How Many WordPress Plugins Are There? How Many Do You Really Need For Your Website?

Ever wonder how many WordPress plugins there are? I dove deep into the world of plugins to find out how many exist, the different types, and how many is too many. 

When we’re done here, you’ll know definitively how many WordPress plugins you should be using to avoid slow, hacked, malware-infested websites.

WordPress Plugins and How They Work

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that integrates with WordPress to perform a specific function. These plugins can perform highly complex tasks such as managing your courseware, known as learning management systems or LMSs, or simple tasks such as adding fonts.

Most plugins either add functions that don’t currently exist on WordPress or can expand the function of features that WordPress has presently.

Plugins are one of the features that have allowed WordPress to become the most extensive content management system, or CMS, in the world.

There are numerous plugins that range from free to freemium to premium. Most WordPress plugins can be found in the plugin repository through your WordPress backend. You can then add these via a simple one-click installation.

How Many WordPress Plugins Are There?

The answer to how many WordPress plugins are there isn’t a simple one.

At the time of this writing, there were 59,881 plugins available for download in the official WordPress directory.

 Not all of these are actively updated or usable.

Screenshot of the WordPress directory.

Examples of some of the best WordPress plugin types that can be found through the WordPress directory include:

However, this is only a partial view of the total number available. Many plugins, including most premium-only plugins such as Oxygen Builder, are only available through the developer’s website.

There are also many plugins available from various SAAS products that may not be in the repository. While these often aren’t premium plugins, they are usually only available to people who use that SAAS product to help the product integrate more easily with WordPress, think CRMs.

So, how many WordPress plugins are there? The answer is impossible to calculate accurately.

It’s likely safe to say that the total number is over 70,000, including the official WordPress directory and offsite premium plugins.

How to Pick the Best WordPress Plugins

Not all WordPress plugins are created equal. Picking the wrong ones can slow your website down or, worse, leave you exposed to malware and hackers.

The number one thing to know is that you should never use a plugin that isn’t from an official source. Plugins in the WordPress directory, while not all great, are at least checked for malware and security issues.

Screenshot of the Link Whisper review page in the WordPress directory.

For premium plugins, you should always purchase them directly from the developer.

Never download premium plugins from null sites or from anyone claiming to give them to you for free.

For one, these are often full of malware. Second, even if they aren’t infected, you won’t get any updates, exposing you to potential future security issues.

When picking the best WordPress plugins, you want to take the following into consideration which will be discussed in depth further on:

  • Developer reputation
  • Update frequency
  • Coding quality
  • Personal need
  • HTTP requests

How Many WordPress Plugins Are Too Many?

This is another question without a clear answer. In theory, you can run dozens of plugins as long as they are well coded without seeing much of a negative impact.

However, we’re not in a perfect world, and not all plugins are optimally coded. Each plugin you add to your website will consume resources and create additional HTTP requests and database requests.

Poorly coded plugins can considerably slow your WordPress site down, even if it’s the only plugin on your site.

The other issue you need to consider is that the more plugins you have, the more chances there are for things to break.

Over time, many developers will abandon plugins if it is no longer feasible to keep them updated. This can lead to some plugins you use eventually causing conflicts with newer versions of WordPress or other plugins.

Screenshot of the update page for WordPress plugins.

So, how many WordPress plugins are too many?

The honest answer is, any more than the amount you need for your website to function.

 If you can accomplish something without a plugin, such as hosting a font locally vs. using a plugin, go without the plugin.

Ideally, when I build a website, I use no more than five or six plugins, including:

  • Caching plugin
  • Security plugin
  • Page building
  • Contact form plugin
  • Photo compression plugin

Why There Is a Debate Around How Many Plugins You Should Use

Plugins are one of the primary selling points of WordPress. So, for many, it seems a bit counterintuitive to say you should use as few of them as possible. Many users feel as long as a plugin is well coded and consistently updated, there should be no issue using it.

