Plugins are a huge part of the WordPress experience. However, as with many website owners, you might be concerned that installing too many plugins may negatively impact your site’s performance, stability, and security.
When it comes to WordPress plugins, there’s no specific number that is too many. Instead of focusing on the numbers, it’s more important to look at the quality of the plugins you’re installing on your website.
In this post, we’ll explore whether installing a large number of plugins can really slow down your site or leave you vulnerable to hackers. We’ll then share three tips for using all the plugins you need without any negative side effects. Let’s get started!
How Plugins Impact Your Site’s Security and Stability
The huge community of plugins is a big part of the WordPress experience. In the official WordPress Plugin Directory alone, you’ll find over 60,000 plugins:
There are also countless premium plugins available from dedicated marketplaces. This includes the CodeCanyon website, which at the time of writing features almost 6,000 plugins:
With so much choice, you should have no problem finding a plugin that provides exactly the features you need. However, despite being one of WordPress’s biggest selling points, some plugins can negatively impact your website.
Every time you install a plugin, you’re adding third-party code to your site. The more plugins you add, the higher your chances are of encountering bugs and security vulnerabilities. In fact, themes and plugins account for 96.22 percent of WordPress vulnerabilities.
It’s common to install multiple plugins from different developers. However, there is a chance that you might encounter conflicts between these different sets of third-party code. In the worst-case scenario, these clashes can completely break your site. Compatibility errors are also notoriously difficult to diagnose, particularly if you have a long list of WordPress plugins that may be causing the problem.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to use dozens or even hundreds of plugins without compromising your site’s security and stability. However, there’s no denying that more plugins means a greater probability of vulnerabilities and code conflicts. With this in mind, you may want to consider minimizing the number of plugins running on your WordPress website.
How Plugins Impact Your Site’s Performance
In addition to compatibility issues and security concerns, there’s also the question of performance. Many website owners wonder whether installing a large number of plugins can impact your site’s performance.
There are several reasons this is such a hot topic within the WordPress community. First, some plugins add scripts to your site, which may result in an increased number of HTTP requests. The theory is that you can reduce these HTTP requests and slash your page loading times by minimizing your plugins.
It’s true that more plugins may result in more HTTP requests. However, optimized requests shouldn’t have a significant impact on your site’s performance. Assuming that a plugin follows coding best practices and has been programmed with optimization in mind, these additional requests won’t automatically translate to increased page loading times.
Similar to HTTP requests, some plugins may make lots of database queries. For example, a plugin might use your website’s database to store configuration details. A large number of database queries could potentially impact your site’s performance.
However, assuming that the developer followed coding best practices, their plugin should only query the tables or rows it’s tied to. This is unlikely to have a noticeable impact on your site’s speed.
When it comes to performance, optimization is key. It’s far better to focus on choosing well-coded plugins that follow all the latest best practices, rather than reducing your plugin usage in general.
How to Use Plugins Safely (3 Key Tips)
In terms of plugins, quality is always more important than quantity. A single poorly-coded plugin can have a devastating impact on your website. At the other end of the scale, you might install dozens of plugins without encountering any negative consequences.
The key is to choose your plugins carefully. With that in mind, here are three tips for finding plugins that won’t affect your site’s security, stability, and performance, or result in compatibility errors.
1. Research Potential Plugins Carefully
To start, it’s vital that you source all your plugins from a reputable provider. Wherever possible, it’s smart to opt for the official WordPress Directory, as it has strict security guidelines. In some instances, the WordPress Security Team will even step in and fix serious vulnerabilities discovered in third-party plugins.
However, it’s a bad idea to assume that a plugin is safe just because it’s hosted on WordPress.org, or another respectable marketplace. We always recommend checking a plugin’s reviews, particularly the most recent ones:
We’ve seen plugins that have an overall positive rating, but a recent spate of negative reviews. This suggests that the software has a long history of providing a good user experience, but there’s an issue with the most recent release.
The plugin’s official listing isn’t the only place where users may share their grievances. It’s always worth running the plugin’s name through your favorite search engine. This can sometimes reveal miscellaneous locations where people discuss problems with the software (for example, on blogs, forums, or community sites such as Stack Overflow).
2. Keep Your Plugins Up to Date
At times, security vulnerabilities, conflicts, and other issues have been discovered in well-known and credible WordPress plugins. When this occurs, the plugin’s developer will ideally leap into action and create a patch that addresses the problem. However, you still need to do your part and install the update.
If you do encounter issues with a plugin, then it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re running the latest release. If you’re lagging behind, there’s a chance you may be struggling with a flaw that the developer has already patched.
To check for updates, select Plugins from the WordPress dashboard. You can then either upgrade your plugins individually, or install all available updates using the Bulk Actions drop-down menu:
However, as a busy website owner, chances are you already have a jam-packed schedule. If you don’t want to add another item to your To-Do list, you can set your plugins to update automatically. With this setting enabled, you’ll receive the latest fixes and patches as soon as they’re released.
To activate auto-updates, navigate to Plugins > Installed Plugins. Then select the Plugin checkbox and open the Bulk Actions drop-down menu:
Select Enable Auto-Updates > Apply. WordPress will now keep your plugins up-to-date, without requiring any manual intervention from you.
3. Delete Unnecessary Plugins
The number of plugins running on your WordPress website doesn’t necessarily make your site any less or more secure. However, if you’re no longer using a particular plugin, then it’s always worth removing it from your website. Unnecessary plugins don’t contribute any value, and may leave you more vulnerable to attack or code conflicts.
To keep your site as secure as possible, it’s not enough to simply deactivate unwanted plugins. Hackers can still sometimes access deactivated code. For example, malicious third parties often target the PHP files that make up your WordPress plugins. Even when deactivated, these PHP files may be accessible and therefore still exploitable.
If you no longer require a particular plugin, navigate to Plugins in your WordPress dashboard. You can then find the item in question, and click on Deactivate:
Even if you’re no longer actively using this plugin, it’s a good idea to make sure your site is still running and displaying correctly. Deleting any software can have unforeseen consequences, so it’s smart to err on the side of caution. Once you’ve verified that your site is behaving as expected after the plugin has been deactivated, you can take the plunge and delete it.
While plugins can impact your site’s security, stability, and performance, there’s no definitive answer to the question: “How many WordPress plugins are too many?” A poorly-coded plugin can leave you vulnerable to hackers and increase your page load times. That’s true regardless of whether this is the only plugin you’ve installed on your website – or the hundredth.
Instead of focusing on the numbers, it’s more important to focus on quality. To help you out, let’s recap three ways to use plugins safely:
- Research potential plugins carefully.
- Keep your plugins up to date.
- Delete unnecessary plugins.
Do you have any questions about how to find plugins that won’t negatively impact your site? Let us know in the comments section below!