Are Plugins slowing Your Website?

Everyone wants a website that loads quickly and delivers a great visitor experience.

paul taubman
closeup photo of orange snail crawling down pencil on ground
Website loading at a Snail’s Pace

Everyone wants a website that loads quickly and delivers a great “visitor experience.” There are times when that does not happen – the site seems slow, or even worse it chugs along at a snail’s pace.

Not only do people not like to stay on a slow site, Google has indicated site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages.

There are many factors that go into how fast a site and a page loads. This includes aspects such as:

  • HOSTING ACCOUNT
  • NETWORK SPEED
  • TRAFFIC
  • EXTRA-LARGE IMAGES
  • TOO MANY  PLUGINS
  • Etc.

For this article we will focus on plugins and their effect on speed.

When you call your hosting support to inquire about a slow speed, one of the first things they look at is the number of plugins you have installed. While it is generally true that more plugins will slow down your website, this is only partially true.

Yes, more plugins on your website means that there is more code that a browser will have to load. This in turn can slow down the site. Chances are however, that is not the case (especially with the available internet speeds we have today).

Let me explain why this is the case. One thing you need to realize is how plugins get developed; let’s compare this to the local lawn care people in your area.

I’m sure the range goes from the local high school kid looking to make some money over the summer to the Big National Franchise, highly organized companies. Right away you can probably see a difference in the effectiveness and efficiency of these two extremes.

The student might have a mower and he only cuts the lawn. On the other hand, the company may have several employees show up and have all the sophisticated lawn care tools. They may mow the lawn, blow the stray grass, edge the sides, remove the clippings, weed- whack near shrubs, etc.

Not only are they doing more, they can do this faster than the lonely student with a push mower.

The same is true with plugin developers. Plugin programmers run the gamut from new and learning to highly experienced. Some are just starting out and learning while others have years of experience.

With such a broad experience range comes plugins that are created in various states of efficiency. Some plugins are not as effective as others simply because the developer does not have the knowledge or expertise which someone with more experience might have.

Think about if you were to write a plugin to bring in your groceries from your car. The task at hand is to bring in all the bags of groceries from your car into the kitchen. The inexperienced plugin developer may write the code that does the following:

  1. Go to the car.
  2. Get a bag of groceries.
  3. Bring it inside into the kitchen.

If there are twenty bags, this happens twenty times. That is twenty trips to the car, and twenty trips back inside.

Now, the experienced programmer might do something similar, and might do things more efficiently:

  1. Go to the car.
  2. Get 2 bags of groceries per hand.
  3. Bring them inside into the kitchen.

The experienced programmer just cut the twenty round trips into five!

The real question is not “How many plugins are installed?” rather it is, “How effective are the plugins that are installed?”

Now the question becomes, “How do I know if a plugin is written well?” The easiest way is to look at the code and see how tight, efficient, and clean it is.

Unfortunately, that is probably not helpful to most people since you don’t have that skillset. The next best thing is to do your own testing of the plugin.

You can see how quickly your site loads at sites like tools.pingdom.com, gtmetrix.com, and even Google’s own page at developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/ .

Before you install a plugin, you should do a few speed tests and get an average of the loading time. Then, install and activate the plugin, and rerun the speed tests. Do you see a significant increase in the time? If so, you may want to look for another plugin.

One other option you can do is to install the P3 plugin (Plugin Performance Profiler) from https://wordpress.org/plugins/p3-profiler/. The description of the plugin (as stated on the page) is:

This plugin creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time.  Often times, WordPress sites load slowly because of poorly configured plugins or because there are so many of them. By using the P3 plugin, you can narrow down anything causing slowness on your site.

wordpress

When the plugin is installed, activated, and run, you can get a relative idea of which plugins take longer than others. The key term here is “relative”.

Each plugin will show a percentage of time used. This does not necessarily mean the “slowest” should be removed. Would you get rid of the 6th place Olympic runner because she was too slow? Probably not…again, it is all relative.

Through this type of testing, you can determine if a plugin is going to going to slow down your site or not!

Paul Taubman

Paul is an international Speaker, Presenter, and Trainer focusing on websites and online strategy. Working full time as an online business owner, Paul speaks internationally, and teaches businesses and individuals how to make more money with their websites. Your stress levels will melt away after working with Paul as you take control of your website and turn it into a profit machine.

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