323 – Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 6: If you use more than 10 plugins on a site, you are a cad and a scoundrel!

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 323: If you use more than 10 plugins on a site, you are a cad and a scoundrel!” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

These shows notes are best read in conjunction with the podcast audio. Also, David’s audio sounds a little strange this week. Nothing too bad though.

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Welcome to the 6th episode of our “Thinking the Unthinkable” series where we attempt to rationalise controversial views on WordPress and web design.

Today’s topic is, “If you use more than 10 plugins on a site, you are a cad and a scoundrel!”

This is WP Builds humour for a chat about plugin strategy!

We are sure most listeners will know plugins are only a method to deliver additional functionality to WordPress. They can be as complex as WooCommerce or as simple as the Hello Dolly plugin.

Want to get your product or service on our 'viewed quite a lot' Black Friday Page? Fill out the form...

As silly as it is to count the numbers, most of us are fascinated by what others use and are always reviewing the situation.

Talking points

Bragging rights:

I’m a pro. I only use one plugin (WooCommerce…. with 30 extensions and a multi-purpose mega theme.)


I use 100 plugins and my sites score 100 on Google’s performance metrics! (I spent all my days updating them all)

Plugin Strategies:

Kid in a candy store (the usual newbie default). This was both of us for ages, still is actually. BUT, it’s always in pursuit of the ONE that will rule them all!

Plugins from one trusted company or author. We think that it’s a great idea, UNTIL they sell to some giant company that you don’t trust!

Looking for one (page builder) plugin or theme that does all we need. There’s merit in this, actually. I’m sure that you really could make a career on simply being great with Elementor (et al.).

Do due diligence and only use plugins as a necessity. Perhaps use WP Hive, checking reviews and company backgrounds. It’s hard to know what metric provides the pass / fail. What if a plugin is exactly what you want, but the developer seems to be absent much of the time?

Make your own plugins. Good Lord. Have you lost your mind? Yes, if I could, I would do this.

Make your own theme and add the plugin functionality to it, although many think that the theme is for presentation only.

Plugins is one of WordPress’s biggest selling points and also its major problem.

Is understanding the changing market key to forming a plugin strategy?

WordPress has been moving toward reducing the need for 3rd party plugins. Gutenberg and canonical plugins.

We are likely to see more of this advice on 3rd party addons – https://wordpress.org/support/topic/optimistic-about-gutenbergs-future/

One moderator in the comments wrote this:

I’d very much encourage you to give the Site Editor a try, without additional plugins or site builders, and see if you’re able to accomplish your goal. The fewer dependencies on third-party site builders and blocks, the more future-proof your site will be, and you’ll also learn valuable skills that help get you more comfortable with the future of WordPress core.

Comment from the link above

Does that mean that Automattic want 3rd party plugins to die? Is this is a stated goal, no. But is it where you end up if their logic is followed?

What makes it hard for WordPress to compete with Wix and Squarespace if they can’t control everything and adapt quickly.

In the opposite direction, we have seen companies like WP Engine, Stellar WP and Awesome Motive acquiring plugins to offer a complete package.

The typical WordPress mix of competition and cooperation. Knowing this could make plugin authors’ behaviour a little more predictable:

Awesome Motive bought a coming soon plugin and turned it into a page builder, because they did not have one in the collection.

WP Engine recently turned WP Migrate (formally a db tool) into a full WordPress migration tool, bringing WP Engine users closer to only using WPEngine products and services.

“Essentials” not in core

Forms, SEO, backups, caching, migration. Should these be a part of WordPress’s Core?

Mentioned in this podcast:

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 323. If you use more than 10 plugins on a site, you are a CAD and a scoundrel. It's the sixth episode in our Thinking, the unthinkable series, and it was published on Thursday, the 20th of April, 2023. My name's Nathan Wrigley, and I'll be joined in a few short minutes by my friend David Wamsley, so that we can have this chat.

But before then, a couple of bits of housekeeping. If you like what WP Builds do, why not subscribe? Head to our subscribe page, WP Builds.com/subscribe. Over there are all of the different social channels and the ways that you can subscribe. Join our email list. Alternatively, why not subscribe to us in your podcast player of choice?

And if you're doing that, Give us a review. We'd really appreciate it, and it really does help broaden the reach of WP Builds. If you're in the market for some plug-ins or themes or blocks this week, why not check out our deals page? WP Builds.com/deals a searchable filterable list with tons of coupon codes so you may be able to save yourself a little bit of time.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with the The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me/wpbuilds. That's go.me/wpbuilds. And we really sincerely thank GoDaddy Pro for their continued support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay. This week, the episode, like I said, is if you are yours more than 10 plug-ins on a site, you are a Es scoundrel. This is clearly our idea of a bit of a joke, but there is this ongoing debate about the number of.

Plugins that you use on a site, and you've probably logged into a client site that's just been handed to you to discover that there are 40 different overlapping plugins. Many of them not needed, but still there. So we have that debate. What is the safe limit? Is there a safe limit? Do you just say I'm only using Woo Commerce, but have 30 extensions in.

What is the point of having all these plugins? Is there an upper limit that you like to say is the limit that you've reached? So yeah, there's absolutely loads to get into here, and we hope that you enjoy this slightly lighthearted episode.

