Can A Large Number Of Plugins Affect Your WordPress Site’s Performance?

The logical answer would be yes. I mean, with every tool, plugin, add-on or program you install, your site will theoretically load a bit slower than it did before. It’s probably a millisecond we’re talking about here, but it does matter for it to perform well.

You know that your WordPress site can’t live without plugins. WordPress websites were made to cohabit with plugins. But what’s the threshold that makes your site go down and even crash at a given moment?

This is what we’re trying to find out here by doing a few plugin experiments.

If you can’t wait to hear the results, read us further!

WordPress Was Made To Handle Unlimited Plugins

In theory, WordPress was built to handle unlimited plugins without affecting your site’s performance too much. But there are a few factors that can break this myth.

One of them is your hosting’s performance. If your hosting provider is offering small bandwidth, the myth could break here because each plugin you install will affect the speed one way or another. The hosting service will determine your site’s speed itself, so be careful what you pick in the first place.

Also, it depends on the way every plugin was coded. Some plugins can make your site crash completely because they weren’t coded properly. There were situations when installing a plugin made a WordPress site go down or display the content in weird ways. A plugin is reliable when it works correctly and it does what it was supposed to do from the beginning.

But let’s presume that you have a fast hosting, with a large memory, and the plugins you need are trustful and as they should.

What then?

Can you install countless on your site? My tests say the opposite.

Installing Plugins Until Reaching More Than 2 Seconds Of The Loading Time

Some say that the number of the plugins doesn’t really matter when it comes to your site’s functionality. At the same time, others tell the opposite. That installing too many plugins actually affected the way it responded after. So I made some tests myself to see how it goes and how my site responds to a larger flow of plugins.

I used my testing site and I kept it as simple as I could. I kept the basic things a site has in the first place: the default theme Twenty Fifteen, no posts, no pages, no customizations.

It looked somehow like this. So nothing that could influence its loading time.

WordPress just after installation!

How did I proceed?

I measured the initial speed of my blank site with Pingdom and then compared it with the times recorded after each plugin’s installation.

What Plugins Did I Install?

Before we start the comparison, I let you know that the first plugin I installed was P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler), which shows you what plugins are slowing down your site. It also gives you constant reports about the performance of a certain plugin. Its presence was indispensable as it guided me to the final results.

Then I installed a few free plugins – Revive Old Post, WP Product Review, Visualizer: Charts and Graphs and Pirate Forms. First of all, they work great and are useful for every site. And second of all, we did develop them ourselves, so I wanted to check their performance.

The next step was to browse through the WordPress’ official plugin directory and to install some of the most popular, one at a time.

This is what I randomly selected from there:

I compared my testing site with versions of itself to highlight any small difference that appeared.

Okay! So, with all these in mind, let’s do the tests and see what happens.

Blank Site Took 419ms To Load

My blank site’s loading time was 419ms at the beginning. Keep that in mind because all coming numbers will be compared with it. So no plugins installed at all and the site loads in 419ms. Fairly quickly. Let’s see what plugins can do next to change it.

Of course, the time is varying but the thing to remember is that it spins somewhere around 400ms, more or less.

Initially, I was just installing plugins without making any customizations and the times hardly changed. After starting to customize each plugin – it’s just a minimalist customization – the times became higher.

Note: I only made minimalist customizations, so imagine that you’re going to have a lot more content than I have now on my testing site. So you’ll probably meet the speed limit sooner than me.

In terms of speed, it would be amazing if your site would load within maximum 2 seconds – 2 seconds being pretty slow anyway. So I kept installing plugins and making changes until I got 2 seconds or more.

So we’re starting from around 400ms.

How Many Plugins Does It Take To Reach 2 Seconds?

After 10 plugins, the difference was not so significant – around 680ms, according to Pingdom. P3 showed a total load time of 0.6616s, which is almost the same as Pingdom’s.

After 20 plugins, I reached around 1 second of the total site load. This time, I added basic customizations to every plugin. I mean, I tried to use them somehow because it’s not enough if I just install them and keep them inactive. Still, the load time remains good, but the plugins have an 80.1% impact over the overall loading time.

WordPress after installing 20 plugins.

In the same time, even the P3’s scanning became increasingly slower.

After 27 plugins, the loading time was around 1.20s, but after I activated a couple of widgets it escalated quickly to 3.20s.

Then I activated the caching from both plugins I had installed in the first place, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache, whose function wasn’t enabled until now.

Now, having the caching active, the stats look pretty much like this:

WordPress after installing 27 plugins.

Pingdom also agrees with P3 and shows me results around 2.50s.

Achievement unlocked, so to speak!

NextGEN Gallery And Jetpack Were The Slowest.

From these 27 plugins, some have a more influential power than the others when it comes to the times they record for loading. Nextgen Gallery and Jetpack seem to be the slowest.

Note: The comparison is made just between theplugins I used to make the experiment. They’re not necessarily the slowest plugins in general.

Effected runtime by plugins.

  • NextGEN Gallery – 25%
  • Jetpack – 23%
  • Other – 18%
  • Revive Old Post – 17%
  • W3 Total Cache – 7%
  • WooCommerce – 6%
  • WordPress SEO – 4%

So plugins do affect your website’s speed. Take a look at the overall statistics.