Others, usually more experienced developers, would argue that you should never use a plugin when the job can be done manually. This is often where the schism comes from. The truth is that both sides are correct.

If you are using only high-quality and well-coded plugins and keeping the number to only what is necessary, you shouldn’t experience too many issues.

However, if you can go without using that plugin and instead have a WordPress developer customize a solution or even do the work yourself, that is more optimal.

What about add-on plugins?

Add-on plugins enhance the function and features of other WordPress plugins. The same debate around standard plugins exists around add-ons, primarily whether they are necessary or harmful for your website.

Most add-on plugins exist to help people get around paying for freemium plugins, such as Elementor. Because many features of Elementor only work when you pay for the plugin, developers have created those features through add-on plugins.

However, as with any other plugins, these add-ons can slow your website down and create future security issues.

You should never use an add-on plugin just to get around paying for a plugin you are already using.

For one, developers need money to keep plugins going. If you have a plugin you like, it’s in your best interest to support the developer to keep that plugin working and updated.

Second, add-on plugins, especially those used to get around paying for plugins, do not fall into the category of being necessary. Therefore, you should avoid them.

Premium Plugin vs. Free Plugin: Which Is Better?

Considering all of the criteria above for what to look out for in a plugin, you may believe that premium WordPress plugins are better. After all, the price often correlates with quality since more money gives you the ability to purchase higher-quality resources.

When it comes to WordPress plugins, that isn’t always the case. Many free plugins are exceptionally well coded, and many premium plugins will greatly slow down your website.

As we previously mentioned, the reputation of the developer is what’s important.

There are free plugins from top developers that they created as side projects. On the flip side, you should avoid premium plugins from poor developers at all costs. 

Ways WordPress Plugins Can Impact Website Performance and Security

Aside from what we already spoke of, there are many ways that a poorly coded plugin can negatively impact your website. When you install WordPress plugins, it’s important to remember that each one increases the potential for adverse interactions with other plugins.

Over time, there is also the potential for developers to abandon plugins.

Try to always use plugins from well-established and reputable WordPress plugin developers.

Site Crashes and Lack of Reliability

Want to experience one of the most frustrating things about WordPress? Use a low-quality plugin, and you may get a taste of the white screen of death. 

Screenshot of the WordPress whitescreen of death.

This is similar to the blue screen of death that many Windows computer users experience. It’s a fatal error that leads to your WordPress site completely crashing and you being unable to do anything with it.

While low-quality plugins are not the only cause of this, they can be a primary factor.

Aside from the white screen of death, low-quality plugins are notoriously unreliable and can lead to parts of your website not functioning correctly.

Lousy Performance and Slow Page Speed

Your website is simply code being rendered by the browser engine. Poor code can lead to issues with the browser’s ability to render the website correctly, which can slow down performance.

Even if you are not using a plugin on every page, it has the potential to slow down every single page on your website.

Many plugins, even well-coded plugins, load on all pages. With enough plugins, this can lead to severe code bloat and poor page speeds that negatively affect the WordPress user experience. 

Security Vulnerabilities

One of the main reasons people’s websites get hacked is poorly coded themes and plugins.

Because WordPress is used by so much of the internet, many thousands to millions of people may be using a single WordPress theme or plugin. So, unfortunately, it’s worth it to hackers to find exploits to these plugins.

While no plugin is guaranteed to be perfectly secure, larger development teams and better-funded plugins will usually be more on top of things. If they do have a security vulnerability, these will usually be quickly patched and an update released. 

With smaller development teams or plugins that are poorly funded and less regularly updated, security vulnerabilities can go unnoticed or unpatched long enough for thousands of websites to be exploited.

WordPress Plugin Best Practices

While it may be tempting to go crazy with installing plugins, if you’re new to WordPress site development, there are a few key considerations to understand first.

Only Use the Plugins You Need 

With almost 70,000 plugins available, you will always be able to find a plugin that you think you need or that sounds cool. However, please do not add more plugins unless your website will not function without them.