[00:03:08] David Waumsley: Hello, and welcome to the sixth episode of Our Thinking the Unthinkable series where we attempt to rationalize controversial views on WordPress and web design.

Today's topic is if you use more than 10 plugins on your site, you are a CAD and a sco.

[00:03:25] Nathan Wrigley: Ah, you cad and a scoundrel. It's as bad as it gets you real gutter snipe. I

[00:03:31] David Waumsley: know this is real w. Builds humor, isn't it? British humor for really a chat about plugin strategy.

[00:03:39] Nathan Wrigley: Yes. This this whole thing came about because well do you it's always a perennial debate, isn't it?

The idea that if you go into a site and there's lots and lots and lots of plugins, then the person using it must basically be an idiot. That's how it goes. What a fool. Look at all these plugins. Why have they bothered to.

[00:04:02] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. I think probably most of our listeners will know that really plugin.

So just a method of delivering the extra functionality to WordPress so you know, they can be as complex as woo Commerce or as simple as the Hello Dolly plugin. It's a silly debate really to be counting the numbers, but I think there's a great topic here though, cuz it's just fascinating to.

What other people are using. And I've, when I was in lots of these groups, I couldn't resist but get involved in these kind of conversations about how many plugins you used.

[00:04:35] Nathan Wrigley: I think you are really good at this though, because especially more recently, I don't know what you were like, a decade or ago, but more recently you really are taking great pains to strip out everything that isn't absolutely required.

So I imagine your. As of today would be very different from as of five, six years ago. Yeah.

[00:04:59] David Waumsley: I'm presently with my new WordPress as a static site generator using eight plugins active, so I'm not an idiot. That's great. You've, you are

[00:05:10] Nathan Wrigley: too less than being a cat and a scoundrel. Let's do that. Go on.

Let's go through, what are the eight that you have selected as being important

[00:05:18] David Waumsley: enough to keep. Oh gosh. I'll have to bring them up so I know. Simply static is one of those. Yep. Slim SEO is another ha, you're, you've caught. Actually, the one that I'm mostly using is WP Code Box at the moment.

Okay. That is doing most of my work. And there's just a few other little things that's display posts, a nice little plugin, which allows you to, they cleanly put within your theme or however you want to put it in WordPress your posts. And you can decide through short codes whether you have.

The featured image show in. So I'm using all that, and that's pretty much all I actually need. Yeah, there are some other things like migration plugins, backup plugins. Yeah. Do

[00:06:07] Nathan Wrigley: you do you deploy WP Code Box as a way to, if you like, replace plugins as well as removing functionality? Does it serve both of those roles?

Yeah. Can you point to something where you think, okay, what I've got as a snippet here, Is now replacing a plugin that I used to use, but also are there examples where, let's say native WordPress features that you no longer wish to have, can you point to things in WP Code Box that you've done to do that as well?

[00:06:38] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. It's it, as I've really got into WordPress, I've learned more about it. I've been trying to reduce the plugin. So WP Code Box is allowing me via code to do things that are plugin, simple functions that a plugin once would've done. I would now do it through that. And it's also allowed me to remove things that I don't want in WordPress as well.

It's cutting. Certain things I might not want, like emojis, you might use a plugin if you didn't want emojis on your site. So I use that. So yeah, it's a snippets plugin and yeah, it's really useful for me. It

[00:07:15] Nathan Wrigley: seems like you, you do have in the back of your mind, although we've completely invented the number 10, like that's some sort of important metric.

It feels like you believe there is some limit where it is getting a bit ridiculous if you're trying. Get it down as much as possible. There must be a thought in your head, which is okay, that you can have too many. It is possible to do that.

[00:07:39] David Waumsley: Yeah, Lisa? There's a lot of things with this.

It's one, the fact that. Each of these plugins that not necessarily the case. We'll get onto this actually for when we talk about strategies, but my concern is, what's happened over the years is that plugin authors don't generally stick to one simple thing that they do. They, because that's what people demand demanded them for their plugins to do more and more, you start to get an overlap.

So you might have your plugins that you. Love, but they stopped being the plugin that you originally selected. They stopped becoming more and they sometimes do things that your other plugins did, and you've got this constant battle with lots of different authors to, keep updating and make sure that there's not conflicts and all of that.

That's the biggest problem, I think, isn't it, for WordPress.

[00:08:31] Nathan Wrigley: So creep in the scope of what plug. Do. Yeah. So you might have had, I don't know, you might have had a, a range of five plugins which achieve a certain, a arrangement of functionality and now you discover that one of those five now does what half of what another one did.

And so it's time to go and find a different one, which. You said that you can remove one and cover the remaining heart. Yeah I know what you mean. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, isn't it? And they are always changing plugins, in my experience, tend to only get bigger, not smaller. It's probably a, it's a bit of a, kinda like a Moores Law kind of thing.

They get more features, not less.

[00:09:09] David Waumsley: Yeah. And you can prove this, if you use something like WP Hive, which is a website, which does. Extra tests, if you like, automatic tests on WordPress plugins that are in the repository. And it saves tests that are done from earlier versions so you can simply look at it and it shows you the sort of amount of RAM use that this plugin will use last time.

