How to Solve the WordPress Plugin Paradox

If there’s a feature that you need to add to your website, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find a WordPress plugin that does exactly what you need.

Unfortunately, the abundance of plugins leads to a common problem. For any feature you’d like to add to your website, it sometimes seems like there are a dozen plugins that offer the same functionality.

Each plugin is a bit different, of course. Every plugin has different settings and options, and requires a different level of integration and tweaking to work with your theme.

This leads to a common situation where WordPress users end up trying out multiple plugins, testing each to determine which one best meets their needs.

The fact that it’s so easy to install and activate plugins makes this sort of testing easy.

Dangerously easy.

As you cycle through a long list of available plugins trying to figure out which one works best on your site, there’s a good chance you’ll leave a slew of unused plugins installed on your site.

Those unused plugins pose some very real risks that can have a negative impact on your website:

  • Plugins that aren’t updated regularly may break when a new version of WordPress is installed. The last thing you want to do is put off updating WordPress because of an old plugin.
  • Similarly, outdated plugins can actually break a WordPress update, leading to the dreaded White Screen of Death (that’s when you update WordPress, but instead of seeing your website, you see only a white page with no text — “scary” doesn’t begins to describe the experience).
  • Plugins can create security risks. Every bit of code you add to your website becomes a potential opening for hackers.
  • Some plugins can make your site sloooow. Slow sites lead to unhappy users who quickly leave for another destination.

When you look at it this way, plugins might seem like a bad idea — but they don’t have to be.

Follow these general rules to avoid the plugin paradox, and ensure that you have a fast and secure WordPress website:

  1. Only use plugins that you actually need. Take a look at the list of plugins installed on your WordPress site. Do you really need every plugin you’ve installed? There’s a very good chance that you’ll find a couple that aren’t really doing much for your site.
  2. Deactivate plugins that you aren’t using. It’s not uncommon to start with one plugin, then switch to another plugin that might offer better functionality. Before you activate the new plugin, be sure to deactivate the old plugin — avoiding potential conflicts that could crash your site, or generally slow things down.
  3. Uninstall (as in completely remove) plugins you haven’t used in at least 30 days. 30 days is a reasonable period of time to determine whether or not you’ll need an inactive plugin. If you haven’t used a plugin in the last 30 days, then your site is running just fine without it.

By now you may be filing this advice under “easier said than done.”

On the contrary, it’s actually easier to take control of your plugins than it is to deal with the out of control mess that your plugin screen will turn into if you don’t take action.

The secret to taking control of your WordPress plugins? Keep a plugin inventory.

It’s not as complicated as it may sound. The plugin inventory is a simple worksheet you update whenever you install or deactivate a WordPress plugin.

The plugin inventory ensures that you’ll never find yourself scratching your head, wondering “what happens if I deactivate this plugin?”

Or facing the White Screen of Death after your next WordPress update.

Download the plugin inventory template and watch this screencast for instructions on how to use the worksheet.

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5 thoughts on “How to Solve the WordPress Plugin Paradox”

  1. Thanks so much for this video. I heard in the past that plugins, by nature, pose some kind of danger but your explanation clears the fog. Keep up the good work!

  2. Marco, happy to hear your finding these tutorials useful. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Would never have known all this about plugins! Like Marco, I knew only that they could cause problems. Love the idea of an inventory to supplement memory and will definitely create one now; then, head over to our site and do some plugin housecleaning.

    Thank you,

    Linda

  4. Question: if a forms plugin is deactivated and the forms on the site page it’s on still work, can I delete it? Got nervous re. a form plugin (inactive for months) because clicking Delete brought up a long list of files that would be removed along with the plugin. No rush: will hold off on doing anything until you have time to respond – and Christmas is coming!

    Linda

  5. Hi Linda,

    If the form plugin has been turned off you won’t lose any functionality by removing it. However, you may lose some data if the plugin is saving data to the WordPress database. Deleting a plugin should remove all related data.

    I would activate the plugin one last time and take a look around the WordPress admin to see if there’s any data you might want to download before deleting.

    Happy holidays!

    kb

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