When retired physicist Fred Lipschultz was asked about his inclination to hoard, he said, “I call it rubble without a cause.” More seriously, he continued, “It does pain me to throw away something that’s useful.”
Is that really a problem? To hold onto something that could be of use at a later point in time? If you own or run a WordPress website, the inner hoarder in you may not want the honest answer to that question.
WordPress Hoarders Anonymous (a self-help organization I just made up) says that plugin hoarding could be seriously detrimental to websites’ health and, consequently, the businesses behind them.
While WHA is still in its infancy, it does make a good point. WordPress plugins are awesome. Free, premium, whatever. They do really cool stuff for your website- stuff that doesn’t necessarily require the skills (or fees) of a professional developer. And there are new ones released all the time! If all it takes is a click of a button to download and activate, what’s the harm in adding just one more? Just. One. More.
Okay, okay… In all seriousness, WordPress plugin hoarding is a bad business practice. Period. You download that plugin you’re sure you’ll need at some point. Then you download another and another. They sit idly in the background, waiting for you to use them. Then you wake up six months and sixty plugins later and wonder why your site’s having problems.
That’s not to say you can’t use a number of different plugins on your website. You can. You just need to make informed decisions about which ones your site actually needs.
This Is Your WordPress Plugin Hoarding Wake-Up Call
If your inner WordPress hoarder is telling you to ignore this article and go ahead and buy or download that shiny new plugin you read about the other day, just stop and breathe. Then take a moment to read the following list of reasons why plugin hoarding may actually hurt- rather than help- your website.
Hoarding No-No #1: Jet Lag
Strangely enough, there is a WordPress plugin called the Plugin Performance Profiler (or P3, for short) whose sole purpose is to assess the weight of your plugin hoarding decisions. While it may seem silly to use a plugin to assess other plugins, this one is helpful in getting WordPress users to recognize (and hopefully cut out) the excessive plugins causing a slowdown on their website. Note that P3 hasn’t been updated in 2 years – check WP Performance Profiler as a paid alternative.
If you’re not worried about a few errant plugins sitting on your site that you’re not actively using, think again. Poorly coded plugins or even too many plugins on the WordPress backend can seriously affect your site’s loading time- and your business’s bottom line.
Hoarding No-No #2: Insecurity
WordFence took a look at website security breaches in 2016 and found that the majority of business owners were not aware of how their website was compromised. For website owners who did know the source of the breach, 55.9% of them identified the problem as stemming from their plugins.
For every plugin you download that’s:
- Poorly coded,
- Unsupported by the developer,
- Or too new to really know how well it works or how safe it is to use,
You’re opening your website up to the potential for a security breach. Can you afford the high costs associated with a compromised website?
Hoarding No-No #3: Inefficiency
One of the most common mistakes made by novice WordPress users is not paying attention to system updates. But, as any WordPress professional will tell you, these updates are necessary for keeping your site running smoothly and safely. These include updates not only to the WordPress core, but also to your plugins.
If you’re not bothered by the piles of plugins you’ve amassed on your website, you should at least be bothered by the amount of time expected of you to update each and every one of them. And this isn’t a singular event on a monthly basis. Updates need to happen every time a developer issues a security patch or upgrades the features or functionality of a plugin (which can happen at any time, for any plugin).
Hoarding No-No #4: Loss of Vision
Long before WHA made any claims against plugin hoarding, representatives from Columbia and Stanford Universities came forward with research proving that too many choices can lead to problems with dissatisfaction and overwhelm:
“Having unlimited options, then, can lead people to be more dissatisfied with the choices they make.”
Sure, all that next-level functionality seems like it would be right at home on your website, but you may be trying to do too much simply because you’re overwhelmed by all the choices. You get an image optimization plugin. Then you get a watermark plugin because you want to protect your images. Then you add a slider plugin to show off all those cool images. Then you find one that’s responsive, so you need to get that too. Once you start digging into the WordPress repository, it’s like Alice going down the rabbit hole.
Ask yourself: will this WordPress plugin actually help my website? In all fairness, there are plugins your site absolutely needs. Plugins can help you achieve really wonderful effects and functionality, but remember: they need to serve your business’s underlying vision. If a plugin doesn’t contribute to improving that vision, scrap it.
It’s easy to feel awestruck over the tens of thousands of plugins in the WordPress directory. And those are just the free ones! (Not to rub salt in the wound.)
But no matter how awesome each of those plugins seems like it might be for your website, it’s important to play it safe. As Sir Isaac Newton once said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” So let’s go with that, okay?