Plugins are programs (written in the PHP scripting language) that can add additional functionality to your WordPress website. Some plugins perform functions such as backups, caching and security. Others add special features like forms, image galleries, displaying related posts etc. Since plugins are basically a way of adding more code to your site, it’s understandable that a plugin can impact your site performance. In this week’s #FridayFinds, let’s take a look at why some WordPress plugins slow down your website, some highly recommended plugins and a simple alternative to adding a plugin for your social media follow buttons.
How Many Plugins Are too Many?
Austin Gunter of WPEngine.com interviewed Pippin Williamson, (the developer of Easy Digital Downloads) for his article Plugins and Fast WordPress Sites – It’s not the Number of Plugins, It’s the Quality. Austin said that he interviewed Pippen because, in addition to being a thought leader, he also runs 81 plugins on PippensPlugins.com and 83 plugins on EasyDigitalDownloads.com. One of the things that Austin took away from the interview is:
“He explained to me that the trick isn’t how many plugins you have, but what operations they need to perform in order to render your site in a visitor’s browser. Most plugins are pretty simple, but some will perform complex actions that are “expensive” in terms of backend processing, and will slow a website down. In other words, you could have a quickly loading website with 80 plugins, and add a single, complicated plugin and lose half a second (or more) of loading time!”
The four areas that Pippin Williamson looks at when he evaluates plugins are:
- Does it use database queries? (For example, does it store a value in a database every time a page is loaded?)
- Is it performing a complex operation on your hosting server that will negatively impact performance?
- How many remote requests does it make to 3rd party external websites?
(Note: I’ve just touched on the bullet points here. This article is a worthy read if you’re interested in learning more about how plugins work.)
What Plugins Do Other WordPress Bloggers Recommend?
We all have our favorite plugins that we can’t live without. However, what works well on your site may not work well on mine. Plugins sometimes conflict with each other and sometimes they may not work well with a particular WordPress theme.
So how do you know which plugin to use? As I’m writing this, there are almost 30,000 free plugins in the WordPress repository (and that doesn’t include premium or custom plugins). This week, Devesh Sharma from WPKube.com, shared the Best WordPress Plugins: 40 Experts Share Their Favorite WordPress Plugins with us. It’s probably no surprise the plugin that was recommended the most (by the bloggers who were interviewed) is WordPress SEO by Yoast. You’re sure to recognize many of the plugins and more than likely you use some of them but I believe you’ll find a few new ones here.
Is Using a Plugin Your Best Choice?
We all know that site performance and page load time are important factors that Google considers when they decide whether or not to include your blog posts in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Page). Plugins can save us hours of work and they can add functionality to our WordPress sites that many of us couldn’t add otherwise.
However, installing plugins can become a habit. Sometimes, a few lines of HTML code in a text widget will do the trick. So, for those of you who want to know How to Add Follow Buttons to WordPress without a Plugin, I’ve linked to one of my more popular posts. (This code will also work for any image that you want to link to, for example a badge or an affiliate program.)
Over to You:
What are your five favorite plugins? Do you have any tips to share with us on ways that you have been able to eliminate a plugin or two?