wordpress-new-content_trumaniKeep it lean! Keep it clean! Your WordPress plugin library shouldn’t look like an actual library. Neither the WordPress site dropdown nor the “New” dropdown have an option to navigate to the plugin pages. When I was new to WordPress, that omission irked me. I saw it as an oversight because I wanted to try on every plugin, explore every feature, no matter the consequences. I didn’t vet plugins. Practicality and relevancy didn’t come to mind. Nor did whether or not they were well supported. All I cared about was they could do something cool in a shorter amount of time than building it myself.

Storyboard Your Needs

Know your business requirements. Then you can identify what combination of plugins you will need to support what you want. A good example is fulfilling a requirement to sell products online. You may choose WooCommerce to handle the base functionality that most people need in an ecommerce solution. But your requirements may call for functionality that is a little more niche. Perhaps you want to sell subscriptions, send emails to visitors who abandoned their cart, integrate with a certain payment gateway.

The plugin pages are nowhere to be found on the admin bar and for good reason

The solutions can be in the form of additional plugins, but if you don’t have well defined objectives, and research the plugins available, you can blow up your library with plugins that don’t fulfill your needs or are redundant. I’ve seen several instances where the Divi Builder plugin is installed on a site that uses the Divi theme. The theme already comes with the builder.

Consider the implications of adding a plugin: Performance, Scalability, Security

Your out-of-the-box WordPress site is a well-oiled machine. Keep it that way.

Plugins can bog down page loading times. People don’t have the patience to wait. Around 40 percent of visitors will leave your website if it loads longer than 3 seconds. That’s not an easy proposition with base WordPress and moderate hosting. Add to that a bunch of plugins that allow for this and that and you have a recipe for a high bounce rate. If visitors bounce, who’s left to see what the plugins do anyway?

Compatibility can be another big issue. It’s not as big of a talking point as page speeds, but WordPress and WooCommerce have made changes to depict plugin compatibility. The more plugins you have, the greater risk you run that activating one may negatively affect another or your theme.

If you plan on scaling your website as your business grows, take a hard look at your plugins now

Take a free plugin that adds pricing functionality. It’s free for the first product. Anything beyond one product requires a paid version. Are you able to pay for that version? Do you need all of the extra features that may come with it? Is it replacing the free plugin or adding an entirely new one?

Who’s vulnerable? Don’t open your website up to attack

Week after week we learn about serious plugin vulnerabilities. Whether it’s cross-site scripting, zero day, SQL injection or something else horrible, the popularity of WordPress plugins makes them a prime target. Divi just announced an update that patches a privilege escalation vulnerability.

We often don’t have the time or expertise to review someone else’s code. If we did, we might be better off building what we needed ourselves. But we can at least review the changelogs to get a sense of the frequency of updates and whether the developer(s) tackle security-related issues.  For many reasons, avoid plugins that haven’t been updated in several major WordPress releases.

Under the hood – how many plugins are too many?

We have 18 active plugins on our site. Our clients, typically small businesses, will have fewer than 5. Most small-business websites that are purely informational shouldn’t have more than 5. The number is arbitrary, admittedly, but if you are working with a threshold, you might be less likely to add plugins willy-nilly. Integrating ecommerce usually increases that number by up to 5.

So go forth in the knowledge that plugins may offer cool features, but they come with risks. For more planning tips, check out our Imagine Images.