Are Plugins Ruining Your WordPress Website?

WordPressOnce a simple blog-publishing application, WordPress has now morphed into a versatile content management system, capable of running all sorts of websites. How has it done this? Plugins.

At its core, WordPress is a very simple, lightweight content management system. However, it has a robust API (application programming interface) which has easily enabled developers to create add-on pieces of code, also known as plugins, which have extended its functionality.

But the very plugins that make WordPress so great could also be ruining it. 

3 Ways Plugins May Be Hurting Your Website

Here are three common way that plugins may be ruining your website.

1. Plugin-Incompatibility May Be Preventing You From Upgrading

Almost every three months, it seems that WordPress releases a new version. For most of us, this is always very exciting news. New releases often have lots of additional features, improved interfaces, and increased security. But others look at new releases with dread.

For websites which are held prisoner by their plugins, new releases represent a big headache because plugins need to be thoroughly checked for compatibility before an upgrade can occur. And, if plugins are not compatible, (because many developers do not keep their plugins up-to-date,) an upgrade may not be possible.

2. Plugins May Be Slowing Down Your Website

A fresh install of WordPress is super fast. But when plugins are added, they have a tendency to slow it down.

Plugins can slow your website down because:

  • each plugin makes WordPress do more work before displaying a page
  • some plugins load JavaScript, widgets, or additional media
  • sometimes plugins are incompatible with one another
  • plugins that rely on external websites will be sluggish or stop working if the external site is down
  • some plugins are poorly written and are very inefficient

3. Plugins Create Many Security Vulnerabilities

The WordPress core is very secure. But plugins submitted by the community are not. And the user-submitted plugins are never scanned for security flaws.

This means that if you use a plugin created by a novice or careless developer, you might be at increased risk for a security break.

Make Smart Decisions When It Comes To Plugins

Regardless of the problems that you might encounter when using plugins, we can all agree that plugins are necessary for customization of WordPress. And there are definitely several plugins that we can’t live without: Akismet, WP-Super-Cache, Related Posts, Comment Luv, etc…

But when making decisions on which plugins to include in your website, it is important to make smart choices, such as only using plugins that are popular or developed by reputable authors. Additionally, try to keep your plugins to a minimum. Remember, the more plugins that you have, the slower your website. So don’t use a plugin to do something that you can easily achieve without one.

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32 Responses to “Are Plugins Ruining Your WordPress Website?”

  • Ajith Edassery | DollarShower January 28, 2009 at 1:22 am

    A couple of things to remember:
    Check if the WP database tables are modified by your plugin and how that’s affecting the basic queries of rendering your blog. There are several useful plugins like WP-database-backup that doesn’t affect the runtime!

    Ease of use, Upgrade/support available from plugin developers are other major issues. For example, I personally did not like the new commentluv plugin :) From a simple checkbox selection in the past it moved to a complicated dropdown selection that doesn’t work in a simple way for most readers.

    • Velvet Blues January 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm

      Those are great tips. Probably should have mentioned admin plugins in a separate category as well, as there are several of them which add functionality in the backend without affecting the frontend of the website.

      Support is also important. If a developer neglects their plugin or doesn’t answer questions, then you probably don’t want to use it. These developers are also likely to forget to update their plugins as well…

    • Kurt Avish January 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks for those ones buddy.

      In fact I don’t use many plugins, except those for the security stuffs and the famous seo one. I also use a plugin for polls and contact. Adding comment luv soon too. I have added ajax comment posting too recently.

      I normally have a look what plugins most bloggers are using which mean that they trust it…then I use it. Else I stay away from plugins I don’t know.

      • Velvet Blues January 30, 2009 at 2:47 pm

        Yeh, that’s a great way of screening plugins. Sometimes, however, you can’t really tell what plugins bloggers are using. So sometimes I try to go and see their wp-content/plugins/ folder. (Of course, many people do have it hidden or password-protected.)

    • Udegbunam Chukwudi September 14, 2009 at 1:50 pm

      I haven’t really got issues with the commentluv plug-in but I just decided it wasn’t worth the load on my server so I had it uninstalled leaving KeywordLuv behind. Keyword luv copuled with my comment policy have helped me immensely in filtering useless/spammy comments. Once I see you ain’t following the rules, I press delete.

      I’ve go over 20 plug-ins installed on my blog BUT from time to time, I revise the functionality and need for each and every one of them and then delete some.

  • Ben Barden – Blog Tips January 28, 2009 at 3:54 am

    Great post – in theory, I agree with not installing too many plugins. However, it seems there are so many “must have” plugins that it’s all too easy to install a lot. Some of the most popular ones might be better in the core – All-in-one SEO, anyone?! Possibly SuperCache, too…

    • Velvet Blues January 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

      Indeed. There are so many great ones and its so hard not to clutter a WP installation. Yes, caching and seo should be part of the core. These are things that most blogs could take advantage of, and are two of the most popular plugins.

  • Jen January 28, 2009 at 5:55 am

    The amount of plugins is so vast that it is hard to even know which ones to choose from. When choosing a plugin if there are three or four versions I try to look to see who has the best support, which is the most popular, and who has the most updated version.

    Another factor is how easy it is to install. Some of the plugins require you to make changes within your template and while they sound easy may be harder than they look.

    • Velvet Blues January 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

      Yes, this is so important. The plugins that require template changes are bad for more reasons than one. Not only do they make you do extra work, but they’re also a headache when you switch to a new template or want to remove the plugin.