Remember the acronym KISS whenever you are doing any development work: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

This doesn’t just apply to plugins, either. everything from content to pictures and media and design should be kept to only what is necessary to ensure you don’t have bloat. 

Also, if you aren’t using a plugin, make sure to remove it entirely from your website.

Each inactive and unnecessary plugin provides hackers an opportunity to break into the backend of your website.

Screenshot of the inactive plugins section on the backend of a WordPress website.

Update Existing Plugins to Patch Vulnerabilities

Always make sure you are updating plugins regularly. This usually means scheduling a specific time once or twice a week to update all of your plugins. 

Try and avoid updating plugins during your website’s peak hours. Instead, wait until periods you know things will be slow to perform updates. If anything breaks, you don’t want it to affect your customers and potentially cost you money.

If you really want to get technical, set up a staging site and perform updates through there. This will ensure that you can fix the issue before pushing updates to your live site if anything breaks. 

Only Install Reputable Plugins

It’s always important to do your due diligence on the developers of any plugin you plan to install.

While most developers have only good intentions and want to provide a quality product, some rogue developers install malware, affiliate link spam, or other unwanted code in their plugins.

Look for reviews from any plugins they’ve released to see if other people have issues. Also, check to see if they have a website and any credentials.

For more prominent and well-funded plugins, this usually won’t be necessary. However, for smaller operations, always know who the developer is. 

Common Questions About How Many WordPress Plugins There Are

Aside from all the information above about plugins, here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about how many WordPress plugins there are.

What Are The Different Types Of WordPress Plugins?

There are dozens of different types of WordPress plugins created to address common issues with WordPress.

Some of these cover the mundane, including font and color add-ons, to the complex, such as CSS editors.

Other common types of WordPress plugins include:

  • Contact form plugins
  • Search engine optimization plugins
  • Caching plugins
  • Security plugins
  • Coding plugins
  • Page and site builder plugins
  • Learning management systems (LMS)
  • Customer management systems (CMS)
  • Calendar and scheduling plugins
  • Theme design plugins

While there are tons more, these are some of the most commonly downloaded plugin types in the WordPress plugin directory.

What Plugins Are Necessary For WordPress?

Because each theme is different, which WordPress plugins are necessary will be different for each website. 

Everything from the themes you are using to your website’s specific purpose will affect which plugins you need. Someone making a simple blog, for example, won’t need the same set of plugins as someone creating an e-commerce store.

Most websites on WordPress, however, will use the following plugins:

  • SEO plugin
  • Security plugin
  • Caching plugin

Are All WordPress Plugins Free?

Not all WordPress plugins are free. In fact, most plugins are either premium or based on a freemium model, giving you limited features of the free version.

Developers, like everyone else, need money to survive and maintain their products. Remember that development work is complex and requires a lot of time and experience.

You’ll usually need some form of payment to ensure that plugins remain updated and operational.

Where Can I Find WordPress Plugins?

You can find WordPress plugins through the official WordPress directory or on the developer’s website. 

The developer’s website usually hosts most purely premium plugins. They’ll require you to download a zip folder to install on your WordPress backend.

You can usually install plugins from the WordPress directory directly via one-click installation. 

How Many WordPress Plugins Are There? Final Thoughts

With almost 70,000 WordPress plugins available through the WordPress directory and even more available through developers’ websites, there’s no shortage of solutions for all of the different functions you want from your WordPress website.

These plugins are what have propelled WordPress to become the most used content management system on the planet. However, it has also created an epidemic of slow and bloated websites with too many poorly developed plugins.

While plugins may make it easier to create the exact website you want, remember not to overuse them. Aside from potential website speed and performance issues, you may be leaving yourself open to hackers and malware.

Only use the plugins necessary for your website’s core functionality and always use well-coded and consistently updated plugins to avoid issues. 

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