How many plugins are too many on a WordPress website

How many plugins are too many on a WordPress website? This is a question we get asked and see on a regular basis and hope to help settle the debate with our input.

The average WP site has at least 20 plugins according to WordPress. However, you will also find some with over 100 plugins. It isn’t uncommon for developers and website owners to get their hands on a variety of plugins – after all, there are more than 50,000 plugins and many of them are free.

However, it isn’t a good idea to use too many plugins. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not against plugins. We think they’re great and even develop them ourselves. In fact, they can really make it easier to manage your site. Some are even vital to a site’s success. But, you shouldn’t opt for every plugin you can.

How many plugins are too many on a WordPress

But Why Not?

You must be wondering what can go wrong if you install a plugin, especially if you don’t have to pay for it? First of all, the problem is that we don’t stop at one.

Getting and trying new plugins can get addictive. You will not even realize and you will end up with dozens of plugins you will never need. How do we know? We’ve been there and done it ourselves and we’ve worked on hundreds of sites that have anywhere from a small handful of plugins through to over 100.

How Can I Test Plugins Then?

If you find it too difficult or irritating to install, try, and uninstall a plugin then you can make a ‘mock’ or staging website just to see how a plugin works and what it can do for your site. 

This is a fast, safe, and reliable way to test plugins. If the performance impresses you then you can install it on your main website and keep going.

While this trick is effective, it may not always be suitable. For example, a mock site may not be the best option to check an ‘SEO’ or ‘analytics’ related plugin because it will not have true visitor numbers or other data. You may also have storage limitations which prevent creating a testing environment.

In such a scenario, your only option is to check reviews, see what others have to say about a plugin, or give it a try.

What Happens if I End Up With Too Many Plugins?

Too many plugins can result in a variety of problems based on how they are coded, how they work with each other, and which plugins are active.

Here are some possible problems too many plugins can cause. This won’t happen in every situation and on every website, but they are a possibility

  • Slower Load Times

Believe it or not, some plugins can affect your site performance and cause it to get slower. This can be a concern since about 40% of visitors will not stay on your site if it takes more than three seconds to load.

Plugins are, surprise surprise, made from code. The more code on a page the longer it takes to read and load that page. But no two plugins are the same, and some are much larger than others. Likewise, some plugins are designed to speed up your website, negating any performance issues that adding one may create.

Some plugins will add only one or two lines of code to the frontend of the website. A couple of lines of code will make no difference to a page load time, even on the slowest of hosts. Some plugins, such as WooCommerce, add a lot of code due to the role that they are playing. Twenty or thirty small plugins can still load less code than one large plugin, but this can present other problems we explain below,

While plugins can slow a website down, other factors can have a much higher impact of the performance of a website. Slow budget hosting, old versions of PHP, large and too many images, too many external connections and the distance from the server are the main things that will slow a website down.

  • Security Risks

Unsafe or poor plugins can put your brand at risk. Many website owners delay or avoid plugin updates which can cause security problems and risk your website being hacked, even with a security plugin installed. Some plugins are just poorly coded which can cause javascript errors, slow your website, break functionality and be a major security risk.

You do not want to put your site at risk since being hacked can result in major problems including the loss of data, image, traffic and financial position. 

  • Crashes and conflicts

Websites that have too many plugins are more likely to crash. Even some popular options like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache have been known to crash.

Crashes have multiple causes, far too many to list here. The most common causes of conflicts are missing pieces of code, duplicate functions and javascript errors.

Imagine if you will installing five plugins on your website, With only five plugins the chances of a conflict are extremely low. Not impossible, but very low. There’s also far less code. Less code means there’s a much lower chance of a developer making a mistake in their code.

If you add five more plugins you increase the chances of a plugin conflicting with another plugin or the theme. Because you’ve also added more code to the website there’s an increased chance of a code error occurring with a plugin. These chances increase with the addition of every new plugin.

Due to the open source nature of WordPress, anyone is permitted to create a plugin, and provided it passes the requirements of the WordPress plugin repository, they can list it for download. The plugin moderators do review code to try and minimise the chances of conflicts and security problems, but many problems arise after an update to the plugin code, which is rarely checked by a moderator.

  • Plugin conflict resolution

Now, imagine that you encounter a plugin conflict on your website. Suddenly half the page is loading and you don’t know what to do, or it suddenly grinds to a halt due to some bad plugin code. You need to find the problem plugin, and the only way to do that is to deactivate all plugins and activate one at a time until you find the plugin causing the problem.