And you can see nearly all of them are creeping. To be more heavy over time. So there is that issue isn't there. If you've got more plugins in, then you know you're going to increase the size

[00:09:43] Nathan Wrigley: of that. I do wonder, I wonder how many people actually keep a close eye on what the change log of their plugins are doing in the, yeah.

Two years ago you decided that you needed some feet functionality and you discovered that there was this plugin, which did it, and ever since then, you've been happily clicking. Update, update. Update. And it entirely possible that your plugin has really exceeded what you need it to do, and it's now doing a whole bunch of stuff that you never really wanted it to do, but you've no idea that's happening.

I'm sure that's the case for me.

[00:10:17] David Waumsley: Yeah, absolutely. You can't keep track of all the things that are going on, change logs if you've got lots and lots of plugins going on. Now I've reduced it. I tend to look a lot more what's been altered on plugins and I didn't before. Should we talk, should we just talk about how.

I, for me, this is a history of how grown up in WordPress, but I think there are different approaches to plugins. And we've listed these out here, which is like the first, the kind of newbie default, which is the kid in a candy store approach to plugins. Yeah. Yes. This

[00:10:58] Nathan Wrigley: is still me. I still do this.

I can happily. Just, I honestly, David, I could spend an entire day just looking at the marketing materials and the feature list and pricing pages of plugins. Yeah it, I would be a very happy person if that's all I had to do in my life. It's just look at pages, because I'm always curious as to what people have come up with, and it still baffles me what's possible with WordPress.

Panoply of different things. That's possible. Whether or not I actually go to install them. What I've tended to do these days is if I have the urge to go and play with something I use local. I just put something on a local site. I have a completely vanilla site. Spin up a brand new one.

Give it the name of the plugin. So that site's called, I dunno, w. plugin.com or whatever, and just go and play with it for a bit. And typically then I just dispose of that site after half an hour. But I am, I'm really, I am like the kid in the Kennedy store still, but I get, I have a strong feeling that you are not, you are resisting this urge.

[00:12:11] David Waumsley: Yeah. I guess it's plugins that brought me to WordPress. You. All this fun, this dynamic web that I could get into because of WordPress. That was the excitement and much of that came through the plugin I still think it's one of its biggest selling points, but also, the area where it there is the most danger with it.

And I still have this issue with clients. Most of 'em are pretty good now Cause I asked them to please talk to me before you just install a plugin. Because they really, they do, they have a tendency to do the same, as I did. They install them and they will just leave them there and they've even for.

Yes, why they installed it.

[00:12:56] Nathan Wrigley: So this is wrong for so many reasons, isn't it? Not only because really you shouldn't have things in there that are not being used, but also who knows what kind of security. Yes, posture that creates, you no idea whether that plugin's been updated. You've no idea who's created that plugin and what amazing stuff it's doing.

And we, there are histories of plugins breaking things and hacks being performed on plugins, which are, they're not updated. But unless you are going in and checking them, I guess if you are using something like Man WP or something like that, you can slightly sidestep that problem in that you can keep them updated automatically.

But it's better not to have things in there that the client just thought would be fun, but never actually implemented. And it, you

[00:13:45] David Waumsley: know, what's happened with one client, I can think of who installed stuff because it's a Woo commerce site. They think, ah I'll add this in because it will work in what the description says it will do.

But what they don't know is that actually won't do it because their product pages are actually coming via the page builder. And this assumes, this plugin assumes that it's the default set up. For WooCommerce and things like that, so they can easily break sites, with not understanding what these plugins are actually doing and how they work.

[00:14:19] Nathan Wrigley: And do you remember a couple of years ago, I say a couple of years, may, maybe it's longer, maybe it's shorter, but there was a plugin, which completely overnight. I think it was bought by somebody, and then this plugin, which did one. Really well, if memory serves, it had something to do with gravitas or, I images, image avatars.

And then you clicked update and suddenly it become like a completely different thing. It was like an LMS or a membership plugin and just what, how did that happen? And this is important, that needs to be tracked. And unless the community had shouted loudly about it, which they. That would've been, I'm imagining, entirely missed.

[00:15:03] David Waumsley: And it's always happening. In fact, one of the plugins that I forgot to mention that's in my new stack is WP Migrate, which has only just recently become a full migration plugin that works with WP Local because I guess that's what they needed something that did it. But originally it was bought and it was just a database backup plugin.

[00:15:27] Nathan Wrigley: Does WP Migrate is. Is that,

[00:15:30] David Waumsley: is it migrate? Sorry, actually I might have the wrong

[00:15:32] Nathan Wrigley: name. Yeah, because I've actually used one of those migrate plugins in the recent past, and I believe some of them have got like a limit on the amount, you have to upgrade to the pro version or something if your backup size is, I dunno, larger than 500 megabytes or something like that.

So yeah, we should probably get that one right, whatever it's actually called. Yeah, they're talking an old variety out there, but what's it called? Have you figured? Yes, it's

[00:15:58] David Waumsley: here. It's WP Migrate. So I was right, WP Migrate Light, which is just recently, it's owned by WP Engine. Yes. That's the

[00:16:04] Nathan Wrigley: one, that's the one I was using.

Yeah. Yep. Yeah. And it's

[00:16:08] David Waumsley: it's now become useful to me. So it's a new plugin in my toolbox because it will now let me save more than just the database, which is what it originally did. But of course, it's now a different plugin to what it was, and I. The biggest one for me was when the coming soon plugin by seed prod was bought by awesome motive.

