In this episode Chelsea and James talk about WordPress plug ins and the dangers of overdoing it!
Podcast WordPress Plugins
On today’s episode, we’ll be talking about the overuse of plugins on your WordPress website and how this can have a detrimental effect on your site.
So today’s main topic is going to be about WordPress plugins. Anybody with a WordPress website, I can absolutely guarantee is using some plugins of some kind. Even when you instal WordPress as a brand new system, you’ve never put anything into it, it actually comes with two plugins that are incredibly random, one of which is called Hello Dolly, which literally just prints hello dolly on your screen for no reason at all. plugins in WordPress, add functionality to the core system without you having to pay a developer to make it that’s fundamentally their purpose. Because WordPress is a community supported sort of CMS system. There’s also lots of third party providers that make plugins for the system, and they sell those plugins to do certain jobs. So to give you an idea, WordPress has got a number of plugins that handle e commerce including the main one which is called WooCommerce. On top of that WooCommerce plugin, there are different additional plugins which then handle things like the payment gateway. So for example, if somebody is WordPress website needs to connect up to stripe as a payment provider or Sage Pay or well pay. That functionality is achieved by adding in additional plugins to the website. So you can quickly see why one website, we add an E commerce plugin and then adding in payment gateway plugins, or you’re already at three, for example, then there’s probably an SEO plugin, and then there’ll be a firewall plugin. And very quickly, you can get sort of five to 10 on a very basic website without requiring really any other functionality. And one of the risks of this is that for every plugin that’s added to a WordPress website, the website’s performance and speed takes a small hit. And every time a page loads, it’s loading code in from everything that’s been plugged into that website. So if, as we all should be nowadays, we are focusing on making websites fast and responsive and working well for the user. If we were sort of dragging the website down with over heavy numbers of plugins that are loading too much code in every time the page loads, it’s all going to add up to to small, small droplet effects to actually make that website not perform as well as it should do. Now, there’s trade offs with this plugins out there for a reason, and mainly that they save money on paying developers. So quite often, we get clients coming to us saying I’d like this function in the website, if we were actually going to charge the developer rate to build that function into the website’s theme, which we can do, we would normally find it’s 1020 30 times more than it would cost to buy a plugin that has been developed and sold by one developer, one person, but sold multiple times. So they get their cost back in that way. So there is that trade off. Yeah, it is quicker to build the functionality in in terms of making the site run faster. However, the benefits of that are not outweighed necessarily by the cost of getting the developer or the agency to build that. So as an agency, we do often suggest plugins that achieve certain business goals for clients. And just because the cost of us developing it would be too much. But we have to be really conscious about the number of plugins that we’re using on client websites. And the other thing that we see actually is where clients instal plugins themselves. WordPress actually makes it really easy to instal plugins. It’s got a whole plugin library built right into it. So we’ll often see clients who instal plugins after we’ve built websites, and we’ll come back to it a little while later, or when we do some updates on every month. And we’ll go okay, what are these plugins doing? And it turns out that actually, the client themselves have added a lot of plugins after the site has gone live as well. And then we sometimes have to go back and keep an eye on what they’re doing. And one of the other big issues of plugins is actually that the developer keeps them up to date as well. So because WordPress updates itself so frequently, about every 40 days, the plugins also need to keep up with that. Because if WordPress has updated, something that then the plugin developer hasn’t updated is quite likely that these are broken sometimes. So we commonly come across at least a couple of times a week, plugins that have been either abandoned by the developer or not updated in line with WordPress itself. So when we’re picking plugins for sites to do certain functionality, we tend to only use plugins from developers that have a track record of keeping up to date with the WordPress updates themselves. This means that we can prevent issues before they happen with our clients. We know we’re using plugins from trusted sources. And we’re just minimising technical problems that are going to happen further down the line.
That’s really interesting. So say someone has a plug in on their website, and then the developer has just not bothered updating it or and they’ve kind of scrapped that project, how would we go about making sure that the client’s website is still okay, and they still get the function that they need from that plug in that they originally had installed, but to the, to the rate that they need it so that their website now works effectively?