With only five plugins you can imagine that this process will be relatively fast and simple. After all, you only have five plugins to test. Multiply that by ten and suddenly it becomes a much more difficult and time-consuming task. If you happen to have two bad plugins at the same time, it can become confusing trying to figure them out

Using fewer plugins not only reduces the risk of a conflict, but it also makes solving the conflict much easier faster.

So, How Many Plugins are Too Many on a WordPress Website?

There’s no one-word answer to this question because the right number of plugins you can use depends on your site, requirements, and resources. As we mentioned. You could have a website with fifty small plugins running that loads faster than a site with five large ones. You could also have five small plugins on a budget host and struggle with performance. A host, after all, is the number one factor in a site’s performance. When they say you get what you pay for, it’s never truer when it comes to hosting.

When determining how many plugins is enough consider the following factors

  • Is the plugin absolutely vital to your website?

When asking yourself the question of how many plugins are too many on a WordPress website consider what it actually does. Does it perform a vital function or is it more aesthetics? Does it improve performance or hinder it and if it hinders performance does the payoff justify the sacrifice in speed? For example, a live chat plugin will slow your website down due to an external connection, but a live chat plugin may result in additional sales, which is a positive payoff. Another question to ask is will your website still function without it?

You need to be honest with yourself and your business goals. In many cases, you’ll be able to purge many resource hogs and bottlenecks

  • Does the plugin speed up or slow down the website?

Some plugins have been designed to improve the loading times through cache, code minification and the use of a content delivery network (CDN). Clearly the addition of such a plugin is a benefit to any website. Other plugins serve little purpose but to promote a social network page. Instagram, as an example, is installed on many websites to showcase their followers and photos to gain additional followers and potential customers. The Instagram plugin has several problems. To begin with, the photos are usually laid out in a grid and on a WooCommerce store can appear to be products leading potential paying customers away from your website. It also loads images, sometimes large ones. the more images you have, especially big ones, the longer it takes for a page to load. The final problem with the Instagram plugin is the DNS lookup time and content download time. Every time you need to connect to another website it adds time. External connections cause significant slowdowns to a website loading speed.

In the two plugin examples above, a cache plugin may save three seconds but you could lose four to the Instagram plugin.

  • Does the plugin provide functionality or aesthetics

We touched on this above. Does the plugin perform a functional role, such as offering live chat or taking payments, or does it simply add a banner to the top of a category page? Does it help you with SEO or does it add a Google font? If you are on a budget host or finding your website becoming slow, these are the questions you need to consider,

Remember, a pretty website doesn’t mean it’s going to be popular. There’s no greater comparison that Bing and Google. Bing is visually stunning, but when was the last time you used it and when was the last time you used Google? Google isn’t pretty, but it’s functional and works. That should be your end goal.

How many plugins do we recommend and how many plugins are too many

We won’t say a firm number on how many you should have, Just use our recommendations above and keep the number to a minimum for the functionality you require. Every website will be different. Where one website may run on five plugins perfectly well, another may need five times that number.

How many plugins are too many on a WordPress website? Clearly 100 would be too many, even on a dedicated server. It just becomes troublesome managing that number of plugins. If you are on quality hosting and need to use 50 plugins and the website is still working well, use 50 plugins. We are well aware that some plugins have extensions and a WooCommerce store will always require additional plugins.

Remember. It’s not about the number of plugins, it’s how they interact and affect your website that matters the most.

At the time of writing this post, we have a total of 17 plugins installed and active. Many people will say that is an excessive number, but the site loads very quickly and can handle a lot of traffic. Of those 17 plugins, 4 are performance improving plugins, 5 for SEO and social media with the remainder serving other aspects that the website requires to function how we need it to. On a WooCommerce website that we run, there are 38 active plugins, and once again the site is fast and can handle lots of traffic.

If you are finding your website is slow with even a few plugins it may be time to look for a new host. It can be costly moving, and you may lose unused months or years of hosting, but if a move means a more profitable website it’s a small price to pay.

While we didn’t say exactly how many plugins are too many on a WordPress website, we hope that we’ve given you some insights on what to look for when you are trying to bring your plugin count under control.

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How many plugins are too many on a WordPress

Written by: John Cook

Author

About: As the founder of Swift Designs, WC Success Academy, Wiz Plugins and Learn Wp by Swift Designs, my goal is to empower website owners around the world to take full control of their WordPress powered websites. I've been developing websites for close to 10 years and have a deep understanding of WordPress and how it works. As an active plugin developer with several plugins in the WordPress plugin repository, this gives me a unique understanding of the inner workings of WordPress. My goal with Learn WP is to allow WordPress website owners the ability to discover the true potential WordPress has to offer in an uncomplicated and easy to understand way

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