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Do You Really Need All of Those Plugins?

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September 23rd, 2011
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WordPress, WordPress Plugins

There has been some interesting discussion on how many plugins you should use on your WordPress blog, and whether that number contributes to any problems along the way. The fact of the matter is, it’s really hard to say.

In most situations, using an excessive amount of plugins won’t cause any problems, but plugins use memory when they run, and shared hosting provider love to limit the memory that you can consume at any given moment. If you’re running into memory errors, there are a few things that you can try, but you should probably consider using less plugins or moving to a better host. Outside of hosting limitations, the number of plugins doesn’t play much of a role. We use 36 plugins here, and I have worked on a blog before that used 82, both without issue.

If you’re running into other errors, that’s more than likely just one plugin with nothing to do whatsoever with the amount of plugins you’re using. As long as you continue to use the offending plugin, you’d see the same errors with 2 plugins as you would with 200.

The real question here is, do you need all of those plugins? It might be time to do some spring cleaning.

Are you using a plugin to loads a chatroom in your sidebar? Has that chatroom been used once in the last month? If not, it’s probably time to get rid of that plugin. Do you use a plugin to display a gallery on your blog? WordPress has had built-in gallery support for over three years, so it might be time to get rid of that plugin too. Do you use Simple Facebook Connect to automatically post to Facebook, but use another plugin to add a Facebook Like button to your posts? Well, Simple Facebook Connect can add a Like button too, so you might as well get rid of that second plugin. And, like Simple Facebook Connect and Jetpack, there are plenty of good plugins out there which can probably take the place of more than one plugin on your blog.

The number of plugins you use really doesn’t have much of on an impact on your blog (unless you’re running into hosting limitations), but it can’t hurt to clean things up once a year or so.

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  1. Jamie Northrup (7 comments.) says:

    I’m always looking to bring down the number of plugins, not sure why, but I just like having less. Also it’s good because you have to do updates less often.

    • Miroslav Glavic (7 comments.) says:

      Jamie,

      Now you are just being a lazy admin. Bringing down the number of plugins so you have to do less updates?

      Look at phpbb, they update once a blue moon (comparing to WordPress). Part of your job as a RESPONSIBLE admin of any site is to keep things up to date.

      I run so many sites for clients that I am doing at least 5 (slow day) updates per day.

      • Jamie Northrup (7 comments.) says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I do the updates on the dozens of sites I manage every day, and I don’t get rid of plugins because of that, it’s just good because there’s less.

        When you manage over a hundred websites every little bit helps.

  2. Jenny (11 comments.) says:

    I read one persons blog sometimes and she had added some plugin codes to her THEME FUNCTIONS file to cut down on all the plugins she uses. I tried that but it was just so overwhelming that I didn’t really bother :P

    • Jamie Northrup (7 comments.) says:

      Yeah I did that too, but there were a couple that I couldn’t figure out :s

    • Otto (215 comments.) says:

      What would be the point of moving code from plugins into the theme? It’s the same code. It makes no difference whether it’s in a plugin or a theme. Same code, same load.

  3. Konstantin (7 comments.) says:

    It depends on the quality of the plugins!

    I look after a corporate blog network and added most of its functionality by writing small modular plugins, so that I can use a specific functionality either on one or multiple sites.

    Currently we have 42 active Plugins, including drop-ins and must-use and there is no performance issue at all.

    I, too, used to be on the “Do X without a plugin” hype, today I try to differentiate between layout (Theme), optional functionality (Plugin), and mandatory functionality (MU Plugin).

  4. Steve Taylor (8 comments.) says:

    I always wondered about this. Of course you shouldn’t have plugins just installed for little good reason. But when people say “plugins use up memory”, that seems a little vague. Which plugins? How much memory?

    The debate sometimes gets to whether to put code in a theme functions.php or in a plugin, and people say they keep it in the theme because… “plugins use up memory”. But surely they’re basically just includes? Of course there’s WP keeping track of what’s installed or not, but I doubt that’s much overhead.

    Is there any way of quantifying the inherent “overhead” of having a plugin installed? Or is that basically meaningless, with it entirely dependent on what the plugin contains? As you conclude here, I suspect it’s the latter.

    • James Huff (184 comments.) says:

      But when people say “plugins use up memory”, that seems a little vague. Which plugins? How much memory?

      That pretty falls on the same lines of plugin quality. You may have a plugin which works perfectly, but is still a memory hog. I have seen this quite a bit in chat room plugins, some forum plugins, and also in the midst of a process being run, like sitemap plugins during rebuild and backup plugins during backup generation.

  5. Miroslav Glavic (7 comments.) says:

    People:

    QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

    I tend to prefer plugins vs. hard coding. Next WP upgrade might change your customization.

    Also with a plugin you can just turn it off in an instant instead of going back to the code and deleting the lines/altering the lines back to original.

    I added the jetpack twitter module on the sidebar. I could of gone to the sidebar and edited it and added the twitter.com code.

  6. rik (1 comments.) says:

    Having tons of plugins really increases your page load times. I’ve also heard that google takes page load times into consideration when ranking sites in it’s index, penalising sites with slow loading pages – especially the homepage.

  7. Deric Cain (1 comments.) says:

    I am so leery of having too many plugins. I feel like it bogs down the site and gives the server too much to think about. I have a few that I use and I make sure to keep the plugins to a minimum.

  8. Alfonso Muñoz (1 comments.) says:

    For me maintenance plugins are a must, like wp-db-backup. Also SEO it is very important (all in seo pack or sitemap generator). The problem of plugins is that there are so much that sometimes is difficult to filter the good ones from the bad ones. For social networking there are some very interesting, like WP to Twitter (or something like that). I’m implementing the blog for my site and now I’m facing the task of picking the useful and important ones.

  9. Joseph Enmanuel (1 comments.) says:

    Plugins are goods, it makes life easy for blogging, I want to know if I have many installed plugins will it cause slow page loading? so far I got 20-30 plugins installed.

  10. janifer (1 comments.) says:

    Last few years, I added more than 30 plug-in to my personal blog. That finally made my blog slow and problematic, not only loading time, but also server processing speed dropped. Now, I’m just remove almost of all, and pointing to the clean/minimalist theme. That works wonderful now, my blog fast, plain look but effective.

  11. Chad (1 comments.) says:

    I fall into the Quality over Quantity camp.

    Well written plugins won’t create too much overhead. But also, why use something that is overkill?

    Something relatively simple may be better accomplished with a simple function in functions.php. If that same process is created as a general audience plugin, then the plugin author is probably going to have to create an admin panel for it that is likely considerably larger than the function by itself. If that is all stored in one file, what’s the point of that? From a process efficiency standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Notice how I said “one file”? That’s the most common situation and often isn’t necessary. IMO it is more efficient to break out the admin functions and only load them if needed (i.e. you are actually in the admin). That way you don’t lose your efficiency over just adding to functions.php.

    That’s just one example of many, but I think it reinforces the Quality over Quantity argument. If my efficiency is not lost, then I don’t care if it’s a plugin or functions.php. But if I have 20 simple plugins that all carry their admin luggage with them, then give me the functions.php!

  12. Ryan H (1 comments.) says:

    “QUALITY OVER QUANTITY” I like it. We don’t really need all those plug ins. Every plug eats up memory, and its not a question of how much memory will will take. but adding unnecessary plugs ins will just surely make our site heavier which will result to the site not loading properly. I’d love to have less plug in but with awesome functionality.



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