5 Things You Can (And Should) Remove From WordPress

How’s your WordPress site looking these days? A little overweight? Huffing and puffing more than usual?

It could be time for some housekeeping. Trimming a bit of fat from your WordPress installation will make the whole experience faster and more satisfying, both for yourself and your readers.

How to clean up your WordPress installation
Is this your WordPress site?

These are 5 unnecessary things that you can safely remove from WordPress right now, for a cleaner and healthier website.

Clutter is the enemy – show no mercy.

1. The visual text editor

How to disable the WordPress visual editor

There are two reasons that you should consider axing the visual text editor from your Posts page.

  • It can wreck your formatting. Sometimes, when switching back and forth between the HTML and visual text editors, the layout of your post gets messed up, and you have to go back and fix things manually. It’s much easier to keep track of your work if you just stick with one editor.
  • It makes you lazy. Any serious web publisher should know how to write their own markup. Get rid of the visual editor and force yourself to learn some basic HTML.

All you need to do is go to your ‘Profile’ settings, which can be accessed in the left sidebar of your dashboard, and check the box at the top of the screen which says ‘disable visual editor when writing’.

2. Unnecessary plugins

Remove any WordPress plugins that you aren't usingUsing too many plugins can make your WordPress site load slowly and feel sluggish. Old, broken and out-of-date plugins can compromise the security of your site and leave you open to malicious hacks.

How many deactivated plugins do you have sitting in your WordPress installation right now, gathering dust? And how many of your active plugins do you really need?

For starters, you can get rid of the stupid ‘Hello Dolly’ plugin that ships with WordPress. Then it’s time to make a thorough and honest appraisal of your plugin collection – give the chop to anything that isn’t 100% essential to the purpose of your website.

This is a topic that we’ve covered in depth here at WPMU. Check out this article to help you decide which plugins you really need, and this one here for more tips on improving the speed of your WordPress site.

3. Old themes

Delete old and unused themes from WordPressIf you’re like most WordPress users, you’ve probably tried out a tonne of different themes on your blog in search of the perfect design. And you absolutely should – this is one of the beautiful things about WordPress.

It’s important to keep on top of your themes, however, and only hold on to the ones that you’re actually going to use on a regular basis. Don’t let unused themes accumulate in your WordPress installation.

If you have some old relics lying around waiting to die, right now is the time to delete them.

Too many themes will give you the same problems as too many plugins, so cut those suckers down to the bare minimum necessary (which for most bloggers will be only one).

4. Unused images

Delete unused images from your WordPressMost WordPress bloggers will occasionally (or frequently) upload images that they never end up using on their site. If your Media Library is full of photos and graphics that have never seen the light of day, either use them or lose them.

There’s no point leaving useless image files to take up space on your server. Have a quick look through your collection and see if there’s any dead weight you can get rid of.

5. All that crap in the dashboard that you don’t care about

Customize your admin dashboard in WordPressI’m sure very few WordPress users actually read the blog and news feeds that show up in the dashboard. Or the plugin suggestions. And I don’t know about you, but I never use the QuickPress tool either.

Most of that stuff is useless white noise, so you might as well get rid of it and clean up your workspace a bit.

If you click ‘Screen Options’ in the top right corner of your dashboard, you can select which panels you want to be displayed.

What have YOU removed from WordPress?

Have I left anything out? Let us know what steps you’ve taken to reduce clutter and make your WordPress experience more efficient.

Thanks to Tambako, Jake Mates, Horia Varlan and Mr Fink for the images.

34 Responses

  • With you completely on the dashboard gubbins and the unused plugins. The visual editor I never used to have any time for, but when I found myself writing up a couple of 1000-word interviews I learned to love it. Yes, we all *can* write our own mark-up, but sometimes having to do so slows down the work unreasonably.

    But that’s a matter of taste. There’s one of your tips I do strongly disagree with and I think you’ll concede the point when you hear why. Unused themes. Sure, we all dump the Twenty Eleven theme for a home-cooked one, or something we saw somewhere we liked. But I know from experience that when you go onto the WP forums seeking help for a bug the first thing you get asked is ‘have you tried deactivating all plugins and switching to the default theme?’ If you’ve deleted Twenty Eleven (or whatever happens to be the default theme de jour) you’re a bit stuck on that one. So – your basic point is sound. Remove all unnecessary themes. But don’t reduce it to just the active one or some smart-ass will use that to make you look small just at the moment you most need help.

    What do I get rid of? Revisions. It takes a plugin, which obviously adds size to the install, but if you reduce revisions to four per post or page you’re unlikely ever to regret the decision and you’ll save a lot of space.

    • New Recruit

      Hi Andy,

      Interesting stuff – thanks for the input.

      It’s a good point you raise about having the default theme to fall back on in case of technical problems. Even if you’ve already deleted the theme, it’s always there if there if you need to reinstall it.

      RE: writing your own HTML – I reckon that once you get into the habit, typing out a tag is just as fast as clicking a button in your visual editor.

      Thanks for the comment!


  • Tim

    I agree with you 100% on the removal of the visual editor. By relying on it, new users tend to not learn simple HTML that stands them in good stead elsewhere – like for example when commenting on other people’s sites. Or when having to modify pasted affiliate code or other bits of code that they can’t avoid.

    If the site is just for fun it probably doesn’t matter, but if you are trying to make your living online, and need to make a standard WordPress theme work for SEO and for conversion, it will reduce post bloat and, ironically make page layout easier. It also makes the user more creative about what they can do.