Some simple answer that is sometimes you can’t solve that problem. If the plugin developer is disappeared, or gone out of business, or just doesn’t want to maintain it anymore, actually, sometimes that’s the only plugin that does that job for that client, then it’s sometimes it’s a real challenge. And it can sometimes prevent the client from being able to update their version of WordPress, if that plugin is so business critical that they can’t get away from it. But on the other hand, yes, sometimes there are plugins that multiple plugins that do the same job, and then we can maybe suggest an alternative one that would do the same business goal, but from a from a different developer. Some plugins are paid plugins, and some are free, you typically see these problems with free plugins. And the paid ones is more incentive for the developers to actually keep them up to date. Normally, they come with a small annual fee of some something like 20 to $50 a year. And that covers them for support on the plug in, and also the sort of updates that the developer would do throughout the year. And we do sometimes see clients where the some agency in the past had bought the plug in, it never got renewed. And so we have to sort of get involved buy a new copy of it. But yeah, it’s really important to keep a good list of the plugins that are in use on our website, how much the annual cost are, make sure that there’s accurate billing details held for that, just to make sure that there’s no loss in service and especially if they’re business critical ones that sort of do key integration work with websites. It’s very, very easy to to let this slip. But yeah, so we we see common plugin problems all the time, really. But I think, yeah, nothing really outweighs the issue of how many plugins are in use, to be honest.
So what’s the most amount of plugins that you’ve ever seen on one website?
Simply 147. So we actually took over a client’s website about 18 months ago, where they came to us with a lot of problems around site speed, and they literally could not solve the issues around a sort of the site and running slowly. We thought, okay, standard WordPress website, we’ll have a look into it. We’re pretty good at knowing how to solve this. And it turns out, there was 147, individual active plugins on that website, which in reality means is 147 items of third party code being loaded in every single time that website runs. And we managed to get it down by about 30. Well, we found plugins that did multiple jobs. But that was still an enormous amount of add on software to one website. And actually, when you’ve got that many items of third party software, they’ve all been written by potentially 100 different developers, it is very, very difficult to get everything consistently running, because it’s just not likely to ever be a problem that can be fixed. And this was a great example of where a client had been adding functionality and adding and adding, adding, just because they kept coming across things that were quite a nice to have, rather than really thinking about building this stuff into the actual theme itself, which in the long run would have been better. But obviously, to save developer costs, adding plugins was the essentially the free way of doing it. But then it created this site speed problem. So you sometimes can’t have it both ways. And having too many plugins is always a bad idea.
So what are some of the best plugins and that you’ve come across, especially to help clients with some of their business goals.
So there’s quite a few that we commonly use, we often use the Yoast SEO plugin, which we talked about on another podcast episode. We always use a software firewall. And we always use a plug in to handle contact forms and the storing of submissions. We’ve actually built our own GDPR plugin, which handles the all the legal requirements around GDPR compliance in terms of cookie policies and things like that. And the one that we actually use most extensively is one called advanced custom fields, which lets us make much more comprehensive admins for clients because it means that everything that we that you see on a website for every bit of content so if it’s text, if it’s an image, if it’s a drop down list, anything like that, it means we can use this feel this plugin to actually bring those fields into the admin pages. Have the website. And this then gives the client much more ability to edit it themselves. So that’s probably the most common plugin that we use, actually. And I think nearly every single website that we built is built with that as a framework. But yeah, we we try and keep ourselves between five and 10. Really, in depends if it’s an e commerce website, brochure, website, or any other kind of website, really, we have some websites where there’s a lot of custom integration with third party systems, for example, sort of Salesforce, or HubSpot, or other SEO or other sort of third party CRM based platforms, where the number of plugins can increase a little bit, but we really do focus on try and keep it to a minimum because we we are always trying to get a high score on that Google PageSpeed.
Thank you for your time, James. So the key takeaways and for clients from this podcast episode RM don’t have too many plugins on your website. Otherwise, it will make the your page speed load really, really slow. be really mindful of them weighing the cost benefit of having it built into your theme or just having a plugin to make it quicker and save on agency costs. And weigh this up in terms of long term strategy and if it’s something that we’ll be using quite frequently, and also just bear in mind how trustworthy the sources are that you’re getting your blogging plugins from. So yeah, if you have any questions about plugins or how you can optimise your website, effectively get in touch with us at Hello at SU marketing.com