WordPress plugins – here’s why they’re good for your site
There’s a plugin for just about anything you want to do with your WordPress site – including everything to help your site backups, performance and security, spicing up the look and feel of widgets and content, integrating with external services such as Mailchimp and Google Analytics, subscriber management, auto-responders and newsletters. The list is endless… well, pretty much. There are over 36,000 ‘official’ WordPress plugins in the repository now, and many more will exist outside of the repository, and they have been downloaded nearly 1 billion times (crikey!).
In the olden days you’d need to employ an expensive programmer to customise your website to add most of the bells and whistles that you want. Most WordPress plugins can be installed in your site within a few clicks, most are free, and generally they require little or no configuration. In addition, as time moves on these plugins will get updated and improved by their authors, with once again only a click or two to bring your version up to date. If you need to customise a little further, then often you can do this within the plugin – for example, to style it to fit in with your own website design.
So, great functionality to improve your website, at little or no cost, with no worries about keeping things up to date, and easy to replace with a better plugin if you’re not happy. What’s not to like?
WordPress plugins – here’s why they ‘could be’ bad for your site
Let me state up front that I’m a big fan of plugins. As a programmer at heart (and with 4 decades of experience) there’s nothing I like better than to hack around with code to get it to do precisely what I want, but that’s not always best for my clients. If I write a piece of bespoke software for a client I need to bill for my time AND they generally need to come back to me to get updates to it… unless I write it in such a way as to be highly configurable by the client, but of course that means the upfront price will be even higher! So plugins are generally the best solution, but beware of the following costs and considerations (especially when you use a lot of plugins)…
How many WordPress plugins should I have on my site?
That’s difficult to say. I’ve seen sites with upwards of 40 active plugins. That’s probably not a good idea, unless you are hosting the site on a high-powered server. Generally, sites with a dozen or so plugins work fine, although even with this number you might see response times increase in your WordPress dashboard.
So, choose your plugins carefully. If you want a site that is faster, less prone to hacking, and easier to maintain… don’t keep plugins on your site if they are no longer needed or if they aren’t bringing an advantage to your site. Don’t just deactivate them; remove them altogether. Not many people realise that their site is still vulnerable through an inactive plugin!
If you want to see which plugins on your site are having the biggest impact on performance, try installing and running the P3 Performance Profiler plugin. Yes! I know it’s another plugin, but this one is worth it and you can remove it after it has told you what you need to know.
How many plugins do you use? Let us know by commenting below, and let us know if it causes your WordPress site problems. Have you found particularly memory hungry plugins? What plugins should people avoid?