If you are having trouble with your WordPress website, or if you ever have a problem with it in the future, you should first check the number of plugins you are running. If it’s a big number then you’ve likely found your problem. You should trim down your number of active plugins immediately.
The best thing you can do in the future is keep that active plugin count as small as possible.
Except it’s not.
None of what I just said is true, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone follow that advice. This sort of advice is both misleading to users and contrary to the spirit of WordPress, yet a growing number of voices within the community are encouraging users to limit the number of plugins they run. It’s a bit sad, because plugins are arguably the best part of WordPress. To convey that they are dangerous in large numbers is to do a disservice to the community itself.
In reality the number of active WordPress plugins you run isn’t important, and the only thing that number can tell anyone is just how much you love plugins.
I’ve heard this “fewer plugins is better” thinking expressed in a few different places. Sometimes it’s in a WordCamp presentation and a speaker recommends against running very many plugins. Other times it’s a back-and-forth on Twitter or a frustrated developer who say, “Of course your site is running slowly, you’re running 80 plugins!” Heck, I’ve been told I run too many plugins.
Of course everyone’s plugin count comfort level is different. Sometimes it’s twenty, sometimes it’s thirty. I’ve heard some say zero plugins is best. But none of these numbers matter in the least.
Telling a user they are running too many plugins is like telling them they’re holding their blog wrong.
What does matter is the nature of the plugins themselves. If the plugins are properly coded and serve their individual purposes well, then it shouldn’t matter even if you have one hundred of them active. If the plugins are big, bloated, and poorly written then you could run into a problem with only two active. The key here is the number of active plugins is unimportant; only the quality matters.
I bet the reason so many speak against running “too many” plugins is a simple one: they’ve run into bad plugins in their work and assume that the odds of running into a bad one increase the more you use. Technically this is true, but speaking out against high numbers of plugins isn’t the right response to the problem, and it’s misleading to the community at large. Instead, we should speak against the use of poorly coded plugins, and not an arbitrary number of them.
I’m all for telling people what to do, and have done my fair share of preaching on this blog. But it’s important to preach to the right people. If there’s a problem with a plugin it’s the developer’s fault, not the user’s. Telling a user they are running “too many plugins” is like telling them they’re holding their blog wrong.
Users should be able to activate any number of plugins they wish, and do so without expecting any trouble. When this kind of plugin use is encouraged, championed even, users will come to expect plugins to just work rather than the opposite.
And if users have that expectation long enough, maybe more developers will start meeting it.