Plugin Development

One Plugin Vs Lots Of Smaller Plugins

Yesterday I asked this question on Twitter and was quite interesting to see the response to the question so I wanted to post it on here and open the discussion up to more people (other than those on Twitter) and see what people think.

In the past of WordPress we see lots of articles about if you want to speed up WordPress then you need to reduce the amount of plugins that you have. If you know WordPress and how the development works you'll know that it doesn't make a difference to the amount of plugins you have installed but what the plugin does.

There are 1000s of WordPress plugins on wordpress.org some of them are huge plugins doing lots of different things and others are tiny which do a specific job.

An example of this question I'm going to use one of the most popular WordPress plugins is Yoast SEO, it's a great plugin and does everything you need to control SEO on your website. You can change the title format, social network tags, XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs, RSS settings and many more.

There are other plugins on wordpress.org that break up this code a bit by offering just XML sitemaps or a plugin just for breadcrumbs.

My question on Twitter is would you prefer to use a single large plugin like Yoast SEO or would you prefer to use lots of smaller plugins that do a specific job?

The smaller plugins would break up the parts of Yoast SEO and have a specific plugin for changing the title tag formats, another plugin for changing your social networks, another plugin to create your XML sitemaps etc.

Please comment below with your thoughts on this?

Conclusion

From the answers on this currently 78% of people have voted that they would prefer to have multiple smaller plugins that do a specific job.

Multiple Smaller Plugins

One of the replies from @jennybeaumont, said that you never need to use everything. Therefore most of the time you don't use all the features on a bigger plugin so you can just get plugins that do the job that you need.

This seems to be a shared view by @ajaydsouza, where he thinks you can get exactly what you want by more specialised plugins.

Depends On The Job

@ChrisWiegman had an interesting reply saying that it depends on the objective of the plugin. For things like security he would prefer multiple smaller specific plugins whereas for SEO he would prefer one bigger plugin like Yoast.

This was interesting so I was thinking, what about for something like customising the comments area of WordPress? Looking on the Yoast website again they had previous plugins that were smaller, more specific plugins like:

It seems like they have already had a think about the one plugin vs multiple smaller plugins idea and opted to move the above plugins into one bigger plugin as these are now deprecated and replaced with the comments hacks plugin.

Modular Plugin

@David Wang suggested an approach like Jetpack where the plugin is broken down into different modules that you turn on and then have access to that feature. Which is along the lines of having one big plugin but able to hide some of the features the plugin can do.

I like this idea but if you're only using a couple of the modules there could be over 50% of the code that you're not using which adds extra bloat to your codebase.

Premium plugins

Andy Wilkerson brought up an interesting point about premium plugins. It sounds like normally he would prefer to have multiple smaller plugins that do a specific job but with premium plugins it's easier to have one bigger plugin. He mentioned about keeping up with licence codes and renewals can be a chore when you have multiple plugins, therefore it's easier to just have one.

With the majority of people opting for multiple smaller plugins with the exception of premium plugins it would be interesting to know what more people think so please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Back to top

Learn how to code with Treehouse

  • Learn projects with access to 1000+ videos
  • Practice live with our Code Challenge Engine
  • Get help in our members-only forums

Start with a 7 day free trial

Comments

  1. Anthony says:

    Since the vast majority of the WP sites I build are eventually turned over to the client to maintain, I fall into the less is more camp.

    Sure a single large plugin may have features you won't use, but with less moving peices you will have a smaller likelihood of anything breaking on an update as well as a (theoretically) smaller learning curve should the client want to use/make changes via the plugin.

    To use your Yoast example, if a client wants to work on their SEO all they need to do is read the Yoast documentation. With a dozen different plugins, they have to read a dozen, albeit smaller, docs to reach the same knowledge level. And if what they wish to accomplish is outside of the dozen plugins, a) they may think you didn't do your job properly and gave them a sub par solution and b) they are left to find and integrate a new plugin. Or calling on you to do it.

    To me, WP is about giving control of the site back to the user and simplifying everything as much as possible. Sometimes, that means the broad brush strokes of a single, more general plugin if I feel it benefits the user's overall experience of use.

    1. Paul says:

      Hi Anthony

      Thanks for your comment it's good to know what everyone is thinking about this.

      That's a very good point you make about documentation that's something I didn't even think about when you have one plugin all the documentation will be in the same place whereas lots of smaller plugins, even if by the same developer the documentation won't be in the same place.

  2. Scott says:

    It definitely depends on the user. From my experience and discussions with people in my industry, people want 1 to handle related tasks. But if you ask developers, they're going to say multiple plugins.

    1. Paul says:

      That's a good thing to note, more "tech savy" people will probably want multiple plugins whereas having just one will make the settings area easier to manage for others.

  3. Patrick says:

    When it comes to breaking on updates, I'm not sure bigger is better at all. The more complex the code, the more interactions it has and the tougher job it is to test that out. Myself, I would rather have a number of smaller plug-ins so if I had to change one of them because of update incompatibilities, I wouldn't have much functionality to replace.

    Yoast is an excellent example of that. Most of my client sites used that plug-in and, when the latest Divi, Yoast, and WP updates came out in March, the Yoast update caused the Divi page builder to crash. Had to transition clients over to All-In-One SEO.

    Wasn't much fun.

    1. Paul says:

      Ouch, how many sites did it bring down?

      How did your clients react to having to redo most of the SEO settings?

      Has it affected the traffic at all?

  4. Su Hall says:

    I'm going to go with smaller as I am not real savvy, yet, with WP. I started my blog myself, decorated it, so to speak, and added a few things I thought necessary: Akismet and I have my own domain. So, in other words, NOOB! LOL I just wonder which would be best for one who is able to comprehend, but, just lack knowledge of what is available for my use. I can find my way around most stuff. But, if I don't know what there is available to me, then what? Know what I mean?
    Thank you! I don't know if this helps, but, it sure would be of interest to me to know where to look for what is available for my blog. That addy is suruha.com if you wish to see it.

    1. Paul says:

      Good to know I thought non-tech savy people would make the vote for bigger plugins as the settings area will be just on one page.

  5. Amit says:

    We've recently found that moving from many Advanced Custom Fields plugins and plugin add-ons to their single, consolidated 'Pro' offering has marginally increased page speed in the eyes of Google.

    1. Paul says:

      That's interesting I didn't think it made many changes to the front-end of the site. How much did it speed up?

    2. tiu says:

      thanks. you anticipated my question!

      I mean with many plugins the number of calls for scripts could increase right?
      So maybe this is the reason why it affects the page speed.

      1. Paul says:

        Not necessarily. It all depends on what the plugin is doing.

  6. Ad Republic says:

    great post Paul, I just prefer One Plugin instead of Lots Of Smaller Plugins.