WordPress is one of the most widely used off-the-shelf solutions for quickly setting up a fully functional website. One of the main reasons for this popularity is the plugin system, which allows the base software to extend its capabilities in thousands of ways. From image galleries to e-commerce to social media integration, there’s likely to be a plugin available to suit your needs, moving WordPress far away from its origins as a pure blogging solution.
However, the main strength of this plugin system is also a potential weakness. Anyone can develop their own plugin and release it for others to use, and while the WordPress plugin repository performs some basic checks on the software submitted to it, there’s no real guarantee that any particular plugin will be written to a high standard. This can easily result in “badly behaved” plugins conflicting with each other, or simply running slowly because of poor development techniques.
An Example: Coupon Code Plugins
We had some trouble with one of our sites when we decided to run a coupon code plugin as a way to add value to users. We supplied free godaddy renewal coupons for readers of our blog who also happened to be webmasters (thanks to CouponGo.org for supplying us with these promo codes). What happened is, after we installed and activated this plugin, there was a massive slowdown in our website’s performance.
After troubleshooting, we discovered that there was nothing wrong with the plugin itself, but that it conflicted with the WordPress theme we were using. We were able to change the theme, and the website ended up working beautifully afterwards.
If you find that your WordPress installation is running more slowly than you’d like, then one of the first places to look for a solution is within the range of plugins that are installed and activated. How can you go about this?
Strip Your Plugins Back
With such a huge range of plugins on tap to suit almost any task, it’s easy to get carried away and install too many unnecessary features. Every plugin adds overhead to the core WordPress installation, and things can easily slow to a crawl unless you practice moderation. If you’re experiencing this slowdown, start by deactivating any plugin which isn’t strictly necessary for the correct operation of your site.
If deactivating a particular plugin noticeably speeds up your site, then ask yourself whether you truly need the functionality it provides. If not, consider uninstalling it completely. This is a better solution than simply deactivating an unwanted plugin, as it will also tidy up any unused database fields, boosting overall system speed.
Find the Poor Performers
However, if your site is still unacceptably slow even when the plugin collection is cut back to the essentials, then you may need to find out which particular plugins are having the worst effect. This can be done with a handy tool, which is itself a plugin. This free software is called the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler), and it can be found in the standard WordPress plugin directory.
Once installed, the P3 plugin will assess the running speed of all the other plugins contained within your WordPress site, and present the results in an easily deciphered graph. If one particular plugin seems to be causing problems, you could try upgrading to the latest version, which hopefully may perform better; you might even consider looking for an alternative which fulfills the same role but with greater speed.
With close to 50,000 individual plugins available, it’s easy to extend WordPress in almost any direction. As the installation becomes more complex, however, performance problems can quickly arise. Few people enjoy battling a slow website, so you owe it to your visitors to ensure your plugins all work well together. Don’t destroy the user experience and wind up losing traffic to your competitors.