A plugin too far

About a dozen colorful wires on a large switchboard with dials and switches

How many plugins is too many for a WordPress site?

Well, there’s no real answer to that question. It depends on several rather circumstantial factors, namely:

  • The volume of business critical functionality your site needs via plugins (add-ons to core software)
  • How well coded the plugins you use are (think official Woo plugins and popular GPL-compliant WordPress.org plugins)
  • How large each plugin is (how many functions does it provide and how many of those are needed)
  • How robust your hosting is (ratio of traffic to processor cycles, and budgeting instant access to those capacities)
  • How easily you can keep your plugins up to date with the latest in performance improvements and without hassling to manage their licenses or dealing with workflow burdens
  • How standardized your theme or child theme are, since less standardized sites conflict with community standards

Whenever I launch simple sites, my goal is to use no more than ten plugins.

I also expect the client to add about five more plugins they need for analytics and small add-ons that don’t conflict with the major plugins, theme, or custom code snippets that I maintain. I prefer to keep the administrative logins down to only a couple, and to not let clients fart around on their own with essentially root access. Staff needs to use Shop Manager or Editor roles to administer the site. That prevents the wrong folks from installing plugins! Plus, it’s a great measure for security so you can be sure your administrative passwords are strong.

WooCommerce sites that exceed 25 plugins are usually too plugin-happy and their security, performance, interoperability are suffering because of it. I haven’t come across an eCommerce site yet that I couldn’t reduce to this number.

Challenge: if you could only run five plugins on a typical site, which five would you choose? Hint: WooCommerce, top payment gateway or integrated CRM, forms plugin, page builder plugin, code snippets or CSS plugin.

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