WordPress is an amazing platform that seems to just keep growing in popularity. Recent stats have shown that approximately a fifth of all new websites are launched using the WordPress platform.
There are really two big reasons why WordPress has become so popular.
The first reason is that publishing content is more important than ever in terms of business results. It can help you gain search rankings, social media standing, etc.
The other reason is that WordPress allows non-coders to add a lot of functionality to their websites through plugins. There is a huge community of coders that provide the tools for people to add a lot of bells and whistles to their websites with just a few clicks.
It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of adding more and more functionality through new plugins to a website. However, it might be doing you more harm than you might think.
The Dilemma With WordPress Plugins
The issue with adding new plugins to what is usually an already-cluttered plugin directory is that you are adding yet another resource-hog.
Plugins don’t always run seamlessly and often eat up more resources than they are worth.
Part of the reason for this is that the plugins are often coded “in a vacuum.” Coders create the plugins not taking into account how they might interact with certain WordPress themes. And they can’t take this into account. There are way too many options and variables to take into account.
So even if the plugin works as it should in terms of functionality, the code itself might not get along as smoothly as it should with the theme you are running on your website.
In general, it’s always better to code a function directly into your website. But that’s not an option for most people. Most people prefer to install plugins. But when these plugins don’t behave optimally, the way that they should behave, it can cause serious problems in terms of site performance (read: site load time).
The Importance Of Site Speed
Site speed is a huge issue; a much bigger issue than most people think.
The speed of your website greatly affects the user experience of a visitor. And user experience is a big deal – especially when your website is serving a business purpose.
Recognizing that user experience is important, and that people have a shorter attention span than ever, Google has now made site speed an SEO factor.
In other words, having a slow-loading website can actually hurt your search rankings.
When you take this into account, it becomes clear that people should be much more discriminating about what plugins they choose to install on their websites.
Getting rid of the resource-hogging plugins can often take seconds off your page load time (a big deal!). So how do you know of your plugins are the ones causing the trouble?
Figuring Out Which Plugins To Get Rid Of
Ironically, the best and quickest way to figure out which plugins are the ones slowing you down is to install another plugin.
Namely, you need to install the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) plugin.
This plugin allows you to scan your existing plugin directory to see how much time each plugin adds to your page load time.
Here is how it works…
Installing The P3 Plugin
The P3 plugin can be installed the same way you would any other plugin.
In your WordPress backend, simply go to “Add New” under the “Plugins” tab and search for “P3”:
The first result will be the plugin you need:
Click “Install Now” and then “Activate.”
You are ready to scan and analyze your plugin performance…
Running Your Scan
Once you have activated the P3 plugin, you can run a scan out of the “Tools” menu:
You will be taken to the plugin homepage, where you can simply initialize your first scan by clicking “Start Scan.”
The result of the plugins scan will look something like this:
Understanding Your Results
There are a few very insightful details that you can take away from a performance scan such as the one pictured above.
The “Total Plugins” number is pretty self-explanatory. That is the number of plugins you have installed and running on your WordPress site.
But the rest of the numbers is where things get interesting.
The next one after the plugin count is “Plugin Load Time.” This is a very important number. It tells you how much time it takes to load the plugins on your website.
In the example above, the Plugin Load Time is 1.337 seconds. This may not seem like a lot. But in reality, you want to keep your entire page load time less than that. And this is the time just to load the plugins.
The next stat shows the “Plugin Impact” of your page load time. In the example it shows 54.3%. That means that a little more than half of the time it takes to load your website is dedicated to loading plugins.
This is an interesting number to look at. But you can’t really base any decisions strictly on this percentage. Your plugin impact could be much higher and you can still have a much faster page load time. So don’t put too much weight on this number.
The “MySQL Queries” stat does matter, however. This number is a bit technical. But you can just look at it as the amount of strain it is putting on the database that holds your WordPress site together. You want to keep that number as low as possible. And 73 MySQL Queries per site visit is a lot!
And finally, the thing that is really going to help you make your decision is the pie chart:
The chart breaks down the plugin load time by plugin. And when you scroll over each section of the chart, it will show which plugin you are specifically looking at and what percentage of the Plugin Load Time it contributes.
In the image above, you can see that the “Ultimate Tinymce” plugin makes up 14% of the Plugin Load Time for this site. That’s pretty significant. And if you were making a decision to improve page load times for this site, this particular plugin might be a prime candidate to be cut out of the mix.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line when it comes to WordPress Plugins is that they are give-and-take.
WordPress plugins can certainly add a lot of functionality to your website. But they also eat up a lot of your resources that can actually degrade the user experience.
If it gets bad enough, visitors may get annoyed with your website and not stick around. Search engines notice this and will penalize you as well.
So in the end, you have to weigh out your options and consider just how necessary some of the plugins that you have installed really are.
Are they worth slowing down your site for? Do they improve user experience and functionality or make things worse by slowing down your site? Are there better alternatives?
Run an analysis of the plugins you currently use. You just might change the way you think about some of them.
Eugene Farber (@EugeneFarber) is a writer, entrepreneur and founder of Content Strategy Hub. You can get his updates, as well as instant access to “The Marketing Toolbox”, by clicking here.