When was the last time you (or your tech person) checked the list of plugins you use and think do you really need all those plugins?
- Are you using too many plugins?
- Or are you running three plugins that all do the same things (overlapping features)?
- Have you checked how much the plugins you use actually burden your server, mysql database and slow your page loading times?
JTPratt is concerned about WP beginners getting caught up in "plugin overload" and wrote about WordPress File Include Hacks which questioned the need for so many plugins and promoted editing and hacking your WordPress theme instead. While the post is an excellent guide and tutorial to hacking your WordPress Theme files, I wouldn't go as far as telling people to stop downloading so many plugins...
As I see it, for most bloggers editing their theme by themselves is something that is not worth their time and they are better off just writing more content to their blog instead of learning how to edit the template files. But it's definitely worth it to check your plugins-list and get rid of the ones you don't really need or do the same thing as the other, a better one.
Why WordPress Plugins Are So Cool?
I think WordPress Plugins are so popular and people use them a lot, because they make complicated things and manual editing one-click-easy and using only plugins/widgets to add content on top of the WordPress theme makes it easy to change or update themes, which can be important for a beginning blogger.
In a sense, plugins reduce the maintenance and manual editing one has to do. Having to go through all the templates that need some "hack" in them every time you change or update your theme can be a pain. Especially if there's many manual editing in the different templates.
For example, the Google Analytics JTPratt mentioned, yes - adding the code to the footer is simple, but what if you want to track outgoing links? Or what if you want to disable analytics tracking for logged in visitors (like yourself). Using a plugin does all that and I don't have to worry about that issue at all. (I wrote about this in my Track Outgoing Links with Google Analytics -article)
How To Test The Performance of Your Blog
Test Your Blog With Web Page Analyzer
- Go to the Web Page Analyzer,
- enter your URL and
- hit send,
- master the captcha and you're done...
- Check the report page for the load times and tips for improving the efficiency of your blog.
Web Page Analyzer is not designed to test blogs, or WordPress for that matter, but you can get some idea what might be slowing your website down, for example are your pages loaded with large images or such. My T1 loading times are under 4 seconds at the moment, which is great, but on the other hand I run minimal images with my self-brewed and brand new pure css, no images theme.
Test Your Blog With Firebug Addon to Firefox
- Go and get Firebug,
- Install Firebug for Firefox.
- Restart your Firefox.
- Look into the bottom right of the browser window
- You should see little Firebug icon
- Right click the bug icon, and
- Open firebug in New Window
Now, go to your own blog (not admin, but the front page for example) and check the Firebug window.
Inside the Firebug window:
- Click on the NET tab and
- Turn on the Console logging, Script- and Net monitoring by clicking on the check-boxes,
- Click Apply settings for yourdomain.com.
- See the data pouring in as you navigate your website
You can use Firebug to analyze your HTML code, CSS and all the scripts, plugins, images, etc. that are used and loaded on your pages.
You can see how fast your blog loads, what images and scripts are loaded and how much time it takes to get them. For example it might be a surprise to you how much images are loaded in your theme, if all list bullets, menus, etc. are done using images. You'll also notice how much WP Super Cache helps if you're running that plugin - a plugin you really should have... see, it didn't take me too long to recommend yet another plugin for you. But seriously, WP Super Cache is on my top 2 plugins, right alongside All In One SEO Pack.
After playing enough with the firebug, disable Firebug by right-clicking on the Net tab, and setting disable (+ uncheck the check-boxes and click apply)
Firebug is priceless for WordPress Theme and Web Designers, but it is so easy to use, it can be for you too.
Bonus Tip for Minimizing Your Images
Reduce the size of your images but still maintain as good quality as possible, try RIOT - Radical Image Optimization Tool.
I spotted this nice little tool from a Lifehacker post - Radical Image Optimization Tool Provides Side by Side Image Comparison - couple of months ago, and I've been using it ever since, mostly because I can see the preview shot right next to the original and see the effects of the compression right there. There are probably better alternatives if you need to batch process a load of images, but if you just need to go through one or two, check Riot out.
Other Means to Test the Performance of Your Blog
In addition to these, you might want to check and monitor the usage of the mysql database your WordPress is running on and also the load your server is under (for example, checking the uptime by connecting to your server with a shell.)
Plugins, oh Plugins
I'm still planning, testing and choosing the plugins I'll be using in the long run, and I also want to keep my blog running smoothly by minimizing over-complicated solutions and unneeded functionality. I guess there's a "Middle of the road" in using plugins & hacking the files in your WordPress and getting the performance of your blog to desired level, but I haven't found it yet..
Are you happy with your plugins and blog performance?