Overall summary.

Now, It’s 27 The “Too Many” We Were Talking About?

It’s not the exact number 27, it could be more or less. But the point is that we have a landmark. Anyway, more than 30 plugins can lead to an eventual website slowness. Nobody will tell you how to organize your site, but you are probably aware that speed brings conversions, so it’s not a game. Faster sites rank on top most of the time.

Of course, it now depends on what plugins you use because some consume more bandwidth and speed than others.

This could be ironical, but try to always have P3 ready to be able to measure each plugin’s performance and load times. Each plugin has a different impact on your site so you should know how each one works. P3 is also showing you if a plugin causes any damages or issues to your site. So stay alerted!

Of course, there are a lot of methods to improve your site’s speed in so many ways.

Considering all these actions you can take to make your site faster and considering you have a good hosting provider, I think you can go with a few more plugins than I installed this time. Using 35 or 40 could be okay if you can support them properly.

A Large Number Of Plugins Won’t Affect Only The Speed

Until now, we mostly focused on a given website’s speed and how plugins influence it, but a large number of plugins can also bring other damages.

Apart from speed, there could be other issues, as important as the first.

Security and regular updates.

Some plugins are not secure, especially those that are free. They don’t usually offer support and are not updated for a long time. A plugin that is not updated can come with a lot of vulnerabilities, bugs and other related security issues that can affect your site’s functionality. They can also be easily hacked by “professionals”.

Some of them are not coded that well, which affects other plugins’ performance, your site’s displaying or other various issues that can lead to a crash at some point.

Incompatibility.

Some plugins are not compatible with others and this can lead to undesired errors. Also, if the plugin is not updated constantly, it may not be compatible with the latest WordPress versions, hence it will damage your site’s content or worse.

Find A Balance, Use Just What You Need

Now that we’ve put in balance all the main aspects related to plugins that can come with various issues on your WordPress site, you should do the same before rushing to install tons.

To make the tests, I used ones of the most popular free plugins from the official WordPress repository, which were well-ranked and recommended by most people who use WordPress regularly. So it’s not the case of a breakdown here.

Sometimes it takes just one plugin to damage your site. Sometimes it takes many more.

If you use various methods to speed up your site and you keep only lightweight plugins that don’t really have a big impact, you can easily reach 40 plugins and keep the speed under 2 seconds in the same time. But be careful about the other aspects I took into consideration – plugins can produce a couple of other damages as well.

So try to keep it as simple as possible. Don’t make abuse of plugins, use only what you really need and delete those that don’t bring too much value to your content. If possible, try to keep your plugins’ number under 30. If there’s an urgent need for more, then use them wisely and try to take into consideration all the options for speeding up the site, securing it and avoiding unwanted issues. All these solutions will make extra space for a few other plugins.

How To Solve Eventual Plugin Issues
  • Use all the possible solutions for speeding up your site. This way, you are able to make use of more plugins without influencing the load times.
  • After you install a plugin, test its performance. See what impact it has on your site and make sure it works properly. P3 does a good job here.
  • Try not to use two plugins for the same purpose. Analyze each of your already installed plugins, see what it can do and try not to install another one that does kind of the same thing. Exploit all the features of a certain plugin and see all it can do to satisfy your needs.
  • From time to time, check your plugins to see if there are not unneeded ones that you forgot about or you’re not making any use of anymore. Don’t weight your site in vain.
  • Try to update WordPress and the plugins constantly to make sure you won’t be hacked or nothing wrong will happen to your site. The old versions usually come with various vulnerabilities that can produce cracks in the functionality of the site and plugins.
Summing Up

In the end, using a certain number of plugins is a matter of choice. In general, try not to weight your site too much and keep it as simple as you can. If you have the resources to speed it up, you can use around 40 plugins without making it too slow. But, in general, 25 or 30 could help you out as well. And always consider their quality, it’s an important aspect.

How many plugins do you use on your website? Feel free to share your – happy or bad – experiences with us.

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10 Comments

  1. Great tests!
    I have been struggling with this one for quite while with my own site. I always try to research each plugin type for the best there is, because there are huge differences in plugins that serve the same goal. Take a slider for instance, if you compare Soliloquy and widely popular Slider Revolution in terms of speed, there’s only on choice to make and it’s not the latter 🙂

    • Yup, if you manage to find lightweight plugins, then you can install many of them without affecting your site’s speed and performance too much. It really depends on each plugin’s functionality too.

  2. Thanks for the effort, keep up the Great work. The thoughts you express are really awesome. Hope you will write some more posts. I got good info from your blog and saved it as a favorite. I love your blog page too, very nice colors & theme. I really appreciated with it. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Hi Jennifer! Thanks for your kind words! Appreciate it. 🙂

  3. Wow you write a great tutorial. Sometimes plugins affect wordpress site performance this disgusting. Thanks for writing a about a popular topic.

    • Thanks! 🙂

      Yes, you have to always be careful what plugins you use and how many. It’s good to make some tests before using them.

  4. It’s not the amount of plugins you have it’s what the plugins do.

    • I think it’s both. 🙂

  5. Thanks for writing a great tutorial. Sometimes plugins affect wordpress site very badly. This is really very important factor in website development.

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