WordPress Plugins: Quality over Quantity

WordPress Plugins: Quality over Quantity
  1. Why Website Speed is Important
  2. How to Check & Monitor Your Website Speed
  3. How Websites Slowdown
  4. Optimizing Static Vs Dynamic Sites
  5. How Hosting Affects Your Website Speed
  6. Server Location Matters More Than You Think for Website Speed
  7. Optimize Images
  8. Why You Should Always Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  9. Offload Audio & Video Files
  10. Lazy Websites are Fast Websites
  11. Yes, Your Theme Can Affect Site Speed
  12. WordPress Plugins: Quality over Quantity

When I worked at Nexcess we had a 15-day performance challenge. You would submit your site & admin credentials. We’d take your site and optimize it for you on Nexcess servers and then show you the results. This was a fantastic program because we'd almost always convert the user into a customer. It also helped us understand our customers & where they often get stuck while speeding up their site.

Multiple Plugins Cover Same Needs

While doing these performance challenges we learned a lot. One of the surprising things we saw was how often we saw multiple plugins covering the same need. For example, we’d see Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, & Ninja Forms all on the same site.

Or we’d see multiple SEO plugins, or probably the worst example is multiple caching plugins which is sort of like zipping up and already zipped up file. 🤨

And the reason this happens is that websites are constantly evolving. They’re always being edited, updated, and improved. So even if you launch a website with 1 contact form plugin eventually someone might add a 2nd plugin to handle an edge case or they didn't bother looking for an existing plugin.

The first thing you should do is remove any plugins with duplicate functionality. This will reduce the number of requests for various files like CSS files for styling the form.

And then once a user loads a CSS file for one form – it will be cached and used with other contact forms which reduces the demand on subsequent page loads.

Remove Unused Plugins & Update the Rest

The second thing you should do is remove any plugins that are disabled. They likely aren’t slowing down your site but it’s a good practice to remove unused plugins and will give you a little more space on your webserver.

And if you have any plugins that are not updated – update them immediately. It’s good for security and oftentimes plugins will have large updates focused on speed & performance so you could be missing out on a speed boost just for keeping things updated.

Use Quality Plugins

We’re going to talk briefly about finding high-quality plugins because if you find a high-quality plugin is very likely going to be efficient & speedy.

And when you’re on WordPress.org you want to look for a high star rating, lots of ratings, a high number of activate installations, & tested against recent versions of WordPress. Just doing this little bit of research and only using 4-stars or higher plugins that have good reviews & good support will very likely mean that they’re efficient & fast.

You'll also want to review how good they are in the support forums. On the Yoast SEO plugin page we can see they answer a lot of questions on the support forums. They're in touch with their community and will be able to solve anything should it go wrong.

WordPress plugin support forum
Yoast SEO has fantastic review & they're very engaged on the support forum

Qualities in Plugins

If you're using a high quality plugin it's likely speedy & efficient. But you can do a little more if you want to find the most efficient plugins.

You want to make sure that plugins only load scripts & styles on page where they’re active. So if you have a contact form and it’s only visible on the contact page make sure the scripts & styles only load on that page

And you can run speed tests on pages to see how much load they add. 

Now if you are using a high quality plugin and it adds let's say .5 seconds to the load time – which is a lot for one plugin – if your site is generally fast and a contact page is a little slower that’s probably okay.

Plugins That Need to Load on Every Page

There are some plugins that do need to load on every page. As an example, WooCommerce loads the cart JavaScript files on every page.

If you need one of these plugins you can look for plugins or techniques which restrict what pages these scripts & styles will load.

As an example for WooCommerce there’s already a plugin called Disable Cart Fragments. You could install this and remove some of those performance issues.

There’s also PerfMatters which is a general performance plugin that includes the functionality above. You can choose exactly what styles & scripts load on each page. This is time-consuming & if you exclude a script on a necessary page you could break the functionality so be cautious using plugins like these.

To Recap

  • Don’t use multiple plugins for the same purpose – ex. Contact forms, SEO plugins, Caching plugins, newsletter plugins, map plugins, etc.
  • Do delete unused plugins & update plugins regularly
  • The best way to find high quality plugins is to use the reviews & star ratings on WordPress.org
  • Try to find plugins that only load assets on pages they’re used
  • For plugins that need to load assets on every page, you can find plugins that adjust this functionality, use general performance plugins that can limit other plugins, or you can custom code your own solutions.

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