And for years nothing seemed to change, but overnight it suddenly became a full blown page builder. With theming capabilities. An entirely different plugin. Yeah. It still does the basic functionality, but there's all this extra code doing more, which. Really just isn't

[00:16:49] Nathan Wrigley: needed. It's funny because in, in a sense, the fact that if it's still carried on doing the same thing that it did before bot, they added in a whole ton of extra functionality.

I can see the argument from the developers, look, we're just giving you all this extra stuff. Yeah. But the fact is, you don't really want the extra stuff. You don't want the membership plugin, you don't want the page builder or whatever it is that's been thrown in there. You just want it to keep doing the thing that.

Requested. Requested it to do. Can I ask you? Yeah. Going off piece a little bit, and probably this should, excuse me, this should wait until after we finish recording, but I'm gonna ask you anyway. Does the WP migrate, does that allow you to migrate something from local to somewhere else, or does it have a special attachment to WP Local?

[00:17:35] David Waumsley: I dunno, it's too new. I haven't, I, yeah, I've just installed it cause I thought, oh, there's a, an integration between something I use. So I thought I've just saved it at the few of my, I've done, I've saved things that are in local, so I've got a backup. Got it. So I haven't added them back yet, but I know you can, if you've got a live site, then you can add it to local quite easily.

[00:17:59] Nathan Wrigley: Ah, okay. That's interesting. Okay, so you are still a kid in a candy store then, aren't you? Check you out. You just, you saw the shiny new WP Engine, WP Migrate light plug and you are all like, Ooh, check it out. Shiny.

[00:18:13] David Waumsley: Honestly, I think I must have been through every. Plugin there is. Yeah. Going, yeah. At some

[00:18:17] Nathan Wrigley: point.

Yeah. Do you know what that would be? A whole episode by itself, I think. I think all of us have been there. Like I try every backup plugin until you figure out why it doesn't work for you, and yeah, there's no perfect solution. What about this whole thing? Let's move the, let's move the discussion on a little bit.

What about the idea of plugins? Being trustworthy because of the company or the author. Yeah. That's creating them. You really were the person that put me onto this. Prior to that I. I really didn't care too much to look at the, about page of a company. I didn't really fuss too much about how long they'd been in business or any of that, but you definitely gave me thoughts in that direction and since then there are I won't be naming names and maybe you won't either, but there are certain individuals and companies who just.

My trust in some way, which is curious. Yeah. Because I don't know them necessarily, but it's just their actions and the way that they've supported things or updated things in a timely way. Maybe the blog posts that they've put out and the way that they've marketed things just fits with me and I've definitely got things that I prefer because of who's doing it.

[00:19:33] David Waumsley: Yeah, indeed. In some ways, I dunno if. N where I, in a way, when I was thinking about picking, a lot of people want to pick plugins from a trusted company if they've got it from the same source and I think we're definitely moving towards that at the moment, aren't we? We've seen so many acquisitions and yeah, as I was saying about Awesome Motive, they change that plugin because, They needed a page builder in their collection.

If they wanted everybody to buy their stuff, they almost could give you the full WordPress experience. And we see others like Stellar WP, who are really almost brought a package together. So you could just stick with that one company if you wanted. In some ways my, what I mean to is more is the fact that I would look at the company and see whether they shared the same values as me in terms.

Sort of web development, so for me it would be more about whether they were likely to keep it simple and clean in their terms of their output.

[00:20:33] Nathan Wrigley: Do you go and ask these companies these questions, do you directly get, so before you get really into it and maybe even buy things from them, do you go and ask them these questions?

Do you go into the support and lodge tickets? Yeah. Saying those kind of things, or is it more as general feeling based upon their public posture? Yeah, I think, you

[00:20:52] David Waumsley: know with people I have trusted, it's because they've written good articles and you get to understand where they're coming from, and these days people go on YouTube and stuff and you get some vibe about what their principles are.

And I think that's great, but I think also where that goes wrong is. It's the fact that no one I think will be going on beyond 10 years and still be right at the front of developing all of these plugins. If they grow and become successful, they have to hand it over to other people and take a step back and do the business marketing side.

[00:21:28] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Have you ever gone against that rule and installed something from a complete. Unknown because I did that fairly recently. It was about six months ago. I won't go into it. But essentially I needed a solution. And I found it wasn't on wordpress.org, it was in the marketplace somewhere, let's put it that way.

And I bought it. It just was a complete unmitigated disaster. It did what it was supposed to do, but the documentation was terrible. The feature list that they promised never got delivered, and it really was a bit of a salutary lesson. I had this intention of short-cutting something, saving a load of time for a few dollars and it really didn't work out.

I'm sure this, the case is probably true in the opposite direction, but I should have done my spidey sense test. And I, looking back, I probably did have a slight intuition that this wasn't gonna work out. Nothing bad happened, it just. Do what it was supposed to do and things that I expected that it would do, it didn't do.

And I was a bit misled by the marketing. So have you ever done that?

[00:22:46] David Waumsley: I, and often I will install very simple plugins that I don't know who they are. An example of that at the moment is one that I've installed, which is called Custom Body Class, a simple plugin that allows you to add custom CSS class.

