Pruning Your Plugins

Pixelated pruning shears iconAlready this month, I’ve written about the plugins that power this site. It’s a pretty long list.

But even if you read that whole post, it might not be clear how I ended up with those plugins. I think it’s worth clarifying.

The Process In Action

Here are two things I didn’t do:

  • Install tons of plugins (” I always use these plugins”) and pat myself on the back.
  • Install one plugin. And then another. And then another. (“Oooo! Cool! Pretty! Me want more!”)

Rather, each plugin I install gets researched, tested, trialed, and then reevaluated.

So let me walk you through those steps so you see how to put in place a similar process on your site or sites.


When I need plugins, I ask around to other people I trust, search Google (Fill in “wordpress plugin ________” with “Flickr Widget” or “Custom CSS” or “Event Calendar”), and search the WordPress plugin repository. Once I have a list of possible plugins, I compare them:

  1. I read an overview of features. Do all the plugins do the same thing and work in the same way? Probably not. Some plugins drop out of contention for my site.
  2. Then I take a deeper look.
    • Does this plugin have positive reviews in the plugin repository or on outside blogs?
    • Does it have lots of downloads?
    • Does it have lots of problems reported in the Support forms? Are they resolved or unresolved?
    • Has it been updated frequently and recently?
    • Is it by from an author with multiple plugins? Do I know and trust that author based on other plugins?
    • Does the code seem well-formatted, support internationalization (or “i18n”), make sense when I read through it, etc. (Admittedly, not everyone can do this step.)

Sometimes no plugins make it that far. In those cases, I have to either reevaluate my needs (is this a feature I have to have?) or try to find the best plugin even if it’s not ideal.


This part’s more fun. I install the plugin on a test site, check that nothing breaks, see what I think of the interface, and generally decide (pretty quickly) whether this plugin seems worth investing more time in.

Trial Period

If a plugin makes it that far, I’ll try it on the live site for a few months and see how it goes. If no big problems crop up, then I’m in good shape. I’ve found a good plugin that does what I want.


Finally, I still try to remove and replace plugins when possible. Has a new, better plugin come out? Have I learned about an insecurity in a plugin? Do I really need this plugin on my site?

The Results

In the end, this means that I have no plugins on my site that are deactivated. They are either useful enough to warrant leaving activated or I’ve deleted them. Deleting them means a less-cluttered interface, fewer updates, more security, and, generally, fewer moving parts.

Why Are We Doing This Again?

Plugins are great, but only when used thoughtfully, and, even then, only when they are consistently reevaluated. It takes effort to be a good website owner, and with WordPress, managing your plugins is a big part of that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.