WordPress works fine. But you need plugins to add extra features and functionality. Without plugins, WordPress is not-worth-as-much. Plugins give you control over website functions and performance without writing any code. Choosing the right plugins play a big role in your mobile speed success.
It seems as simple as searching for the most popular plugins. Then installing and activating them on your website. The result: an instant functionality upgrade without needing technical knowledge.
The problem is most popular plugins are slow loading. They bog down your site. Often globally, meaning slowing every single page and post. We call that site drag. Other plugins are more forgiving. They don’t suffer from site drag. Instead, they load only where used – or where there’s a shortcode installed. How can you know if a plugin causes site drag? Experimentation. This undocumented gotcha isn’t in read.me files.
Lightweight: 1.4 millisecond load time. 161.3k package size.
The plugin directory is one of WordPress’ great assets. It provides over 55,000 applications extending WordPress. It’s also completely open and free. Any author can contribute. Anyone can download. The plugin auditing process and security analysis are sometimes flaky. Bad plugins happen.
Many plugins have identical functions – but they’re not built the same. Some hog resources. Others are fine quality. You can solve about any WordPress problem with a plugin – or a plugin combination. We do research and experimentation to discover plugins helping mobile WordPress speed. We appreciate alternatives to bloated popular plugins.
WordPress.org used to place a label on plugins not updated in over 2 years. Now they indicate how many update version have been missed instead. This staleness warning may mean the plugin won’t work – or worst case – could break your site. Often, we find old plugins work great. Especially for speed. Even when they aren’t updated for years.
This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.
This shelf-life warning, above, scares people from unrealized opportunities. So we still test obsolete plugins. There are many compatible-and-clean 8- or 10-year-old plugins. There are always risks with even the biggest and best – and most popular. These unpredictable gambles include plugins with millions of active installs and recent updates. Even WordPress or Yoast stubs it’s toe. It happens to the peerless.
The Plugin Review team takes down a plugin if it’s becomes vulnerable. But they don’t always notify users when this happens – or tell us to remove a bad plugin. We know this from sad experience.
SpeedXray measures load-time impact expressed in seconds for every plugin you have activated. It helps narrow down plugins causing potential speed issues. SpeedXray doesn’t work with newer PHP version 7+. You need to dial back PHP in your hosts Cpanel to version 5.6.
Description: See which plugins are slowing down your site. This plugin creates a performance report for your site.
After testing, don’t leave it installed. At least, disable it. It’s not needed except when measuring. This keeps your site fast.
There are attempts to prove SpeedXray plugin doesn’t work well – or that it’s results are meaningless. Surprise! We agree. What’s important are the relative results. Not the absolute numbers generated. It’s ranking the worst-offending plugin to the least – with values in seconds. Data is presented in alphabetical order, not in milliseconds. We sort in a spreadsheet. But there’s intuitive data to analyze and we appreciate it. Some say the results are ±30 percent off. Not from our experience. There’s no way to prove accuracy. We don’t care. Our gut says the ranking is correct enough.
SpeedXray is needed for speed assessments. It shows information not represented in any known speed report we’ve found. It’s not crippled when using workarounds for it’s shortcomings (dialing back PHP).
Let’s look at some SpeedXray results for PagePipe.com which loads in under 1 second. We were using the free theme Magazeen-Lite at the time of this test (active installs: 400+, Zip download: 432k). It’s load time is 37 milliseconds according to SpeedXray. Fast! We selected this bare-bones theme because it’s package size was small and light. NOTE: We’re now using the Twenty-seventeen default theme – even though there are newer default themes. Load time is around 20 milliseconds.
We have: 56 free WordPress plugins. What?!
That’s right. 56 are active. 4 are inactive. SpeedXray says they all load in 396 milliseconds. Good enough. We suspect they load faster than that. But as we’ve said; it’s plugin rank that’s important for sorting.
The inactive plugins include:
- Broken Link Checker (which we run quarterly).
- UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore (set to run automatically once per week).
- Replace Image (enabled as needed).
- Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions (we activate and run once monthly for cleaning).
