With the increasing popularity of WordPress comes the associated popularity of WordPress plugins. There are a staggering number available to download from WordPress: 55,000+ at the time of writing! But what does the creation of more and more plugins mean for your website, and how can you ensure you’re utilising them effectively?
To plugin or not to plugin?
Plugins are a great way to extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress website. However, with so many to choose from it’s important to make the right selection. Some plugins are better than others and some poorly built plugins can have a detrimental impact on your website speed and performance and in the worse case, create security issues.
Many problems around performance and security can be solved by limiting the number of plugins used but there is no definitive answer to this question and no ‘magic number’ to stick to. We advise focusing less on the number of plugins and more on ensuring that the plugins you have installed work for you, instead of against you.
5 tips to help you choose the right plugins for your website
#1 Check the credibility of the author
Do your research and choose carefully! WordPress is an open market for plugin authors, due to the General Public License it is distributed under. This means that anyone from anywhere can view, alter and share the source code, creating an ‘open community’. However, not all authors have the same level of skill when it comes to coding. As a result, not all plugins are of the same quality. When a plugin is poorly coded or comes from an untrustworthy source, it can cause problems on your website. Always ask yourself the following questions when assessing a plugin:
- Does the author have a good reputation?
- What is their rating?
- Check out reviews from other users in the WordPress community – what was their experience like?
- Is there support for your plugin, and have any previous issues been resolved?
- When was the last update carried out?
#2 Make sure your plugins are compatible
- Plugins run side by side, and most of the time they do so harmoniously. However, as the number of plugins increase so does the possibility that clashes may occur.
- Ensure that you read all of the relevant information and find out as much as you can around compatibility before you download the plugin.
- As general good practice, it’s also worth making sure that all plugins are compatible with your current version of WordPress.
#3 Monitor the performance of your plugins
- If you’re going to use multiple plugins then it makes sense to monitor their performance and overall impact on your website.
- If you’ve recently added a new one and your site performance suddenly drops then remove it. Does your speed recover? If so, then you may need to delete it permanently and look for an alternative.
- There are tools available that will do the work for you, assessing individual and combined plugin load times. All you need to do is evaluate which one is holding you back and find an alternative.
#4 Multi-purpose plugins vs bespoke code
- Do not install plugins loaded up with lots of features if all you need is simple functionality: always consider whether writing bespoke code would be better for your site in the long run.
- On the other hand, sometimes you can also streamline the number of plugins by searching for multifunctional plugins and replacing your single purpose ones with them.
#5 Clear out regularly
- Regularly clear out all unnecessary or inactive plugins, and any which haven’t been updated by the author for some time.
- Maintain a strictly ‘need to have’ not ‘nice to have’ policy. This will not only keep the number of plugins to a minimum, but it will also ensure that each and every one serves a necessary purpose.
Plugins are extremely useful and there are many great plugins out there for you to choose from but choose wisely and evaluate constantly. Before you download any plugin ask what benefit will it bring and importantly, is it trustworthy.
You can read more about our favourite plugins in our post The Periodic Table of WordPress Plugins and in the spirit of giving back to WordPress and sharing our knowledge with the community, we have released several of our own plugins.
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