One of the most important reasons why WordPress is the preferred CMS of our time is that it’s super-extendable.
While most people think there is a miracle behind the WordPress story, its success is almost entirely based on the simple concept of themes and plugins. Having thousands of plugins is useful for enhancing functionality, but at the same time, it carries the burden of knowing how to use them.
Power brings a lot of responsibility, so you need to question your decision of using more than one theme or thousands of plugins during your WordPress installation.
You may think the opposite, but they are likely to decrease performance when not used correctly. Check out our small tutorial and find out how you can use your favorite plugin without having to sacrifice its performance.
Let’s get the full picture of how plugins affect websites:
In general, the most common problem plugins can cause to a website is to degrade its performance. It can be front-end or back-end plugins, but damage can still happen.
Many plugins are vulnerable or have specific security issues that can transfer to the website and compromise its security. In certain occasions, sensitive plugins create security loopholes or inject malicious codes, which is why we recommend downloading them from reputed authors, or directly from the WordPress Plugins Repository.
The performance will definitely be affected one way or another by plugins packed with large datasets, and in charge of complex operations. Such plugins should overly be done off the server, rather than your own WordPress hosting environment.
Any request to an external, 3rd party API or any request your site needs to make to an external party, in general, can affect performance.
A plugin will not always be compatible with the theme you’re using unless the theme is a standard one that complies with WordPress software in general. What you should look for are compatible plugins, and you should check them before installation or activation.
Certain plugins can damage the reliability of your website because they will place their own codes on your pages and make them load slower. Consequently, performance will be affected too.
Therefore, letting go of unnecessary plugins, and choosing ones that are reputable and reviewed, is the best shortcut to the success of your WordPress website.
Is there such thing as too many plugins? It’s quite a common refrain written in posts, or discussed on meetings within WordPress’s ecosystem, and the main purpose is to prevent you from installing too many plugins and slowing your website down.
The truth is that installing too many plugins is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s still connected to development and ought to be treated with precaution.
Counting the plugins won’t be enough to understand how many resources they’re using. Some plugins use more than a single resource, but not all of them. Sometimes, you have to install thousands of plugins for a website to fail, but sometimes it will only take one.
It depends on the following factors:
- Purpose: The price of plugins is the best indicator of the quality of their performance, and it depends on their purpose. Short-code plugins, for instance, use fewer system resources than SEO plugins, and that’s why their price is different;
- Codebase: Improperly coded plugins can cause the site to crash, or at least to display content in an unexpected way. You need to code them correctly, and to control their performance from the very beginning;
- Environment: Having free system resources is not as good as you think it is. Obviously, it will do a good job in traffic spikes, but a Tesla Model S will not restrict speed to 10km/h. Giving a plugin a bit of your resources to function is not a bad thing, and you should continue doing it on powerful servers the same way you did on the shared ones.
Use P3 to optimize WordPress performance
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) is a plugin itself, a very handy and free one. Its role is to capture information for every plugin you’ve installed and to measure its impact on separate pages on overall loading time, meaning that it will report any irregularity there might be.
Using the plugin shouldn’t be a problem, assuming that all you want is to have a summary of how the plugin’s resource is being used. Once you’ve installed the plugin, go to the ‘Tools Menu’ and the ‘P3 Plugin Profiler’, and choose the ‘Auto Scan’ option. Following the command, P3 will randomly visit a couple of your pages, and it will monitor the performance of all plugins you’ve installed.
In most of the cases, it may identify certain plugins that use a lot of your resources but are not so useful. These plugins are worthy to be uninstalled or substituted with more efficient ones. Yet, sometimes, P3 may identify your core plugins, like your framework or WooCommerce, as being the ones that overuse your resources, but this is pretty obvious and shouldn’t raise any concerns. If you have an impressive sports car, you won’t change its V12 engine, right?
After you’ve understood the result, use the data, and compare each plugin’s impact on loading time in general. Another good idea is to change the test log & IP for the 100 most recent visits if you know how to use advanced settings.
Choose a better server
At the end of the day, it’s a matter of priority. We see many users annoyed by the fact that Google Chrome is hogging their RAM, which is senseless. If nothing else, more RAM doesn’t make a computer work faster, while that extra gigabyte Chrome is going to use will improve its performance.
The same counts for servers. With multiple system resources, there are more things to do. Why would you maintain a powerful server if you don’t need one? Achieving speed on shared servers doesn’t make sense for websites with many plugins.
Possible plugin issues and how to solve them
- Don’t miss a single solution that can increase the speed of your website. If you don’t need so many plugins, don’t use them! Remember they are increasing loading time, and no user likes to wait;
- Test the performance of your installed plugins regularly. Check their impact on your website, and fix them if there is a need to do so. We recommend P3 for this purpose;
- Having two or more plugins for the same purpose is not a good idea. Before you install a plugin, check whether there is one that performs the same actions (you can easily discover that by going through their features);
- Go through the plugins from time to time, and check whether there are such you could uninstall because you’re not using them. Don’t occupy space for nothing;
- Update your WordPress version and the plugins regularly, because this is the best way to prevent hacker attempts against your website. The older the version is, the more vulnerabilities it will have, and this is very likely to crack functionality when least expected.
You still get to use all those awesome plugins you want, but you have to choose them wisely. There is absolutely no need to panic, and to calculate whether an SEO plugin, for instance, can be missed even if you need it. If you want to share your personal experience with WordPress plugin management, please feel free to leave a comment below.