Most of our inactive plugins are “resource intensive.” That means they hog database and RAM on the host server. If they all were running at once, our generous hosting provider would – with total lack of courtesy – shutdown our site. Our resource overages affect our other 23 shared-host neighbor’s speed. Can’t upset the server neighbors! NOTE: We were finally forced to buy more resources by GoDaddy for RAM overruns.
After installing iThemes Security plugin, we got a GoDaddy email notification. It said our hosting account exceeded its resource limits. We dumped the plugin. Read More.
A few other speed tidbits: Worth-The-Read plugin used to be set active only on posts, not pages. It’s our third heaviest plugin at 39 milliseconds. That’s actually pretty light – but we’re picky. How did we do that? Selective plugin activation. Read more here. [Note: we got rid of this plug at a later date.]
Our heaviest plugin is SS Downloads. We activated this plugin only on “download posts.” There are about 7 or 8 posts with this feature. It has a 120 millisecond load. It’s 30 percent of the total plugin weight. We found selective activation conflicted with the Autoptimize minification plugin. Downloads then produced a 404 error. We tested with another minification plugin substitute, Better WP Minify. The same error occurred. Minification was more important to speed than selective activation of SS Download. That isn’t always the case. But it was this time. Minification often is tricky and nonessential. If we deselected minification on the download posts, it broke the site – a catch-22.
In the end, we deleted the SS Downloads plugin. And we didn’t install a minification plugin.
Pareto principle is still alive! 10 of our heaviest plugins contribute to 80 percent of the cumulative weight (see column 3. The red text indicates the 80 percent cutoff). Roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In this case, 80 percent of the slowness comes from 20 percent of our “red-heaviest” plugin choices. These slower plugins needing the most scrutiny.
Easy Forms for MailChimp plugin is number four rank at 26.5 milliseconds. The solution: don’t use it on every sidebar. We place a sidebar 3.5k PNG image linking to a signup page. Then we only affect one page. This we sometimes refer to as offloading. But we aren’t offloading to another site or server, just to another page. Update: We now let MailChimp completely handle the signup on their site instead of bogging down ours with their script. They host our designed signup page. So we no longer do onsite page offloading. We do server offloading to MailChimp. Signup page example below:
Here’s the SpeedXray ranking results:
|Advanced Cron Manager||263.20||24.62%||24.62%|
|Seo By Rank Math||65.70||6.15%||37.48%|
|Shortpixel Image Optimiser||58.00||5.43%||48.69%|
|WP Asset Clean Up||46.20||4.32%||58.34%|
|Admin Menu Editor||20.50||1.92%||84.50%|
|WP Review Pro||17.10||1.60%||86.10%|
|Pretty Links Beginner Edition||15.50||1.45%||90.52%|
|White Label CMS||15.30||1.43%||91.95%|
|Ultimate Addons for Elementor||15.00||1.40%||93.36%|
|ARVE Advanced Responsive Video Embedder||9.50||0.89%||96.46%|
|Insert Headers And Footers||8.90||0.83%||97.30%|
|HTTP headers to improve web site security||2.70||0.25%||98.62%|
|TablePress Extension: Responsive Tables||1.60||0.15%||98.95%|
|Convert Pro Addon||1.40||0.13%||99.08%|
|Wordpress Ping Optimizer||1.20||0.11%||99.45%|
|GTmetrix for WordPress||1.00||0.09%||99.64%|
|Simple Embed Code||0.80||0.07%||99.72%|
|List category posts||0.50||0.05%||99.93%|
|Redis Object Cache||0.40||0.04%||99.97%|
|Leadspring Link Fixer||0.10||0.01%||99.98%|
|No Self Ping||0.10||0.01%||99.99%|
|Slate Admin Theme||0.10||0.01%||100.00%|
PagePipe.com Pingdom results:
340 milliseconds. 10 requests. 108k page weight.
- Cheap, shared, magnetic GoDaddy hosting.
- No paid or free CDN – or server caching.
- No paid plugins or themes. You can do it, too!
The only plugin we’d consider dumping – if we were under duress – is WP Counter (rank: 7, speed: 13 milliseconds). But it makes us feel good and crazy about our work. We can view some simple visitor stats in our dashboard. Look! There you are – visiting us!
