A few weeks ago I received an email that said my website wasn’t loading properly. I immediately checked and sure enough, the pages weren’t loading. At all. That’s a little disconcerting. You never know what that could mean. Was the site hacked? Is the host server down? Is there a virus or malicious software attack going on? It could be one of several things causing website performance issues, and finding the root cause is never easy.
So I started digging to figure out what was causing my site not to load. I hadn’t made any changes to the site that I could remember, so I didn’t think it was anything I had done. After some digging, I narrowed it down to something related to the plugins I use on my site. I have a WordPress site with lots of plugins that I have to update on a regular basis.
The advantage of WordPress websites
One of the things I love about WordPress is how easy it is to install plugins that enhance the site. There are tons of free plugins out there that are really handy and fun to use. The problem with the free WordPress plugins is just that – they’re free. The free ones often are written by part-time programmers looking for some extra cash through donations. Or sometimes they’re just WordPress fans who decided to create a plugin that works well for them.
Either way, free plugins can sometimes have glitches that cause them to clash with other plugins or with updates to WordPress itself. That’s the main difference between free WordPress plugins and premium, or paid, plugins. The premium plugins maintain support when new WordPress updates come out. The free plugins may or may not maintain support. The developer may get tired of maintaining the code, or they may move on to something else, etc.
The downside of using free plugins
Whatever the reason, there is some risk associated with using free plugins. Since I’m such a cheapskate who doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on his website, I’ve accepted a lot of risk over the years by using LOTS of free plugins.
And I got burned. As I looked through my list of installed plugins, I realized I had a lot of installed and activated plugins that I don’t even use anymore. I also realized that one or more of them may be causing the error I was having with the site not loading. I decided to start uninstalling my plugins one by one to see if I could identify the culprit.
Starting from scratch with WordPress plugins
Checking individual plugins took forever, so I just decided to uninstall everything. As predicted, the website started working again. Not only did the pages load properly, but they were lightning fast too. Yay! The only problem was I had some critical plugins (part of the site’s design) that weren’t activated anymore. So I activated the critical plugins one at a time and checked each one to make sure the site was still working. Before activating them, I made sure each one was either a premium plugin or one that I knew was well supported by its developers.
A few of them seemed to affect the website’s overall performance a little bit, but the site is working MUCH better than it has in a while. I breathed a sigh of relief and stopped right there. My site was up and running, and I didn’t want to run the risk of making it worse again. I can now take my time and scrutinize all the remaining plugins to decide if I want to keep them or trash them.
Improved blog performance
Who knew improving your blog’s performance could be as easy as removing some clutter by deleting unimportant plugins? Ok, in hindsight it seems pretty obvious, but it was a good lesson that I thought I could share with some newer bloggers out there.
Do you have a website? Have you had problems with your plugins? What do you do to improve your site’s performance?