Keep the Plugin Count Low and Focus on What Matters


Can you keep it under 10?

One of the things that I’ve mentioned a number of times already is the point that it’s better to have less WordPress plugins than more. The point generally is that this is a speed issue – meaning, the less plugins you have the more fast your blog will load, generally speaking.

I have historically mentioned that 10-15 plugins is probably ok but I caution anything more than that outside of explicit strategic uses. Even I break this rule sometimes if a blog requires a few features that I don’t have time to build in myself.

What most online publishers fail to do is to ask whether or not they really need those plugins for their readers’ most optimal experience. What I’ve discovered is that most bloggers have a handful of plugins installed that they never use or that have an extremely low point of value for themselves or their audience.

What I’m digging a lot about Standard 3 is the fact that this particular WordPress Theme cuts out a lot of the so-called fat in terms of plugin bloat. The design forces you to think critically about what you’re presenting to your readers and you realize that everything that you’re showing your readers consistently isn’t all that necessary.

In a recent workshop I shared a few thoughts about this and how the internet has shifted towards this aesthetic over the last few years – more people are interested in the content and much less interested in the actual design aesthetic.

Just take a look at many of the more popular blogs out there – the design (but not creativity in UI/UX) is very minimal in nature, just showcasing the content first and foremost. I remember earlier in my blogging career where the design-layer mattered a whole lot more, but this isn’t the case anymore.

I believe this to be true 100% – heck, the many readers that come to this part of the blogosphere to read my thoughts are certainly not coming back for the design, right? I’m done with trying to impress people with that part of the experience – everyone gets so tired of the “new coat of paint” that it’s just not worth the investment!

The point is that it’s a good time to review not just your design layer but also the chassis it’s sitting on as well – the WordPress Theme that you’re using and the amount of plugins that you’ve activated. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the design all that necessary?
  • If I had to spend money (and time) on design, how much would it really increase my readership and traffic?
  • Is this (these) plugin absolutely necessary and core to my user experience?
  • How effective is this (these) plugin really being for development of my readership and brand?
  • What is it that I wish my WordPress Theme did for me instead of having to research and/or evaluate infinite number of WordPress plugins?

Just a little food (and activity) for thought this casual Tuesday morning.

[Learn more about Standard 3 via my Series here or go there directly!]

  • Japh

    Interesting post! I’m inclined to agree from an aesthetic point of view, but I think “plugin count” is a bit of a red herring.

    Coincidentally, I just published an article on Wptuts+ explaining that plugin count is really not at all a factor in performance.

    I understand that count may be a simple measurement to communicate to people, but quality is the real issue, and perpetuating the myth that “mo’ plugins = mo’ problems” could do more harm than good.

    • John Saddington

      plugin count assumes that the typical user is using poorly constructed plugins and that they are using too many. the average user is also on a shared hosting environment as well.

      i wouldn’t say it’s a red herring at all when you take into account the much larger and more typical user base.

      you’re not a typical user since you have a unique background. my blog is geared toward more novice users.

      love the thoughts as i think they illuminate the quality argument again!

      • Japh

        Good points, John. I guess I feel it’s important to qualify. You’re right though, and in the average environment the higher the number of plugins, the more chance for some of them to be poorly written.

        I guess all of this really highlights how difficult it is at the moment for an average user to determine what is or isn’t a good quality plugin!

    • Chris Wiegman

      Darn good points Japh. I would rather see a client with 50 well maintained plugins then 5 plugins and a lot of template code they will never get updated. On the other side, John is right in that one really needs to make sure the features present are those that best serve the users. Unfortunately, in my experience however, clients want what they want and aren’t interested in removing features they like.

      • Japh

        Absolutely, Chris. Keeping things tidy and tight makes a difference. No sense having features that make your site unwieldy (on either the front end or in the admin).

  • Clay Morgan

    I remember your post where you said 10-15 range was probably okay. I’ve been holding at 11 since launching new site with Standard 3. It helps that so much is already built in there.

    • Christopher Rice

      What 11 are you using, Clay?

    • Nathan Grey

      I must admit that I am curious what 11 you are using as well. Right now I am up to 4. There are some more features that I am looking for and will probably add plugins for them (mainly image handling). Overall I am very satisfied with Standard 3.

  • Jeremy Myers

    John, Don’t you hard-code in some features to your blog that most of us can only get through a plugin because we don’t have mad coding skills?

  • aushiker

    Whoops. Guess I have broken a few “rules” here with 17 active plugins. Time for a review me thinks :)

  • aushiker

    It would help if you shared what plugins you use … one thing I find very frustrating with Standard 3 is the lack of features documentation. Makes it much harder to work through one’s plugins and determine what can go. For example I have a number of plugins related to comments … are features such as editing comments now incorporated in Standard 3? Actually just answered my own question … if your blog is anything to go by :) That is just one example BTW.

  • Rohit

    Thanks for info.. Very useful post…

  • EzInsider

    Hi John,

    Great timing for this post as I’ve just started deleting all the unused plugins on my blog! Got a couple of things to mention on this article. Firstly, there are some plugins which should be arguably part of WP core itself in the all-singing-all-dancing version of WordPress. These are the usual suspects we end up installing almost first thing on a new blog. For example, Akismet + W3 Total Cache + Yoast SEO or any of their equally good alternatives. I see this functionality converging into core within medium-long term because they’re must-have’s for any blog.

    Secondly, with plugins (and the amount of cool plugins out there is like being in a candy store), it’s important for bloggers to distinguish between “Features” and “Funcitonality. An example of a feature would be a neat little jQuery menu that flickers all the colours of the rainbow :-) … But is it necessary? Does it add any *value* other than the aesthetic? I doubt that, in which case all we’re getting is an additional feature at the cost of additional overhead.

    Functionality would be something that actually extends the capabilities of the blog – a simple example being a plugin to serialise posts or one of the many newsletter and directory plugins. These can be justified in their overhead because they actually add the capability to do something with our blog that we couldn’t do before.

    And having said all that, no-one likes a crappy looking blog… so it’s finding the right balance between features and functionality that’s key.

    Keep the great posts coming,

  • Anthem

    Very good post. And blog, which I’m just finding. The timing of my reading this is perfect. I am about to go through a review of my site and the advice here will help lots as I go into a sort of rebranding process… Clean it up and keep it simple – yes!

  • Larry

    I like plugins that can do more then one thing as long as they are not so large that the process of uploading and updating become cumbersome. WP SlideBoss ( for example can take the place of several plugins you may already be using. By using multi use plugins you can reduce the overall number of course.

    Larry from

  • AfroSpanish

    Very true! Sometimes we use so many plugins that are unuseful and not really needed. Meaning no added value but then result to low speed. Thank you for pointing these things out