We decided to run a test on WebPagetest.org. This produces a homepage worst-case scenario (950 milliseconds). Pingdom being best-case.
It’s not the quantity of plugins – it’s the quality.
Is this homepage beautiful?
No. It’s fast. It focuses on usability. Site goals are the foundation for decision making. We’ll improve branding and expressive aesthetics later. That costs money – and always slows down the page. The page needs to prove itself with results first. Then we’ll formalize the graphics. Or maybe we’ll leave it “as-is.”
How to extract SpeedXRAY data by rolling back PHP 7.x to PHP 5.6 or 5.4
Are delinquent plugin slowing your site speed?
Too many activated plugin slowing your site is a speed myth. The number of plugins isn’t important. It’s not the quantity, but quality that affects speed. Your site can have over 80 plugins – and still load in under 2 seconds. The WordPress average number of active plugins is 25 per website.
Another web speed myth is that popular or paid plugins are the best. It’s often the opposite. Popular plugins usually slow down sites most. Testing reveals the truth.
You can deactivate all plugins and then retest your site speed. If the site loads faster, you know there’s a problem with one or more plugins.
This tedious method then requires activating plugins one at a time for problem discovery. Repeated speed tests are required consuming time and energy.
An alternative method is using the SpeedXray plugin to evaluate plugin load time in milliseconds . This older plugin only works using server-language PHP 5.6. You need to rollback PHP to version 5.6 from newer versions – for example – PHP 7.1 or 7.2.
The SpeedXray Plugin is a more intelligent way to track down resource hogging plugins.
Our goal is ranking the slowest plugins consuming 80 percent of plugin overhead.
This Pareto principle – or 80/20 rule – helps identify the sweet spot for balancing functionality and user experience with the fastest load time.
This technique is also known as value analysis. Slow plugins then are selectively activated – or substituted with faster alternatives – or eliminated.
Note: Many managed WordPress hosts, such as WP Engine, do not allow site owners C-panel access.
This video tutorial demonstrates a workaround to extract SpeedXray plugin data for ranking individual plugin overhead. This is our method of quantifying performance optimization.
Shown here is GoDaddy C-panel access. This feature is included with low-cost Linux hosting.
Scroll down to the software section.
Click the select PHP version link.
That opens an area to switch PHP options.
Here it’s currently set to version 7.1.
Roll back the version with the drop down menu to version 5.6. Click the “Set to current” button.
Version 5.6 is the required for SpeedXray. It doesn’t and can’t run on newer PHP versions.
On the site we’re testing, there are 69 active plugins.
We’ll determine which ones cause the most site drag using the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule. That is where 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of the causes.
Go to the SpeedXray plugin in the WordPress dashboard and click the “Scan Now” text link. Then press the “Start Scan” and “Auto Scan” buttons. Scanning takes about 25 seconds to complete.
When presented, click the “View Results” button.
The SpeedXray plugin produces pie charts representing qualitative results. These displays aren’t very helpful. We want quantified data for benchmark comparisons of potential speed savings.
Click the “Email these result” text link below the pie chart.
A small window pops open labelled Email Report. We’ve never had any success emailing plugin results to ourselves or others.
Instead, with your cursor over the “results” text box, right click and select “Inspect Element” using your browser inspector tool. Or use another equivalent function.
This opens a developer tools window. The code of interest, labeled text area, is highlighted in dark blue. Click in that area. Then double click the code and you’ll see a small format change. The code is still highlighted. Do a keyboard [control-C] and copy this code.
Paste the raw code [control-V] into a standalone text editor. Name and save the file.
Close the email windows.
Deactivate SpeedXray plugin.
Note: Leaving it activated slows your site. Leaving it installed for later reactivation has no speed consequence.
Go to your C-panel and restore the PHP setting to version 7.x.
We analyze the saved data with a spreadsheet program.
When the final sorted results are shown notice which plugins are the heaviest.
#1 – Yoast SEO plugin – that load time has doubled since this test. We say get rid of that slow plugin.
All the heaviest plugins can be substituted of eliminated. Notice WP Rocket is one of the heavier ones. The irony. A speed plugin. Also, WP Disable another speed plugin causes global site drag. Avoid these plugins.
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