They once were great, but now they look like theyâre straight out of a zombie movie.
So even if plugins start off perfectly coded and optimized, two years without updates can easily change things.
Plugins Donât Have Equal Impact
Thereâs another concept that makes it difficult to give a simple answer like âyou should always have fewer than 50 pluginsâ
See, you can have 30 plugins making all kinds of minor tweaks. And maybe they result in almost zero hit to your siteâs performance.
But then you can have one plugin which tanks your siteâs performance with heaps of database queries and HTTP requests. So 30 âsmallâ plugins might well have a smaller effect on your site than one âbigâ plugin.
I mean â look at it logically â why would you treat WooCommerce the same as the âDisable Emojisâ plugin? Sure, each is âoneâ plugin, but WooCommerce creates a whole frigginâ eCommerce store while Disable Emojis just removes one line of code from your site.
Thatâs why itâs silly to just look at the raw number of plugins you have installed. The real situation is more complicated than that.
What Are the Practical Problems With Installing Lots of Plugins?
Ok, Iâm moving on from âperfect worldâ to âreal worldâ. Because I think there are some real issues which might arise from telling people theyâre free to install as many plugins as theyâd like.
These issues do not automatically come with installing lots of plugins, but Iâm willing to bet they correlate well with inexperienced users who install a large number of plugins.
If youâre installing plugins which are processor-intensive or add database queries or HTTP requests to your site, theyâre probably going to drag down your siteâs performance. If the plugin is adding tons of new scripts and requests, itâs always going to result in at least some hit to your siteâs performance.
Install enough of those plugins and your siteâs gonna grind to a halt.
Plugin vulnerabilities are one of the common ways for hackers to get into your site. Just 3 major plugins (which also happen to be the plugins bundled with many ThemeForest themes) accounted for a huge chunk of hacked WordPress sites .
Image Source: Sucuri (article linked above)
WPScan also maintains a database of plugin vulnerabilities. Letâs just say the database is not hurting for entriesâ¦
So each time you install a new plugin, you might just be buying an entry ticket to the plugin vulnerability lottery.
Ever installed a new plugin and had it break one of your existing plugins? I know I have. Each time you add a new plugin, youâre increasing the chance of that happening (even if itâs only ever-so-slightly higher).
This is kind of a throw-in â but have you ever seen those admin menus which are packed to the gills? I canât imagine working in that WordPress dashboard. Maybe itâs the minimalist in me, but I like my workspaces simple!
Of course, you can always use something like Admin Menu Tweaker to get some control over your admin menu.
So Whatâs the Solution?
When you add a new plugin, you should consider what it actually does. If itâs:
- Adding HTTP requests
- Increasing database queries
- Eating up processing power
Then you should probably think long and hard about whether you actually need that plugin. Because if you add too many of those plugins, you will slow your site down.
There are some plugins, Broken Link Checker for instance, which people install without a second thought. Those are the plugins you need to watch out for! Database queries out the whazoo.
On the other hand, if youâre installing a plugin thatâs just adding a bit of static code or tweaking something minor, you should be safe (as long as itâs coded properly).
Some people, myself included, even recommend creating custom plugins to add code snippets instead of always using functions.php. Obviously, a plugin that only adds a sole code snippet is not likely to hurt your site.
To figure out which of your plugins are causing the largest hit, you can use P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). You can also go the manual route and deactivate all of your plugins. Then, slowly reactivate them one by one to find out which are slowing down your site.
And finally, you can also check out what types of requests your plugins are making by using the Network tab of Chrome Developer Tools.
So, is there such a thing as âtoo many WordPress pluginsâ? Not in a perfect world. But in the real world, I bet that if you install plugins willy-nilly, youâll increase your chance of encountering performance or security issues.
Thatâs why I still think that the idea of running as few plugins as possible is a good one to propagate throughout the WordPress ecosystem. We need to remember that WordPress users are not always tech-savvy.
Beginners donât know how to analyze HTTP requests and database queries â so telling them that they need to use as few plugins as possible is a good way to minimize the issues they encounter, even if itâs not 100% âtrueâ.
But itâs by no means an unbreakable rule. As long as you look at what the plugins you add are actually doing, you donât need to worry about passing some arbitrary maximum for the number of plugins on your site.
Now I want to hear your thoughts â how many plugins do you have installed on your site? Donât be shy! Letâs see who has the highest number.
Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.