To your body tax, obviously, for your individual pages. So you don't need to use the ID that WordPress gives you if you want to do your own styling. Now, I don't know who that author is. It just seems such a simple plugin that I would take a chance with it, yeah. I

[00:23:19] Nathan Wrigley: guess it's doing such a mind you.

You could reel it down the line if you'd adopted that and it stops working or some, it never gets updated and you stop. Yeah. A whole site could be really booked by

[00:23:32] David Waumsley: that. Yeah. You would expect, because it's, I guess it's, as you go on and you understand a little bit more about how WordPress works, you, you can make better judgements on what's likely to be safe on what's unlikely to change about WordPress.

Go forward, yeah. So I'd imagine if that plugin wasn't updated, f for the next 10 years, it would probably still work,

[00:23:56] Nathan Wrigley: I would guess. Wh why are you not willing to use the WordPress post or page ID in the body? What's, is there, was there something that you, I'm just wanted it to look nicer.

Just for my own styling. Yeah. If I want to put a custom styling on the about page, it's just easier if I've got dot about to do it. Yes. Rather than Id five, ID 4,

8, 7, 8, 2, 9, 1. Yeah. Yeah. I'm sticking with the WordPress all. Yeah, I get it. I think there's probably a good snippet to be had in that you could add into WP Code Box.

I'm sure there'd be a snippet line around somewhere where you could just. Title of the post, hyphenate it and have that as the added into the body classes. I'm sure. I bet there is. In fact, that's probably exactly what it's doing right.

[00:24:42] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I, exactly, it was just for a quick way of plugin.

So there's those kind of things where you realize that really effectively what you are saying there is that plugin is doing nothing more than a adding a simple snippet. And there's a whole range of plugins that fall into that category. They really. They are what a snippet could do. Yes.

And I think in that case, most of the time I trust those. It's the bigger ones where a page builder or something is a big decision because if that page builder isn't well supported or just goes in the direction you don't want to go, then you really are. Stuffed, aren't you? For that

[00:25:21] Nathan Wrigley: site?

Yeah. So that's interesting. So we're really happy to install loads of things that just do one simple thing. Let's flip that completely on its head and do the what about the one. Giant plugin, which does everything. A perfect example would be, let's say, a page builder. Now that may be a theme.

Forget all that, whether it's a plugin or a theme, who cares for now? But we install it and it just does all the things. It's got forms in it, it's got layouts and rows and templates and all these whizbang things. And essentially we can do our entire. With that one thing, and I'm pretty sure that you are trying to move away from that as well.


[00:26:05] David Waumsley: I am. But I think, clearly Elementor is a huge success and I think it. To a large extent it gave that promise, didn't it? It was pretty much gonna add what you needed. And I think you know what most people needed. So there was good forms, builder included. It wasn't in Beaver Builder, my page builder, that had different kind of aims.

And I think, I've always tried to avoid. All in one mega themes and now mega plugins in terms of page builders. Because I think I want that individual control over stuff, but yeah, Isn't that what most people are looking for when they come to WordPress? I

[00:26:46] Nathan Wrigley: think, I think you only have to look at elemental success.

I don't know if it's still on the increase. I don't know what, how their market share is working, but it definitely is what a lot of people wanted and even I think even a lot of. Pros ended up using Elementor for all the things. And honestly, I think if you got really good at that one thing, in this case we're talking about Elementor, you could totally build a career out of your ability to use that tool effectively, quickly know every possible setting.

In the same way that you were such a big user of Beaver Builder, you had total muscle memory as to where everything was, and you could do things really quickly. I, I. Why not? If you are happy that company is trusted, that it's gonna keep going, that it's going to be maintaining its plugin and securing it and updating it and so on, why not?

Yeah. If it works for you, it works for you. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:27:45] David Waumsley: And I think it's priorities and what you need to deliver to clients. It speed. The whole building of a site depends. Whether that works out in the very long term doesn't matter, particularly if people are used to redesigning every so often.

It doesn't matter. It's gonna last you for the years that you need probably, and it might be the most, useful way of going about things. I think. There. There's always the problem, isn't it? If you do, you really buy into the one dependency, don't you? When you do this that's the point.

[00:28:19] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah.

I wonder if that's ever, so we mentioned Elementor just then, didn't we? And Elementor, I feel is in a really interesting and unique position in that it's so big that you'd imagine it's unlikely to drop off the production cycle. I imagine they've got lots of staff and can keep that going. There's definitely been page builders, which have come around in the last 10 years, which, lots of marketing fanfare, initial excitement, loads of people watch all the videos and start to use it, and then it's dropped off and you never really hear from them again.

And in many cases you wonder, is it even being updated? Is it even being maintained? I don't really know. But that is a concern because all of a sudden you've got 50, 20, a hundred, I don't know, website. That are using this thing and good grief it's not gonna be maintained anymore. They're stopping it.

That would be, Ooh,

[00:29:12] David Waumsley: horrible. Yeah. Yeah. And it, it's an impossible situation, I think for really successful plugins that attempt to, to deliver. Almost everything to everybody because the larger the growth, the wider and more diverse the requests for new features are, and you know what's added, you know what's popular might be very unpopular with other people.