      As for choosing between several good plugins, I also look at the plugin stats, to see how popular each one is. And the rating and/or user comments is also useful. If a lot of people complain, I stay far far away. :-)

  • Kim Woodbridge January 28, 2009 at 6:36 am

    I try a lot of plugins in order to write about them but don’t keep that many installed. I am constantly reevaluating what I do have installed and ask myself how critical is this plugin? Do I really need it?

    I’m sure you also run into clients who are adamant about keeping plugins even though they have not been updated in forever and are not compatible with the newest version of WordPress – it’s SO frustrating.

    • Velvet Blues January 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm

      Yes, I am somewhat of a WordPress purist as well. But lately, I’ve been infected by the plugin bug and have added ‘top commentators’, ‘comment luv’, and ‘gravatar’ support. You know, we really dont NEED most of the plugins, but it is always a bit of a trade-off. Do the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks?

  • David Kierznowski January 28, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Great points here. You really don’t know what your getting when downloading themes and plugins. I think your “smart choices” are certainly advice worth gold.

    • Velvet Blues January 28, 2009 at 7:26 am

      Indeed. And lately, I have taken to reviewing the source code of all suspect plugins that I download. I am very surprised that the WordPress developers have not done more to ‘police’ the plugin database…

      And I saw a few great articles on your blog highlighting security flaws in the WP-core and plugins. And I am shocked to see that I had exposure to a couple of the plugins that you mentioned. I had used them some time ago in ignorant bliss. I am glad that my site hadn’t been hacked. ;-)

  • Nihar January 28, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    I am always interested to know what a plugin does behind the scene. I try to open the plugin code and try to decipher. If i find lot of database queries then i take a call not use it. If that plugin is not so compulsory.

    • Velvet Blues January 28, 2009 at 10:03 pm

      Yes, that is a very good practice. Also, sometimes when you look at plugins, you’ll find that they are inefficiently written, causing unnecessary database queries. (ie. They make several calls to the database when a simple JOIN statement would suffice.) I have more than once rewritten a plugin to make it better for a site.

  • Dennis Edell January 29, 2009 at 10:06 am

    I do use a bunch, and have a pre-set folder of must haves before the blog even goes live. That said, I do USE all of them to the fullest extent!

    @Ajith – CommentLuv not user friendly? Really? If you’re having any individual issues just contact Andy (the author).

    No kiddin buddy, he’ll be all over it like fleas on a dog. Talk about support, the man is unreal in his dedication to that thing. LOL

    • Velvet Blues January 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

      CommentLuv is great, but I think that Ajith just wants it to have the simplicity that it once had. Now, for example, it is more than just a simple checkbox. Although, I do admit that I like being able to select a post to show.

  • Ben Pei February 1, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I remember reading something like using the cache plugin to increase the web speed or something? Does that really work?

    • Velvet Blues February 2, 2009 at 6:02 am

      Yes, the cache plugin does work well. And it is especially noticeable on slow connections.

      The cache plugin does two things: (1) compresses pages to make them smaller and (2) saves a temporary HTML version of the page so that the database doesn’t have to be queried.

      It is very effective.

  • Harsh Agrawal August 30, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    I use Wp Db manager plugin to take care of any added table.. When I uninstall a plugin I make sure all the traces left behind should be deleted too..else it will make my blog bulky…

  • Allister Sinclair October 12, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Yes it is indeed a double edged sword. I recently used a twitter plug in that i found later was plugging the authors product. I kept seeing all these tweets I never made.

  • Bath@http://www.bathrooms.jamesonline.co.uk/showerbaths.html October 24, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Great post – in theory, I agree with not installing too many plugins. However, it seems there are so many “must have” plugins that it’s all too easy to install a lot. Some of the most popular ones might be better in the core – All-in-one SEO, anyone?! Possibly SuperCache, too…

  • Roger@forbrukslån December 16, 2009 at 5:42 am

    First of all: I think it`s kinda incredible that people make their blog nofollow. Off course, if you`re site is good enough it will draw people anyway, but you will get heaps of traffic if you give the people something for visiting – like a link. And the comments you get doesn`t have to have poor quality just because of this. I would know, I have dofollow and commentluv on all my sites. Works like a charm. This is why I love commentluv and keywordluv.

  • Forbrukslån December 16, 2009 at 6:39 am

    When I first built my websites I had a lot of plugins; I just could not figure out why my site was so slow, but then I removed some (read: most) of my plugins and it became faster than ever. So people, if you have problems with your site running slow, try to remove some of your plugins.

  • Cata@Protection software January 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    It’s very important to update the plugins. For example, one of my website was cracked by a sql injection through one of my plugins (a contact form plugin). One problem for many bloggers is the possibility to fail when perform the upgrade. This is the reason for many unupdated WordPress blogs.

  • Colin@ internet security tools February 6, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Very interesting post I’m quite new to this and learning as I go. I usually choose the plugin with the best rating when I want to add one. There are so many available its easy to get carried away but now I realise they can slow the website down I will be more choosy

  • durian May 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    thank you. i will reduce my plugin now.

  • Bellk@Internet Marketing October 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    You have to make a choice between having lots of functionality versus speed and stability. You can’t be adding all the plugins only to render your blog not usable.

  • Naresh November 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Good explanation about the wordpress plugins. Admin should take care about there compatible plugins before they go for it.. Updating the plugins are important because in today’s world security is most important concern. So there should lot of research should be done before going for updating……..Thanks for your share

  • Astro Gremlin February 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I had more than 50 plugins and decided to “weed” them out to increase page speed. I found my own links were slowing my site down much more. But every little bit helps.

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