What Do Plugins Do?
Plugins add features and functionality to your WordPress website. Want to add a photo gallery? There’s a plugin for that. How about a slider? That too!
You can find a plugin for just about any functionality. Many are free. Resist the temptation to constantly add plugins to your site. Too many plugins and the wrong mix of plugins can slow performance and, more important, threaten security.
Is It Time to Check Your Plugins Out?
If you find yourself avoiding site updates because your plugins aren’t compatible and would break if run on the latest version of WordPress, it is time to review plugins. Sticking with older plugins prevents access to the latest WordPress technology and hurts your site’s performance.
A plugin check will help you better understand how your site works. Once you see exactly what your plugins do, you can identify the cause when something breaks.
Do You Even Know Your Plugins?
Many users and owners aren’t aware of all the plugins on their WordPress sites. An audit will show the plugins you have and how each affects your website. Then you can identify the plugins you can do without. The fewer the plugins on your site, the less code for hackers to target. Most WordPress security breaches occur through plugins.
Note that plugins don’t always play well with one another. They can cause problems with other plugins and can conflict with your theme or WordPress core technology. The more plugins, the higher the chance of a conflict.
How to Check Your Plugins with a Self-Audit
Tip: Before you get started, run your site through an online speed tool to see how fast it performs.
1. Create a List of All Your Plugins
List all the active and inactive plugins. To view your installed plugins, simply click on the Plugins link on the WordPress dashboard.
2. Record Information About the Plugin
Record the plugin name and URL. Find the URL by clicking the View Details link next to the plugin. You should copy the WordPress.Org Plugin Page link and the Plugin Homepage link, if listed.
3. Remove Inactive Plugins
Start by simply removing any inactive plugins. They can be security risks even if not in use.
4. Take a Closer Look at Your Active Plugins
Move on to your active plugins. If you are unsure what a plugin does, click the View Details link. After reviewing the purpose and functionality of each plugin, consider how it’s used on your site.
You need not rely on guesswork. You can deactivate the plugin to see what breaks. After you verify your assumptions, work through each page to identify other affected areas.
Tip: Deactivating plugins break things for your users. So, perform this exercise in a development environment or a local install, so it will not affect your live site.
5. Do a Final Review of Your Website
After identifying plugins you no longer need, keep them all deactivated. Then do a final review of your site to confirm that everything works as expected. If you sell products, for example, place a practice order to ensure that it goes through properly. Also, test and review any contact form or photo gallery. Something broken? Review the deactivated plugins and identify the likely missing link. Then reactivate that plugin. It’s like checking for a tripped circuit breaker in your home. Did the flipped switch solve the problem? Yes? Great. If not, find an alternative solution.
Tip: Remember to test your site on a phone or tablet as well.
Once you understand how each plugin functions, update your records with this new knowledge. This will speed up your next plugin audit. Record the specific pages or functionality each plugin adds to your site.
When To Remove Plugins
We’ve mentioned that any inactive plugin can probably be deleted. Also delete plugins that are no longer supported. Either find a different solution or install a plugin that accomplishes the same task but has the advantage of ongoing support. However, do not delete a plugin without fully understanding how it impacts your website.
How to Delete Plugins
Now that you have a new list of inactive plugins, you can delete them from your WordPress install. Choose the Inactive link at the top of the plugin page. Then select each plugin you want to remove and select Deactivate from the Bulk Actions dropdown menu.
Tip: Now run that same speed tool you used before you cleaned up your plugins. Depending on how many plugins you removed, speed and performance might increase significantly.
many plugins should your website have? That depends on the size and functionality of your site. WordPress is wonderfully versatile, in large part because of the vast array of plugins available for it. Just make sure to keep only useful plugins that add value to your WordPress website.