So it wasn't long before a lot of the pros use in elementary, like saying, you're just adding more stuff that I don't want stop. And other people will say, you're just not adding.

[00:29:47] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's difficult, isn't it? And I guess also if it, it doesn't maintain its success, yeah. Then, people get laid off.

The ability to maintain what's there starts to dwindle and, yeah, that's a difficult cycle. I don't have no idea. I'm not sure whether you follow any of these page builders particularly closely anymore. I do anecdotal. But yeah I get the impression that has happened in a few cases and that's really hard for those people that have used it.

[00:30:21] David Waumsley: Do you think ge, I mean I, maybe the same would apply for going for lots of separate plugins from one trusted company or author. Again, you are dependent on that company. Yeah. Yeah. It's, that goes under the same as you would be with one plugin that rolls them all, or one theme that rolls them all. So I, I think that's increased over the time that I've been with WordPress because it used to be a lot more plugins.

I remember when the first commercial plugins came into WordPress, so there wasn't anything before, and I think that's the big change. So previously the repository was full of lots of one job only plug-ins that didn't change much. So I think that's changed over the years. But the next thing is, and this is where I moved to mostly, which was doing the kind of due diligence and really questioning when a plug-in was necessary.


[00:31:20] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I, like I say I now mostly, obviously I tripped up. I gave an example a minute ago where I just didn't really do that cuz I, it was very shiny and it did exactly what I wanted, but it didn't work out. I mostly do that now. I go and look at the About Us page. I check it all out and make sure that this plugin.

It's being actively supported. I can see that there's a support channel. If I send in a ticket, it gets answered quickly. Yes. I confess, I don't use this WP Hive thing that you. We're mentioning. I'll link to that in the show notes for anybody that's interested. But that does seem like a tool that I should start using.

But I have got to the point cuz I'm not really doing too much in the way of client websites anymore. I'm, it's me. For me, it, most of my plugin requirements are just, it's what I'm curious about, if I hear about something which is new and interesting and fancy, then I'll go and explore it.

But it's not me on the lookout for something that a client wants much anymore. Yeah,

[00:32:21] David Waumsley: most exactly and I think, I'm faced with the, as I mentioned, I think last time that I've. Clients who haven't updated their sites, they've not wanted to change the design or anything about it eight years on.

And now we're reaching the point where a lot of plugins are starting to disappear. That, their site was built on you. No one, expected them to be going on to eight year period. But so now I'm it is made me even more cautious about what I depend on and setting expectations.

But if you are, if it's just your own project, you. It's you take the responsibility, it's fine. You don't have to worry about those issues. You that's

[00:33:03] Nathan Wrigley: exactly the difference, isn't it? You can just put anything you like on there and it's up to you to clean it up if it goes wrong, and if it works out great.

Yeah. Yeah. There's a, there is a big difference there with your eight year old sites. When you update them, do you have to do retraining and things then? The UI that they were used to and the features that they were used to, and you click on this link and it takes you to the settings for this particular thing.

You've obviously, you are ripping some of those plugins out and replacing them with maybe similar functionality or a snippet. Do you have to spend quite a lot of time with your clients retraining them? No. Great.

[00:33:40] David Waumsley: To be honest, what's, so far, I haven't been faced with a situation where their experience or what they do, how they add content has changed radically for them.

So that's been okay and in fact, This is another key thing that we didn't put in our notes there, plugin strategies. It really just depend on what that plugin does because it's quite, it's been quite easy for me to swap out SEO plugins, backup plugins without the client ever knowing. Oh, okay.

Yeah. Just know what I mean. So I think, it's really where the. Problem becomes really, is when you've, you are dependent on the theme and you have to swap that out. That becomes quite a job for you, particularly if you've got customs css, cuz you really have to rebuild it. Or if it's a page builder, I think they're the only two situations where, For me at least the only those two situations are the client affected.

The theme would've to be replaced. They, it wouldn't affect them and their experience in most cases, but it would cost them for me to do it. And if we had to change something about the UI with a page builder, of course, then they would need some training. But so far, That's not been the

[00:34:52] Nathan Wrigley: case. Ah, that's nice.

Yeah. Okay. Let's shift it. Let's shift it up a gear or down. So you've written here, why don't you just make your own plugins? Yeah. Everybody should do that. How I wish,

[00:35:08] David Waumsley: I know it's. Have you

[00:35:10] Nathan Wrigley: made your own plugin sometimes? No, not, I experimented with that kind of stuff back in the day, but it was basically just to see whether I could create a plugin that worked and did it do what it was supposed to do?

I can't even remember what it was, but it was a bit like your WP Code box. It was a snippet, essentially, to achieve one thing and no I fear that I'm dangerous with P H P and it would. Something that I think looking back maybe I wish I'd have got more into that side of things, but I never did.

I think the whole nature of the client throughput meant that I never really had time to concentrate on that, cuz I was always, working to please the client and get things done quickly so that I could move on to the next project. Never really had time. It was a bit of an excuse I know, but never made the time to learn PHP Javas.

Whatever. Yes. Enough to do it. So no, the answers are basic. No.

[00:36:09] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. I lack the skills. I have made some very basic plugins. And that's it, pretty much the same as you. I couldn't make anything more clever, but there is a good argument. Obviously I've, I use WP Code Box and effectively that.

