Written by Beth Downey

I own and maintain two personal websites – one that dates back to when I worked solely as a graphic designer for print. It showcases the work I completed at the time. The other is the one you’re reading now. Both operate with plugins that perform various operations for specific functionality, for example finessing SEO, the ability to drag and drop items to reorder on a page, or eliminate spam. Each month, I set time aside for updates to be run for plugins that give a prompt that an update is available.

This task is infinitely easier because I believe the mantra: the fewer plugins, the better. Why is this?

  1. Plugins can break things
  2. Plugins are not always maintained
  3. Plugins can conflict with one another

Plugins can break things

At a former job, part of my monthly tasks was to update the plugins on every website we maintained. It was a slog, but it was a necessary slog. Twenty some-odd websites with little orange circles with numbers in them stared at me to make them shiny and new. One website in particular had a specific plugin that broke EVERY SINGLE TIME when WordPress Core was updated. And what broke was a map of the states in which resources of the company were active. Did I mention the map was on the home page? In this case, the plugin was necessary and we had procedures in place to fix the break in a rapid fashion.

Plugins are not always maintained

Behind every plugin is the author. Plugin creators are regular folks like you and me. And that’s scary, because we all, at some point drop the ball because we’re human. One of the most useful plugins I employ when writing code is What Template Am I Using. Its author and I live in the same city. He’s relatively young and looks healthy. And this code does what it needs to do without being maintained. And if it breaks, I can send him a message to alert him. Whether he maintains this plugin doesn’t matter much if at all. Other plugins, on the other hand, are more complex with far more lines of code that need to be updated. Plugin authors are people and people get sick, switch careers, or die. And the plugin they wrote is left behind, possibly becoming more and more insecure to hackers as time passes. And this leaves your website insecure or breaks things.

Plugins can conflict with one another

Just like siblings squabbling in the backseat of a car on a road trip, plugins don’t always get along. And the more plugins you use, the more chance you have of a conflict arising. Sometimes you can’t help but have more plugins than you’d like – in this case, you can check for plugin conflicts before they happen.

In a perfect world, we’d have happy plugins that are maintained and work perfectly by themselves or with others. But like people, they have their own personalities, agendas and squabbles. Keeping plugins to a minimum can offset the likelihood of these problems.