Are Plugins Destroying Your Blog?

Today, I thought we’d cover a topic which I have had a fair amount of experience in recently.

Firstly, a quick intro…

The advent of plugins was no doubt an absolutely fantastic thing for all kinds of web software, blogs included.  Many companies that offer web software, such as blogs (for example WordPress) have set up galleries where people can offer the plugins that they develop for free or for a certain, usually small fee.

Plugins are great for many reasons but two of the main ones are:

  • They allow people with no or minimal technical background to enhance their web software / blog with a few easy to follow steps (many now include an autoinstaller).  
  • They allow people with technical knowledge but without the necessary pre-requisite time to upgrade and enhance the features of their web software / blog.

However, as with many things in the world of computing,  when there is an upside, there is also a downside.

What’s the issue?

While a certain amount of carefully selected plugins that provide much needed or desired features can massively boost your blog, the overabundance of useless plugins can not only frustrate the user but also distract and detract from the real content of your site.  What you may think is cool, may be totally ‘uncool’ for your visitors.

Feeling the pain of dial up all over again?…

The main thing that we have to remember when adding plugins is they each individually add a bit more weight to a site – that is, they have an impact on performance.  The technical among us will no doubt know this already due to the simple computing equation that more code = more load.  (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it! – Don’t worry I won’t give up the day job! ;)).

Due to the easy auto installer process of many plugins (due to software now including plugin managers, auto installers / updaters etc) it can be very easy to forget just how much code we are actually adding to our website.

On modern computers, slow loading pages should be a thing of the past.  Unless there is a genuine reason for them being slow to load – i.e. they contain a large video file or something similar.  But there’s probably no good reason for a webpage (even a webpage that uses fancy features, scripts, basic multimedia) to be loading slowly.  In this day and age of broadband (in some cases fibre optic) and modern browsers as well as computers, most of the web should be running silky smooth, the vast majority of the time for most users.

If your blog is running slowly, the first thing I would suggest you check is the plugins – specifically the number of them that you are using.  Many plugins are plainly just not useful or required.  Even once useful plugins fall into disrepair, outlive their usefulness and get superseded by another great plugin – but rarely are these old plugins deactivated, let alone removed.

If your blog is running slowly, I would imagine that you are using 10+ plugins.  If you are using 10+ plugins, now might be the time for that spring clean that you never had at the beginning of the year.

Ask yourself some important questions:

  • Is it useful?
  • Does anyone use it?
  • Is it current and up to date?
  • Does it add desirable features and functionality to the blog?
  • Does it enhance the content of my blog?

Ask yourself the questions above for each plugin on your list.  If you answer ‘no’ to any of the above questions, deactivate and remove that plugin – it is not required.

Don’t reminisce about the good times you had together or how fantastic it used to be – just deactivate, delete and forget.  Rinse and repeat as required.

One caveat that I should probably add as an addition as well is – if something is there because it ‘looks good’ or because it improves the ‘look and feel’ of the website then chances are it doesn’t.  Deactivate and delete.  Unless you’re a graphic designer or design consultant it’s probably not going to be giving you or your blog any benefit.

Remember how ‘cool’ marquees and blinking text used to be? (allegedly).  I rest my case.

Did I land in the right place?

Hopefully, I’m heading to your blog for your content.  We’ll assume this as fact for now.  Click, click, type, click and I’m at your blog.  Your baking blog.  There’s 150 plugins.

At this point, I’m wondering whether I’m going to find out how to make my sponge rise perfectly or which one of these hundreds of plugins actually deserves a place on the website.  Unless you’re a plugin gallery or a closely related website then clean out the plugins.  Use enough to enhance the blog suitably but don’t overpower your content and your readers with unnecessary, non functional plugins.

If you’ve got a baking blog and there’s more plugins that recipes or more plugins that pictures of nicely formed cheesecake then there are serious issues that need resolving now.

Can you smell a rotting carcass somewhere?

OK, most dog owners will have had their furry pooch hide a bit of meat behind a cushion or under their bed from time to time.  The web equivalent of this is allowing a rotting, decaying plugin to continue to have pride of place on your blog.

After a plugin has outlived its natural usefulness and / or is no longer being supported or updated by the developer, remove it.  If it was a useful plugin that adds a lot to your blog, chances are some other developer has made a new plugin to replace that functionality (as it will be in high demand, if it truly is useful – 99% of the time at least anyway).

Don’t leave mouldy plugins on your blog.  Not only are the unsightly (and reportedly smell bad), they are also a nice back door into your otherwise secure blog for anyone looking for a laugh at your expense.

To conclude…

Plugins are nice and useful and can add a lot to your blog / website.  But the correct usage of them is essential both for the sanity of your users and for the security and maintenance of your website.

If you’re feeling a slow down on your blog, chances are your visitors are too.  Not only does it take more time for you to maintain, it takes longer for them to get access to what they want (and if it’s really bad, they could stop visiting all together).  If this is the case, do you, your website and your visitors a favour and give your website a plugin MOT test to check that its fit for purpose.

Happy blogging! :).

Image: solofotones.

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