Building 2.0, part 8: Too Many Plugins?

I want my site to work the way I want it to. Sometimes this matches the way WordPress works right out of the box, sometime it doesn’t – that is where my plugins come in. I’m using over 20 plugins – is it too many?

Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy question to answer. Different plugins have different levels of load to your WordPress install. Plugins like Popularity Contest add a little hit on every page load, comment, etc. to track all the activity on your site. Others like Share This, WP Grins, etc. hardly add a blip. There are also plugins that shouldn’t cause much overhead by what they are doing, but do because of the way they are written.

Which plugins you use, much more than the number of plugins you use, is the determining factor in their overall effect on your blog.

My recommendation is to use whatever plugins you need in order to make your site behave the way you want it to. However, as you add them you also need to be aware of the effect the plugins are having on your site.

A couple of tips:

  • Pay attention to your page load times. Occasionally you may want to empty your browser’s cache so you can see your site as first time visitors do.
  • Pay attention to the number of database queries needed for each page load. Many themes include this information in an HTML comment at the bottom of each page (visible by using View Source). If your theme doesn’t add this, you can add it yourself (this taken from the Hemingway theme):
    <?php echo get_num_queries(); ?> queries.
    <?php timer_stop(1); ?> seconds.

    Plugins that drastically increase the number of queries or page load time may be doing as much harm as good for your site’s overall profile. It’s a good idea to contact the plugin developer to let them know if their plugin is having a negative impact on these metrics for your site.

The other problem you can run into with plugins is collisions and incompatibilities. Most plugin developers will try to mention these up front if they know about them – for example, current releases of my Popularity Contest and WP Mobile Edition1 plugins don’t work well with WP Cache.

Plugin incompatibilities are tough on both users and plugin developers. The best you can do is identify the plugins that aren’t playing nicely together, then check the WordPress forums for solutions and notify the developers.

So don’t be afraid of loading up with the plugins you want, but keep in mind that you need to be smart about it as well.

  1. I recently found out about this one, so it isn’t documented in the README yet. [back]

This post is part of the project: ShareThis. View the project timeline for more context on this post.