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How often do you look at your WordPress plugin directory and ask yourself these questions: “Am I using too many plugins?”, “Are there any of them that seem excessive and should be removed?”, “Do these plugins affect my site’s security, speed or performance?”. If not, then I advise you to.

It can not be denied that WordPress plugins help adding up to our site’s functionality without altering much of the core structure. This is extremely useful for any non-coder out there who don’t want mess up with coding but still afford to add all kinds of nuts and bolts features to their sites. However, troubles come when we unknowingly integrate too many nonessential or even harmful plugins that may drag our site down.

Why should you be wary when using WordPress plugins?

Here are what I formerly mean by saying “drag our site down”:

Firstly, be aware that adding too many plugins would definitely slow down your site. No matter how well-coded each and every of your plugin is, using a vast amount of them altogether would cause a huge drain on the server resources. Simply due to the numerous plugin scripts/styles the server has to load or the massive volume of HTTP requests and database calls it gets to deal with.

Secondly, the problem may get worse if you are using bloated plugins. These are the real “cockblockers” that would slow your site to a crawl even though you only apply a few of them. Normally when their hefty scripts are loaded, they prevent other components from loading and cause “traffic jam” along the whole process. That’s why.

Thirdly, using bad-coded, buggy or misconfigured plugins causes conflict with your theme or other plugins, especially the ones that have similar functions. The best scenario is that you receive an error message in the admin area and the plugin does not display appropriately on the live site. The worst case, however, results in you being unable to access the admin area to even disable the plugin or fix anything.

And lastly, potential security risks may come from untrusted plugins which include malicious codes of hidden link, spam or even backdoors that leave your site vulnerable to authentication hacking attack. This blog on unmasking WordPress malicious plugins will give you more catch-up on some illegitimate plugins and how they affect your site security.

How to be a WordPress plugin savvy user

Now I guess up to this point you’ve already got the idea why dealing with WordPress plugins can be a whole lot of headache. Yet that does not mean you should frantically disable all suspicious plugins or even stop using any plugin at all. Those extreme manners should only be used as the last resort.

Therefore, while “running away” is not the best tactic, there are better techniques to handle plugins and get the best out of them.

#1 Choose a trustworthy plugin

This is the first and most important thing to do which will help you to avoid the danger of using chunky or unsecured plugins. While browsing and comparing between plugins, it is wise to stay cautious and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the plugin developed by a reliable team or individual?
  2. How often does it get updated?
  3. How well is it supported?
  4. What are people commenting about it?
  5. How about rating and download number?

Though most premium plugins can be more reliable and get better support than free plugins, there are always exceptions that you should never rush to decision.

#2 Hunt down the resource hogs

A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved. There are two ways for you to identify which plugins are generating bad behaviour and slowing down your site.

Exclusion method

You can start by disabling all available plugins then enable them one by one while checking the site loading speed and performance in order to narrow down the culprit. This technique is a bit time consuming though it’s the simplest method to follow.

Using plugin

If you don’t dread the idea of adding more plugin to solve your plugin-related problems, P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) can be a nice choice. Its tell-tale name indicates that this WordPress plugin produces a report on your plugin performance after running a thorough scan through your plugin directory. You will get to know how much each plugin contributes to your site load time as well as the number of database queries running per page and other valuable site performance indicators.

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) report result
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) report result

#3 Optimize plugin loading

Not all heavy loaded plugins are bad ones. Some plugins like Google Analytics are extremely helpful for your site’s SEO, though they can be a big burden on the server with lots of huge files to load. If you have carefully weighed out their functionality against the speed of your site and decided to keep them anyway, here are two optimal loading techniques for you to live with their “side effects”.

Load scripts on certain pages only

To save unnecessary scripts from loading on unneeded places, choose to run the plugins’ scripts and styles on specific pages only. Just like the Contact form plugin should only be loaded on the Contact us page. To achieve this conditional loading, you can add some snippets to your theme’s function.php file or use plugins as Plugin Organizer. But like I said earlier, opt for the snippet choice if adding more plugins seems too stressful for you to handle.

Asynchronous loading technique

Plugins for social sharing, YouTube player or the like often trigger lots of remote requests to external services and block other important scripts from loading. Asynchronous loading technique can be a big help in this case then. Instead of waiting for each item to be downloaded and loaded, this technique allows multiple files to load parallel to each other in the background which results in a faster page rendering rate.

#4 Remove or replace excessive plugins

When was the last time you ran a widespread scan through your WordPress plugin collection and disable unnecessary ones? Or is it now a messy store of junky plugins that you may only use once in a while? If you think your are having these 7 signs of stocking too many redundant plugins, it’s time to clean up all the bells and whistles or find better substitutes for them as well.

You can either use some plugin manager to disable/uninstall plugins or do this manually with the following guides:

Final thoughts

It’s now a trend that the functionality of plugin and theme should be separated. Many WordPress theme developers are starting to shifting some of their theme functions into plugins to ease the pain of tiresome update and speed up the theme development. Therefore, using a lot of plugins now seems inevitable. However, try not to get your server overloaded with too many unnecessary plugins. We all know how it could be harmful to our sites rather than useful.

Have your thought on this topic, please feel free to share and comment on the blog.

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Jin is Nanny at DesignWall, a leading WordPress development company which builds responsive WordPress themes and best WordPress plugins. She makes sure everyone is happy, every question is answered, every release is bug-free. She also blogs about our products and shares her WordPress knowledge with our readers. Jin is also a travel lover.