Clients often call me to look at their websites when they are stuck or having issues with their previous web designer. When this is the case, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to find the first time I log into the back end of their WordPress websites. It’s often not a pretty picture, especially in regards to the diversity, and number, of plugins.
Most modern themes–both free and premium–include many bells and whistles that weren’t available three or four years ago. Some of the special functions that had to be added then through plugins are now coded into themes. This is great news for those who have updated to a modern theme or are looking to upgrade.
A problem with plugins is that they require resource usage on the server end. If you have any monthly transfer limits from your web host, the extra resource usage will count against that each time the page is loaded. The second problem is that for every plugin you’ve added to your site that plugin has to load, slowing down the load time of your site. Finally, it just gets messy on the back end of the site for the people who try to maintain it. It’s possible to filter out the deactivated plugins, but it’s far better to just delete plugins that you no longer actively use–or will use in the future.
Here’s my best advice on using plugins: Only use them as a last resort, not as a first choice.
(Feel free to quote me on that, by the way.)
When considering adding a plugin to your site, go through these simple steps to be wise about the way you use WordPress plugins.
Determine what you want your website to do.
This is the key to everything you do online–from your website to your blog to social media. If you’ve downloaded plugins that aren’t essential to what you want to do, then you’re wasting resources and slowing down load times for no reason.
Find out if your theme can help you do what you want to do.
Like I mentioned before, if you have a modern theme, you might not need to download as many plugins as you have before. For example, many themes include an option to include your social media links without the need for an extra plugin. This has the added bonus of keeping everything in one place for easy maintenance.
Search for a small piece of code that will add what you need without a plugin.
Plugins were made so that designers would not have to touch the code. However, if you can add a quick style or line of PHP that will do the same thing, then you’ve created a situation where you can “set it and forget it.” It will become a part of the theme or child theme and you’ll no longer have to worry about whether or not a plugin gets updated or maintained.
Search through the WordPress.org database of plugins to find what you’re looking for.
Always check the ratings and read the reviews for each plugin. Also, look at the support forums to see if there are a lot of issues with the plugin and if the developer answers them. If there are a lot of questions with no answers, you might want to find a plugin that offers more support.
There you go. My best advice on using WordPress plugins wisely. Remember, there is a trade off of speed and simplicity for every plugin that you use. If the plugin does not give you enough added functionality to justify slowing your website and making it more complicated to maintain, then seriously consider another option or leaving the plugin out altogether.
Go. Choose wisely.
Check out these great articles about choosing WordPress plugins
— Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas) April 19, 2014
— Kathryn Presner (@zoonini) December 14, 2012