    One problem I see with it is that when a user wants to make a heading, they rarely use the heading buttons, but instead highlight and bold the words, and then use colors that are not fitting for their chosen theme. And the color choice can vary across posts. Also the heading tags are not there for SEO.

    Switching back and forth can ruin code. Stuff you put into the HTML editor can get removed.

    But many people just prefer to use it. Oh well.

  • I would also like to add that if you have blogged for a while then there are chances that you have several versions of your posts saved in your database. Removing them will make your WordPress database queries run faster.

    Revision control plugin allows you to control the number of revisions and frequency. It also allows you to delete old revisions.

      • Once again, as I’ve mentioned to your colleagues, revisions do not slow down your site.
        WordPress is much smarter than that, just like it doesn’t reference drafts or pages, when querying posts, it doesn’t reference revisions either.

        Similarly, deactivated plugins do not affect the speed of your site either.

  • While I agree on the old themes and unused images, I disagree on the visual editor, not because I’m lazy, but because I mainly build wordpress websites for clients, not for me. One of the major reason why I use wordpress for clients, is so that they can update and add content on their own without html knowledge. If I tell them that they will have to learn html, even if it’s easy, I doubt they will hire me, and I can’t blame theem for that. I nevertheless tend to make the visual editor as minimalist as possible, removing colors, font choice and all the stuff that will break the layout. I would even tend to remove alignment functionnalities sometimes and remove the H1 heading, since my templates use the poste title as h1. I would then provide clients with a quick guide, on how they should use h2 to h3 as if they where using titles on a word document. Same for lists.

    I also quite not agree with the “Using too many plugins can make your WordPress site load slowly and feel sluggish. ” and tend to agree with this article http://wpcandy.com/thinks/active-plugin-counts-just-dont-matter . Nevertheless, if their are unused plugins, it could be a good idea to remove them, and even clean database from unused plugin tables (use “plugin-garbage -collector” and “clean options” as a combo to do that works fine.

    For the dashboard, I tend to remove comments when I use wordpress as a cms, plus a lot of dashboard widgets, some columns in the post/page preview, and some widgets. I put together a set of snippets to do that (might release it as a plugin when I’ll have time), but you can check at the “Selfish Fresh Start” plugin for a good start. Here again, I’m speacking with my end users in mind.

    • New Recruit

      Hi Stephanie,

      The visual text editor thing seems to be a matter of taste. I think educating your clients in some very basic HTML is a good investment, both for you and for them. But I guess there will always be certain people who only feel comfortable using a rich text editor.

      If you do end up releasing your set of snippets as a plugin, be sure to let us know – we’d love to check it out.


      • Tim,

        I would disagree with that, because I know that most people, even the people who want to have (and do have) websites and to be able to update them on their own, are not tech savvy and they wanna stay that way.
        Back in the time when I was a graphic designer, I had to explain to a client of mine what’s CMYK in order to make it clear for them why their colors looked a bit different in print compared to what they see on their monitor, and they completely refused to understand and even quite a bit mocked at me for even trying to explain. From my experience, common people (clients) are intimidated by such things, and HTML, even though we find it easy, seems like something REALLY complicated.
        I think people would like to pay us so we make it the easiest for them. They don’t want to learn HTML, and I’m sure that if they didn’t have to breathe, they wouldn’t either :)

  • How about removing inactive widgets and inactive plugins – do you think it may have an impact on the website’s speed, especially when they pile up? Great article, though, it made me go and look if I have left anything that I could actually remove. I did remove the inactive stuff, and I’m proud of that, LOL! :)

    • New Recruit

      Hey Rosita,

      Inactive plugins and widgets shouldn’t affect the loading speed of your WordPress site. Unused widgets are more of a waste of space than anything else. However old plugins that haven’t been updated can become a potential security vulnerability for your site, so it’s a good idea to get rid of any that you won’t be using again in the future.

      Thanks for the comment!


  • Since the timthumb issues I keep themes down to a min. I Have a few modded themes a I switch to ev now and then but when not using i ftp them back to my pc to keep it from taking up space. Plugins i have a demo site to try them and themes too, then once they all work nice then i move to the site for live use.
    When I make a site for client i show them BOTH editors and let them choose which to use. Myself I use what ever one is used on the site I am working on. I have no fav. I do know it can screw things up going from one to the other. Adding pic/galleries is easier w/visual editor tho….(for me)

  • I use the Hello Dolly plugin for those times when a plugin won’t tell you it’s updated the info you added. You can tell by the line at the top if the page has refreshed.

  • I’m a designer that uses WYSIWYG a lot. I don’t need to “force myself to learn some basic HTML” by using code to write pages and posts. I want to do what gets it done quickly and efficiently. I think that advice is akin to the old saying, “When all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail”.

    As a WYSIWYG guy, my advice would be the opposite. Use the visual editor, and only use the html editor to fix something that isn’t working out right.

    • New Recruit

      This is the most sensible and useful advice I have read so far. There are those who thrive in complicating their lives in an effort to “prove something and inflate their egos” and there are those who use the best, fastest and most efficient way to do complete a task. The HTML editor is perfect for retouching the finished product. The Visual Editor helps with the flowing of writing and the creative process. The right side of the brain loves the Visual Editor and the left side of the brain loves the HTML editor. A balanced use of both is the best approach.

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