When creating a WordPress website, you have the option to customize it for almost any purpose imaginable. You can sell products, build a fan base, publish irresistible content, run a hotel, start a membership-based club, and more.
You may choose to hire a developer to build your vision from scratch. But you can also take advantage of thousands of plugins from the open-source community that provide everything from advanced membership capabilities to security improvements and design functionality.
This unmatched flexibility is a core strength of the WordPress platform and a large part of why it powers 40% of the web. But all of these options also come with an enhanced level of responsibility for you as a website owner.
Why you shouldn’t use too many WordPress plugins
Adding dozens of plugins to your website can put you at risk for security breaches, stressful site maintenance, potential conflicts, and poor performance.
Even the best, most cautious developer can make mistakes. There’s some element of risk to any website code, theme, or extension. That also means that the more plugins you install, the greater the risk that you’ll download one with a security vulnerability.
Most of the time, if a plugin developer releases an update, it’s to add functionality or fix a bug. If you don’t update your plugins regularly, then those vulnerabilities aren’t fixed and they give hackers an easy way to access your site.
And, of course, the more plugins you have installed, the more updates you’ll need to make. This requires additional time and increases the chance that you’ll forget an update. Hackers love to take advantage of outdated plugins.
All of the plugins in the WordPress repository are created by different developers with different solutions.
Though these diverse approaches help solve the unique needs of users, the drawback is that not all plugins work the same way, have the same settings, showcase the same functionality, or allow for the same level of customization. Each plugin’s dashboard or settings interface is different.
The time required to learn how to take advantage of each plugin quickly adds up. Plus, there’s often maintenance involved to ensure that each one functions properly.
Since WordPress is an open-source platform, any developer can submit a plugin to the WordPress Plugin Repository. Since they’re created by different people, with varying skill levels, habits, and knowledge, it’s not uncommon for two or more plugins to conflict with one another.
Conflicts can result in slow-loading pages, error messages, or broken functionality. Ultimately, a plugin conflict can cause a website to crash.
How do you know if a plugin is going to conflict with another plugin? You usually don’t, unless both plugins are very well-documented. And plugins that might not conflict when you set them up can cause issues after updating.
The fewer plugins used on your site, the less likely it is that an update causes conflicts that can negatively impact your reputation, sales, or other goals.
Poor site speed
Installing and activating numerous plugins on your website can affect your page load time and the performance of your site as a whole.
When a site visitor loads one of your pages, a server request is sent from their browser to your website’s server, and then back to their browser. The more plugins you have activated, the more requests you’ll have going back and forth. This means browsers have to work harder to load each page, slowing down your site.
All of your website’s information is stored in the database. Many plugins use database queries to retrieve and store information. More plugins mean more queries, which increases the load on your database server, subsequently increasing site load time, especially if your hosting plan includes limited resources.
Space can also be an issue. The more plugins you have, the more space you use on your server. With most shared hosting packages, you’re only allotted a certain amount of space and if you max out that “allocated space”, the hosting company will charge you more for the next tiered plan.
How many plugins are too many?
Unfortunately, there’s no set answer to this question. It depends on the quality of the plugins used, the weight they add to your site, and your hosting provider.
If your site does require heavy-hitting plugins to function the way you need it to, you might want to consider using a VPS or dedicated server. You’ll have more available resources, which will help your site load faster in spite of additional plugins.
It’s also important that you consider the quality of the plugins you use. Here are a few factors to examine:
- Is the source reliable? Did a reputable developer or company build the plugin?
- Does it work with the latest version of WordPress? In the WordPress Plugin Repository, a notification will appear at the top if it’s out-of-date.
- Does it have good reviews? Users will be quick to identify bugs, vulnerabilities, and functionality issues.
- How many websites use it? The WordPress Plugin Repository also identifies the number of active users. Generally, the more popular a plugin is, the more likely it is to be high quality.
- Are there support and documentation? Good documentation will make learning how to use a plugin much easier and a support team should be available to answer any questions you may have.
So how many plugins are too many? The fewer the better. Only use the bare minimum to achieve the functionality and design that you need.
What’s the solution?
It’s important that you consider what functionality is important to the design and purpose of your site and only implement plugins that meet those needs. If you’re no longer using a plugin, make sure to deactivate and uninstall it.
Another solution is to source plugins that serve more than one purpose. This way you’re not using three plugins to accomplish three tasks when you could be using one plugin to accomplish those same tasks.
Jetpack is a perfect example of this. It was designed to be the ultimate WordPress solution and provides an extensive amount of functionality in a single plugin — from security and speed solutions to design tools and marketing features.
When it comes to security and updates, every plugin has its risks, but Jetpack was developed by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com.
Because of that, Jetpack has an entire team of experienced developers constantly updating code and ensuring that it’s compatible with WordPress. Since Jetpack is so widely used, the support team also gets a lot of feedback from their customers, which helps them make continuous improvements.
Jetpack provides the functionality of dozens of plugins, so you only need to learn one dashboard and one interface. Manage all of the features from the same place and just keep track of updates for one plugin, instead of many. This saves you time and simplifies your overall workload and workflow.
How do I get started?
Since Jetpack provides so many great features, getting started may seem overwhelming. But the entire process only takes a few minutes:
- Log into your WordPress dashboard.
- Click Plugins in the left-hand menu.
- Click Add New at the top.
- If you don’t see Jetpack in the featured section, use the search bar in the top right corner to search for “Jetpack.”
- Click Install Now → Activate.
- On the Setup screen, click Set Up Jetpack.
- Then, you can either create a WordPress.com account or log in to an existing account.
- From there, you can decide which features you want active on your site. Most can be set up and turned on with one click.
At the end of the day, doing some research and figuring out the priorities of your website should be your first step. If you’re interested in learning more about Jetpack’s features and capabilities, check out the full list of functionalities.