WordPress Plugins: How to Know if You Have Too Many

Do I have too many plugins on my WordPress site? Unfortunately, this is not really a yes or no question. In fact, it’s not even the right question. The question you want to ask yourself is, “Am I using high quality plugins?”

Your WordPress site’s plugin health depends largely on the quality of the plugins you are using.

Determining the quality of a plugin may seem difficult for the average WordPress users. After all, most of us don’t know how to understand what a plugin does besides reading the plain description on the plugin’s page.

Here are a few quick tips for getting a good idea of a plugin’s quality:

  • Plugin Author – Is the plugin’s developer well-respected and known for producing high quality plugins?
  • Stats – Is the plugin widely used without many conflicts / issues? Peruse the support forums, if possible.
  • Support – When a plugin developer supports his plugin, whether in a free or professional capacity, it’s likely that all the user feedback has helped to refine the code so that it works smoothly and more efficiently with each release.
  • Documentation – Is the documentation thorough and easy to understand?
  • Interface – Is the plugin’s interface intuitive enough that you can find your way around or do you have to spend hours reading up on it to understand how to use it? A high quality interface is many times the sign of a well-constructed plugin.

These are not the sole determining factors of a good plugin, but in general these will give you a hint in the right direction.

How to Maintain Good Plugin Health:

Just because plugins are easy to add, it doesn’t mean that you can start going nuts and pile on any and every plugin you find that does something interesting.

This is where it’s important to take a few steps back and seriously consider the purpose of your website. Chances are that you’re not shooting for your site to be a flashing carnival featuring dozens of social sharing buttons, floating Javascript crap, and three dozen widgets running down the sidebar. Nail down your website’s purpose and stay focused. Only incorporate plugins that will serve your overall purpose.

Tips for Selecting Plugins:

Don’t add plugins you don’t need.

I love to play with and write about new plugins. Some of them may even be your must-have plugin of the year. If the plugin performs a necessary function for your website, then your site probably won’t thrive without it. However, there are very few plugins that I would consider a “must-have” for every single WordPress site. Keep your site as lean as possible and focus on your content.

Watch your load time.

If your WordPress site doesn’t load up in about 2-4 seconds, then you could have a naughty plugin dragging you down. Find it and dump it. A slow loading website can be an indication of too many low quality plugins trying to run on every single page load.

Check your queries.

You may have one rotten plugin that adds hundreds of queries. It’s a good idea to check every now and then, especially if you’re adding new plugins. Simply drop this snippet into your footer.php file:

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<?php echo $wpdb->num_queries; ?> <?php _e('queries'); ?>. <?php timer_stop(1); ?> <?php _e('seconds'); ?>

It will output something like this:

If you’ve got queries spiking into the hundreds after installing new plugins, there may be an issue with one of them. With a bit of testing through activation and deactivation of plugins, you’ll be able to find out which one is causing the spike. Consider finding another similar plugin to do the job.

Expect more conflicts with greater numbers of plugins installed.

The more plugins you add, the more conflicts you’re going to get, especially with low quality plugins. One of the most well-known symptoms is that things stop working in your dashboard – ie. you can no longer drag and drop widgets, you can no longer access certain menu items, etc. You probably have a Javascript conflict. Retrace your steps. It may not necessarily be the last plugin that you installed that is causing the conflict. It may be one you installed ages ago that is the source of the problem.

Be selective about the plugins you add.

Nobody is going to debug your plugin conflicts for you – well maybe somebody will if you pay them. More than likely, plugin overload will cause you to spend hours activating and deactivating and testing plugins one by one to find the offender that has broken something on your website. The more plugins you pile on, the more difficult it will become to determine the source of conflicts. The best thing you can do is be selective, be vigilant, and keep it simple.

Comments (10)

    • Hi Sarah,

      I dropped your snippet of code into the WMPUDEV Global Footer Content plugin (on three different multisite installations) and expected to see the queries results appear for each site, but they do not. Only a piece of the code displays. Am I missing something?

      Thanks for all the great articles!

      Phil Duncan

  1. Mike – We have a few tips on using PageSpeed in some of our older articles:

    http://wpmu.org/how-to-add-googles-new-site-speed-tracking-to-your-wordpress-site/

    http://wpmu.org/speeding-up-your-wordpress-website-11-ways-to-improve-your-load-time/

    One of the main things I tell people to remember when using tools like YSlow is that the tool does not and cannot possibly know everything about your website. It may not always give you the best score, it may not detect your CDN even though it’s in place, and it also gives you lower grades for having advertising code on your site, which you usually have no control over.

  2. my site is a photo blog,you know photo blog mean i need social bookmark plugins as well as star ratings and SEO plugins.By reducing all at last its 18 plugins running now.Don’t know if we can called it weird but can you tell me using many plugins causes harm to the site?

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