How many WordPress plugins is too much to have installed on your site? There are various articles available on that subject.
In WordPress 1.2 support for WordPress plugins was added. WordPress without plugins is like a mobile phone with no battery.
As the WordPress community grows, the number of WordPress plugins does too. The world of WordPress plugins just keeps getting bigger.
There are thousands of freebies available from the plugin repository, with more added almost every day.
There are also huge number of premium plugins which can be found on various sources.
The purpose of plugins is to extend WordPress functionality.
There are many articles available on the web that shows you how to do something without a use of a plugin.
You need to know that placing a code in your theme’s functions.php file would function identically to adding it via a plugin.
Same amount of resources is required. So in other words, if you paste 10 code snippets from various places on the web into your theme’s functions.php file, then you added 10 plugins to your site.
There are various types of plugins. Some plugins affect the front-end (i.e social plugins, usability plugins, etc) while others mainly back-end (i.e Hot Fix, Backup Plugins, etc).
There are plugins that do both backend and front-end (i.e SEO plugins, etc).
Plugins can impact your site performance by:
- Additional HTTP requests – Some plugins (mainly front-end ones) may require custom styling or scripts to work properly.
- Additional DB Queries – If you are using a plugin for popular posts, related posts, or anything else that pulls database elements and display it on the front-end will add additional database queries.
The faster your site loads, the better visitor experience is.
WordPress speed performance can be broken into three areas:
1. WordPress hosting – Investing in fast hosting is one of the simplest ways.
2. WordPress theme – You need to find a well-coded theme that loads quickly.
3. Installing plugins – Every plugin adds a bit of complexity to your site. It’s important to install well-coded plugins from a reputable source.
Can you have too many plugins? Various WordPress users will have their own opinion.
Statements that too many plugins will slow down your site isn’t strictly wrong. More plugins will add more code that a browser has to load, which can slow down a website.
Website with a simpler codebase will usually load faster than one with a complicated one.
It isn’t important how many plugins you have, but what operations they need to perform in order to render your site in a visitor’s browser.
Most plugins are pretty simple. But some perform complex actions that are “expensive” in terms of backend processing, and can slow a website down.
In other words, you could have a quickly loading website with 80 plugins, and add a single, complicated plugin and lose half a second (or more) of loading time!
How Many WordPress Plugins Is Too Much? – HTTP Requests
Plugins are designed to add features or functionality to your site so that no matter what theme you install, the functionality of your site always stays the same.
Even when loading those assets is strictly necessary, loading too many will impact site performance much more than having 20-30 simple plugins that each perform their own tasks.
Each script is loaded with an HTTP request, which is basically a way of requesting data between a server and the browser.
HTTP requests are simply how websites get the data from servers and put webpages together.
There are two ways to speed this process up. The first is to stop plugins from loading certain things altogether.
Some plugins are set to load files on every page load, even when they aren’t necessary for that page. You want to specify when the file is loaded.
The other way to speed page load time is to load the assets either asynchronously, or even after everything else has been loaded on the page.
A good example is loading Google Analytics asynchronously so that it doesn’t block other requests from loading in the process.
However, you must understand that few additional HTTP requests are not as significant as you may think.
We are talking about microseconds of differences here. Sure, if you have a lot of HTTP requests, then a little coding will allow you to shave a few seconds off the loading time.
At this point, you would have to think how big of a priority this is for your business. If it is a big priority, then it is worth hiring a professional to speed up your site.
How Many WordPress Plugins Is Too Much? – Database Queries
Some plugins may increase the load on your database server. WordPress itself does a very good job at caching the queries.
Most well coded plugins will not cause a significant issue.
Database queries have a large impact on performance. Plugins can make a lot of these requests if the plugin author wasn’t careful.
For example, plugins that track post/page views by storing a value in the database every time a page is loaded.
They can dramatically impact performance over time as the server has to make an additional MySQL request for that number on each page.
In order to reduce this, you can reduce the frequency a plugin queries the database.
If a plugin is making a lot of database calls, it’s important to evaluate the importance of that plugin’s functionality and weigh it against the speed of your site.
If you can find an alternate plugin that makes fewer database calls, you may consider using that one instead.
Plugins That Perform Complex Operations
Plugins that query large amounts of data and then perform an action with the data will impact performance.
In general, plugins that perform overly complex operations should do them off server, and not in your WordPress hosting environment.
Good examples of this are the class of ‘Related Posts’ plugins that create FULLTEXT indexes on the “posts” table in MySQL.
A FULLTEXT index is essentially a mechanism for making complex search queries against the content of posts, like “posts which contain A and B but not C or D.”
It turns the MySQL database into a mini search engine, which really isn’t what MySQL was designed to be.
These queries become increasingly problematic as sites get larger and larger because the FULLTEXT index will continue to grow as well.
At run time, the index will consume huge amounts of resources. Over time, the site slows to a crawl, and in extreme cases can crash the server if it runs out of threads.
How To Pick Best Well Coded Plugins?
This is a big issue for new users. Which plugins to use? Which ones are best?
I recommend that you pick plugins that have good track records. How to determine that?
Well, look at the number of downloads. Look at the plugin ratings. Look at how many support threads have been answered.
Look at how many people are saying that it works. Read some reviews about it. Look at the credibility of the author. Hopefully after all this, you should have your answer.
You can see all these metrics on the WordPress plugins repository.
So How Many WordPress Plugins Is Too Much?
Some would say that too many plugins can slow your site down.
Others may say that the number of plugins has little impact on a site’s performance.
Some may say the answer to how many WordPress plugins is too much, is as many as you need as the number of plugins does not slow down your site. Number of poorly coded plugins do.
It’s often tempting to install stuff, even if you don’t really need it.
Here’s a simple fact: any additional queries that are made to your database will take time.
The actual amount of time may not be immediately noticeable, but keep adding stuff, and it will soon be.
Here are a few recommendations that may help reduce the impact plugins may have on your site’s performance:
1. Keep your WordPress updated, and make sure that all plugins that you have on your site are updated to their most recent versions.
Having older versions of plugins activated can lead to script conflicts, and probably leave your site vulnerable to exploits by spammers and hackers.
If you have decided to keep an older version of WordPress running because some plugin doesn’t work when you update WordPress, maybe it’s time to look for an alternative plugin that can provide you with similar functionality.
2. When you get temptation to install a plugin because it provides a cool feature that you want, take a second look at the ones you already have installed.
Maybe that cool feature can already be provided by one of them.
3. Delete any inactive plugins that you may have installed to eliminate the possibility of additional load on your database, and reduce clutter.
Sometimes a single plugin can make the difference in page load time because it loads too many scripts, or hits the database with expensive requests.
If you think your site is loading slowly, and want to check if plugin is the culprit, there’s a simple way to test this out.
Deactivate all of them from the plugin menu in the wp-admin and then load your site. If the site loads faster, you know that there was an issue with one or more plugins.
Now, activate the plugins one at a time, loading the homepage every time to narrow down which plugin is causing the slowdown.
Once you’ve discovered which plugin is the culprit, it’s time to find a replacement.
Or install another plugin (yes, more plugins) called P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler).
This plugin creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time.
While the number of plugins is less important than the quality of them, I personally like to keep plugins at minimum.
I usually have 20-22 plugins installed on my sites.
Keep plugins and scripts to the minimum required to ensure the proper features and functionality for your target audience, and keep them updated.
Having to many plugins increases a chances of conflict with each other or theme. Also if any problems it is more work to find which one is causing meltdown.
If you have additional thoughts or want to add something to the discussion, then I encourage you to leave a comment.
How many plugins are you running on your site? Leave me know in comments below!