Working the same as adding in lots of home-built plugins, but there is something in that isn't there? The idea that you should add dysfunctionality in via plugins because you've got that collection, you can, if you've got your own simple ones, you control it. You can just add them in as you need them on the project that you're working on with.


[00:36:50] Nathan Wrigley: Honestly I, if I. Achieve that a bit long in the tooth now, I think this is something I would, if I could rewind the clock, I definitely would learn how to do that kind of thing better. And again, I don't think I would ever have attempted something truly difficult. It would've just been a simple thing.

But you're right. Yeah. You can store it away somewhere, even upload it to the wordpress.org repo if you're that way inclined. And then use it time and time. Yeah, and

[00:37:19] David Waumsley: I think it, I think when WordPress was invented and plugins were put in there, an initial idea was just this, simple snippet like functionality that you would add in through plugins.

So you know, when you come to this kind of bragging rights, Business with, how many plugins do you have? Somebody who really does know how to do that and goes back to those early days where you, every bit of functionality is added via a plugin. It'd be, you'd be quite happy to say, I run a hundred plugins and all of my themes and I have the best performance out there.

Yes. Yeah. It'd be evidence of good a good practice, I think. Yeah. A lot of people are big fans. Put everything into a plugin and add it into the system as you need

[00:38:03] Nathan Wrigley: it. I would, yeah, I wish I'd, I wish I had the capability there. There are so many little things that I would like to be able to achieve on a daily basis.

I find something and I think, ah, I wish it did that. But I like I say, I never make the time to investigate how to do it properly. So honestly I can't complain because it's on my shoulders, isn't it? I didn't bother.

[00:38:27] David Waumsley: The other thing about the the whole bragging rights with the, I use very few plugins argument, But after, what's missing is the fact that maybe they've got WooCom or something with 30 extensions, which aren't called plugins, or they've got a big mega theme, which is doing what a plugin would do anyway.


[00:38:49] Nathan Wrigley: true actually, quite a lot of the themes that I've seen recently and played with. You go in and it's a theme, but you go into their settings area and there's. A dozen, 20, possibly 30 different things that you can enable and disable, and they bring features, functionality, it's not present.

It's not a presentational thing. It's not about changing colors or, what have you. It's literally adding things, which in many ways, I think the domain of. Plugins. It's adding features, ways to do things, being able to put things on the page and yeah, you're right. That's true. You might have absolutely no plugins at all, but you've got this giant theme, which is doing a billion different things.

Yeah, it's a good point. I,

[00:39:35] David Waumsley: I'm definitely moving into, as I've I've created my own theme, which is very simple for my static site generation. And now I'm absolutely stuck and I think there's an episode in this to when to use a theme, when to put functionality into a theme and when to put it into a plugin.

[00:39:55] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I guess the argument's always been if it's presentation, it's the theme. If it's functionality, it's a plugin, but. It's pretty clear that there's a lot of people who don't subscribe to that because they wanna shift one product and they want to have features in it. So it's the theme to put it all in the theme.

And you've got other things. So a good example would be page builders, right? There's a whole load of page builders, which are a plugin, and there's also a whole load of page builders, which are a theme. It's ostensibly they're doing the same thing. I guess it was just a contrivance back in the day to.

Call them these two different things. But there's definitely a lot of people who overlap. Some things are clearly gonna be plugins cuz they, it would be stupid to say that they were a theme. There's a whole like WP Code box for example. You're never gonna have that. As a theme, it's a plugin, it's adding functionality, but there is definitely an overlap.

Those sites, back in the day, you could get those themes off Code Canyon and they did absolutely everything and yeah, it was all a theme. Yeah. I, yeah, I guess you've just gotta figure out where the boundary lies for yourself, you think.

[00:41:09] David Waumsley: The market is changing. And does that if we're trying to work out a strategy for plugins, do we need to, think about how things have changed?

Because they certainly have, I think Gutenberg has reduced the need for a lot of third party plugins and themes. So that's shifting,

[00:41:34] Nathan Wrigley: I think. Yeah, this is a really interesting thing, isn't it? The idea that the core of WordPress. Can do a lot more than it could do five years ago.

Whether you like that or you don't like that is not really what we're talking about. It's the fact that it does. So now you may not wish to use it, but now you've got essentially a page builder. You can do the, use the site editor to edit your menus and to, edit the headers and footers and create template and template parts and all of these kind of things.

Yeah, it's interesting. Because I do, five years ago when Guttenberg was still being talked about, I do remember that there was a lot of debate oh, it's gonna kill page borders. No, it won't, don't worry about it. It really hasn't turned out that way, has it? A lot of these page builders are still thriving and selling.

Many licenses into the marketplace because a lot of people don't want to use Gutenberg to do that kind of thing. Yeah. But as time goes on, lots of the functionality, the ability to create a, I don't know, a query loops to show different, a arrangements of posts and put different categories out there.

All of that's now. Inside of WordPress core, it does make me wonder, does that put a lot of these plugins out of use? Are they gonna fail? Stop being used by people and therefore present security risks cuz they don't get updated. I don't know. Yeah,

[00:43:08] David Waumsley: I think it's the only way for now that Gutenberg is here, I think the only way forward, and I think a lot of that is to, to be a good competitor to the likes of Wick and Squarespace, but the only way it can be a good competitor to those.

