I know at WordCamps, I get quite a few people asking about how many plugins they should install. I have covered a little bit about plugins before. So have both Ryan Inmel in his article Stop telling users they shouldn’t be running very many plugins, and Syed Balkhi in his article How Many Plugins Should You Install In WordPress?. Both are excellent articles. However, I need to cover my own opinion as I have been on several panels relating to WordPress plugins at WordCamps in the past, and it just needs to come off of my chest.
To give you a brief experience with my own site, I don’t even use 2 dozen plugins myself. I use a lot of PHP filters, actions, and hooks to get some parts of my site functioning the way I want. I am a developer, so my experience is different from a regular WordPress designer or user. However, I do have a lot of clients, fans, and followers that I have done consultations or answered questions concerning plugins, especially considering their own experience.
Plugins: For The Non-Technical WordPress Users
Not everyone is code savvy. There are great tutorials out there to do almost anything with your WordPress powered site. However, not everyone can understand those… no matter how simple you have written a tutorial. A lot of WordPress users do not even want to put their hands into coding. They just want to use WordPress. It may even be difficult enough for them to understand learning what a plugin can do for them, especially if it has a lot of options.
There are thousands of free and premium paid plugins. Each provides a function that make WordPress more dynamic. It could be adding a contact form, a featured content slider, related posts feature, a photo gallery, and much more. Often developers design because they feel a need for a certain function and feel that their method would be the best contribution.
For the user, not every plugin is understandable. While a user may install and try out several plugins that provide the same type of function the need, they will always choose the one that they can use the easiest. Come on, WordPress has been known to be the most user-friendly content management system, so why not some of the plugins as well?
For the person not wanting to dabble in code, plugins are important. However, there are a few things to consider when installing a plugin:
- Is that plugin necessary?
- Does that plugin do what you want it to do?
- Is that plugin easy for you to use?
- Does that plugin actually work without any problems?
Some users get into this funny funk that WordPress is awesome and just install whatever they want, even if they do no need it. Then, as their site grows, and gets traffic, they start realizing other things like site load time, converting visitors into buyers or subscribers, and much more. They also run into plugins that cause errors to come up or interfere with how their site is suppose to work.
Plain as day, return on investment is a huge thing for bloggers and business owners. And, by the way, if you are a blogger that is monetizing your site, then you own a business. Your blog is a business because like visiting a retail store, you are trying to get them to do something. That something might be buying a product, filling out a form, subscribing to an email list, sharing a post, or even commenting on a post.
It is extremely important to check out a plugin’s description to see if there are any reviews or any known problems. It might even be wise to have a beta site prepared to test a plugin before using it live.
Plugins: For the WordPress Designer
WordPress Designers are different from the user and designer. They know some code to get around HTML, and CSS, and maybe some PHP, but they are usually one to solely do customizing from an existing theme. They do not write code for plugins.
Designers do have to consider if the plugin is necessary, and if it works. Normally they are making the decision for the client on what plugin should be installed, so the thought process for a WordPress web designer should be:
- What is the WordPress skill level of the client?
- Is the plugin user-friendly and quick to learn?
- If the user is having difficulty using the plugin, even if it seems easy to use, are there alternate plugins to try out that are similar?
- Will the plugin be easy to style if it produces front-end user interface elements?
Again, even though the WordPress web designer may be making money building a site for another person, the end result they are trying to produce is a product that has a return on investment for their client. Plugins do help give that added functionality to make e-commerce sites, web forms, and other things possible without having to get down and dirty in coding.
Plugins: For the WordPress Developer
WordPress developers get to do a lot of dirty work. They are neck deep in code or working on different ways to extend the functionality of WordPress through plugins or code snippets. Some designers are also developers, but not all developers are designers. A developer’s art is spoken through their code.
And sometimes what is produced is not as user-friendly for the WordPress designer or the WordPress user.
A developer must consider when developing and installing a plugin:
- Will the plugin work in all browsers?
- Does the code work on most types of hosting?
- Is the plugin user-friendly and well documented?
- Does the plugin use few or many data resources?
- Does the plugin’s output load slowly or quickly?
Not all developers create a plugin to sell and make money. Those that do share their WordPress plugins with the world on the WordPress Plugin Repository allow others to use it however they wish. Developers do not always consider return on investment in that case. However, developers who do sell plugins, are definitely hoping their plugin does make their some type of ROI because that means they make money when their customers spread the word.
In both free plugins and premium plugins, developers need to document their plugins and try to consider how to make their plugin as easy to use as possible. Not everyone is a genius when it comes to using WordPress, or even the Internet itself, so all that tech jargon is alien.
So, How Many Plugins Should You Install In WordPress?
It does not matter how many plugins you install. It matters how your site works when they are all working together. If your site is loading slow, and you don’t have a lot of plugins, but maybe it is the theme that has a lot of graphics, that might be the problem. It might even be your web host.
It is up to you on what you want on your website. Anyone that is an expert in WordPress can make suggestions on giving you a plugin diet, but it is your choice in the end. Use common sense and the simple guidelines mentioned in this article, and you should be fine.
If the plugin does not work, produces an error, or takes your site down, do not use it. Inform the developer of whatever the issue may be. Also, remember before installing a plugin or upgrading your WordPress site to make a backup of your site.
How many plugins do you have installed on your site? How many do you usually recommend to others? What is your thought process when you consider installing a plugin?