Recently an article Ryan Imel posted on WPCandy about the over-emphasis on importance of active plugin counts inspired some debate. The argument is essentially that reducing the number of plugins running on your WordPress site is not a valid way to ensure better performance. Yes, having a large number of plugins might be a little logistically impractical at times, but the fundamental issue really is that however many plugins you have installed, it’s their quality that’s important. They should be the best quality plugins you can find to do the job.
Everyone wants their site to run at it’s optimum, and everyone makes little sacrifices in performance to get the functionality they need. While you’re getting things up and running, you might install a few different plugins or as time goes on newer, better plugins might be released. That plugin list can get a bit long, and you may have even forgotten what some of them actually do!
It’s time for a Spring Clean, and of course this can be done whether it’s actually Spring or not.
Assess What You’ve Got
The first step is to go through your list of plugins and note any you no longer need, are unsure if you need, or have simply forgotten what they do. Then check, and if it turns out you really don’t need them… turn them off!
Review What’s Left
The second step is to review the remaining plugins you have active. Are they the best plugins for the job? Now is a good time to see if there might be a better plugin to replace them, or if you’re lucky, a better plugin that could replace more than one of your existing ones.
What To Look For
When you’re looking for a better replacement plugin, or if you need a new plugin and aren’t sure how to determine which is best, here are a few things to look for on plugins from the WordPress.org directory:
People download a plugin, and if it’s good, they may use it on multiple sites, and they may recommend it to others who do the same. So there’s a pretty good chance that a plugin with a lot of downloads is a good one. Especially when combined with…
If a plugin has a lot of downloads, a lot of ratings, and still has a high average rating then that says a lot about its quality. People don’t rate problematic ratings highly.
The more recently a plugin was updated, the better your chances it’s compatible with your version of WordPress, and hopefully more likely to be compatible with the next version too.
With a bit of luck, some people will have given Broken / Works feedback on the plugin with your particular version of WordPress (hopefully the most recent!) and obviously the more of those the better your chances.
Also, do a few searches on “best plugin for X” and see what comes up! One of the beauties of WordPress is its vast community, and there’s a good chance someone else has done this research before you and hopefully published their findings on a WordPress blog somewhere for you to find.
Keep Track Of What’s Changed
Another useful thing to do is measure the performance of your WordPress installation, and when you add a plugin, compare the change. It may be an acceptable change, but if a new plugin suddenly kills performance then it might be time to remove it and look for a replacement. However, some plugins simply need more resources because of the function they perform, but as long as you have good caching setup the impact on your users can be minimised.
Keep Track Of What’s Important
In a nutshell, installing plugins on your WordPress blog is like adding mods to your car. If you have a highly tuned car, you need to be careful with any additions you make. You want them to compliment the car, do the job they need to do (and well), and you don’t want to just be randomly attaching any old thing you find.
Before looking for plugins to install, make a list of the functionality you need, and then find the best plugins you can to do those things. Browsing the plugin directory without a specific purpose is like wandering the grocery store aisles without a shopping list… you’ll come home with more than you went out to get, and a good portion of it will be junk you don’t need.
P.S. If you did find something cool while browsing the plugins directory, then do let us know, so we can spread the word out.