Is that what they have in terms of the advantages, control over the system, the entire system. So if Gutenberg has taken us more towards doing everything in a more page builder like way, then becomes the issue of the third party plugins, they al also have to be in line with core else. Otherwise the system can't adapt in the way that weeks could.

Because it could change everything overnight. No one's affected. And I think this is the move with the it's been acknowledged, doesn't it? With with Matt Mullenweg talking about it and proposing the canan canonical plugins. Yeah. Once that follow core, and I think I see that being the direction I see.

There'll be a lot more advice saying, try and stick with just the core products or stick. These plugins that are aligned with the direction of call WordPress. That would

[00:44:25] Nathan Wrigley: be the easier route. Yeah. It's quite interesting cuz the language that seems to be coming out of automatic seems to be a little bit more forthright than that.

It's it's not described as I, I'll just read it. Basically they're talking about reduc. The need for third party plug-ins. So it's an actual shift to saying, look, stop using them. That seems to be the wait. You've got people encouraging people to try the site editor, try to build sites without using third party plug-ins.

Try to accomplish your goals with that. And that's interesting cuz that's disruptive to those people who've got plugins which overlap in functionality. I wonder how they view that kind of language, whether they view it as a bit incendiary. Yeah, and it's

[00:45:14] David Waumsley: tricky. I remember watching a video that was advertising wordpress.com and it, and effectively it was contrasting page builders with Gutenberg, and the argument was, this is always gonna stick around and it'll be, stick within the one system that is WordPress, rather than go to third parties.

But, so It's gonna go that direction. And it's sensible, isn't it, in a way, for WordPress now it has got Gutenberg, and now it has become much more like a page builder and will appeal to those. It seems the only direction it could go is to encourage only use with plugins that will stick strictly with it.

But then contrasting that we have. All of these big acquisitions that are going for big companies like WP Engine, stellar, WP or Automotive, who are now building up acquiring these plugins to offer this complete package as well.

[00:46:12] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. There's been definitely a lot of co buying up AC acquisition and shoring up their offering that.

And it

[00:46:21] David Waumsley: is just fascinating, isn't it? Cuz it's because there is this kind of odd mix in WordPress, which I guess has always been there, this competition and cooperations. Cuz many of these companies will be contributing to core as well. They are competitors, but they have to cooperate with each of us.

Yeah. Yeah. But I, the interesting thing for me is that, What I feel the squeeze on what I've always liked is the independent developer who makes the plugin that does a very simple job and is lightweight and I feel they might be squeezed a bit in

[00:46:57] Nathan Wrigley: this. Oh yeah, de definitely. I suppose where it overlaps with what is going inside the Gutenberg project, I guess if there's an overlap.

Than it is quite likely. Having said that, the core offering is fairly how to describe it. It's fairly minimal. So a good example here would be, I know you can achieve an awful lot with grouping blocks and so on inside of core, but then you've got something like, I don't know, generate blocks, which.

In theory, there's a complete overlap there that, you should be able to do it with. Whatever generate blocks can do, you should be able to do that with core. But generate blocks has just made it so seamlessly easy. It seems a real win to buy that product and keep using it. So even when there's overlap, you can definitely be a superior offering in the marketplace and have a monetizable product.


[00:47:56] David Waumsley: mean, definitely my plug because of these forces, if you like the fact that we've got those kind of mega companies who are putting plugins together for a whole package with them, it seems sensible to pick one of those and jump on board with it. Cause it might make it easier. Than perhaps native WordPress as it presently is.

Yeah. And then

[00:48:16] Nathan Wrigley: we cycle back to the conversation we had a minute ago about whether they'll stay in business or not.

[00:48:21] David Waumsley: Exactly. And then, WordPress is although it's heading in a direction that makes it more user friended than it used to be to a DIY user, but I don't know if it matches me.

So I, it's definitely pushed me much more into you. Closer to working on my own theme and trying to create my own plugins more because I'm not sure if either of these two options would WordPress Okay. Yeah, I, yeah. So

[00:48:50] Nathan Wrigley: you've got a thing here, which is in our show notes. You've put Essentials not in court.

I think we should leave that for another episode. Okay. I think that could be a standalone episode all by itself. So I won't outline what's what you've written under there, but I think that could. I think I thinking the unthinkable episode for the future. Having, besides that, we're onto 47 minutes here, so we should we should probably knock this one on the head.

What do you think? Indeed.

[00:49:19] David Waumsley: And we dunno what we're doing next time,

[00:49:20] Nathan Wrigley: so no another we'll decide that when I click the stop record button, but in a couple of weeks we'll be back with a different episode, thinking the unthinkable. Thanks David. Yeah. Thank you. Cheers. I hope that you enjoyed that. Very nice to chat with David Worsley about this slightly comical topic.

What is the correct number of plug-ins? Is there a correct number? Do you try to expunge as many plug-ins as you possibly can and keep it lean? If you've got any comments, please head over to WP Builds.com. Search for episode number 323 and leave as a comment there. Alternatively, you can join our Facebook group, WP Builds.com/facebook. Leave as a comment.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and yet 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me/wpbuilds. We really do thank GoDaddy Pro for their support of the WP Builds podcast.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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