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The Pitfalls of Plugin Overload: A Case Study on WordPress Performance

Read in 9 minutes | June 23, 2024
wordpress optimization charlotte

Introduction

Around January 2024, a lady walked into our office seeking urgent help with her WordPress website. She explained that her site was painfully slow, making it nearly unusable. As experts in web design in Charlotte, we immediately tried to access her site, only to find that pages took ages to load, if they loaded at all. She mentioned that her site was hosted on BlueHost, a service we quickly recommended she move away from due to its frequent performance issues.

The client also shared that she had outsourced her project to a well-known eastern country, which unfortunately worsened matters. Her story was not unfamiliar to us; we had encountered numerous clients who faced similar challenges after attempting to cut costs through outsourcing.

Initial Consultation

During our initial consultation, the client revealed her ambitious plan to build a marketplace for selling cosmetics locally in Charlotte. To achieve this, she installed as many free WordPress plugins as possible, hoping to cover all her needs without incurring extra costs. When we asked if she had ever checked the compatibility of these plugins with her current WordPress version or with each other, she gave the obvious but concerning answer: “No.”

Recognizing the potential for significant conflicts and inefficiencies, we explained that we needed a few days to thoroughly dive into her website’s code and assess the current BlueHost environment. As a company specializing in web design in Charlotte, we knew that understanding the full scope of the problem was the first step toward crafting a tailored solution to get her marketplace running smoothly. With her consent, we embarked on a detailed investigation, ready to untangle the web of plugins and restore her website’s performance.

Discovery Phase

When tackling any project, our first rule is to set up a development environment, ensuring we don’t alter the live site prematurely. This also involves making comprehensive backups of all files and databases. Diving into BlueHost, we immediately noticed five databases – unusual but manageable. Then, we encountered multiple copies of project files and an overwhelming number of old backups. It was clear that someone had made a significant mess.

After meticulously copying the necessary files to our development server, we created a dedicated development domain and made the required DNS changes. This ensured that any changes we made would only affect the development copy. With everything set up, we finally logged into the WordPress admin area. We discovered over 100 plugins installed there, painting a clear picture of the slowdown. As experts in web design in Charlotte, we knew this plugin overload was the primary culprit. Our task was now to identify which plugins were conflicting with each other and which ones were the primary culprits behind the sluggish performance.

Understanding the Client’s Approach

Faced with more than a hundred plugins installed on her WordPress site, we offered the client several options. First, we questioned the choice of WordPress for a marketplace, suggesting that a platform like Magento might be more suitable and efficient. However, creating a marketplace is no small feat, and she admitted her initial budget was too tight for any of our alternative offers. Despite the complexity, she assured us that she had chosen the plugins based on her specific criteria, believing they would cover all her needs.

We explained that relying on numerous free plugins without proper support was a significant risk. She asked, “Can you please fix my website as it is?” We confidently replied, “Yes, that’s our profession, as we’ve been doing all the work related to web design in Charlotte for years.” We estimated it would take two weeks to clean up the current system, migrate from BlueHost to a trusted VPS provider, and configure it for optimal WordPress performance. With her approval, we began the meticulous process of getting her website up and running smoothly.

The Cleanup Process

We began the cleanup process by eliminating all the useless backups, non-linked databases, and duplicate WordPress files. This drastic housekeeping effort reduced the site’s storage from 10 gigabytes to a much more manageable 2 gigabytes. At least the digital trash was cleared, providing a cleaner slate to work. One of the golden rules of WordPress development is never to forget to clean the cache, primarily since modern websites often use various caching solutions. These range from server-side caches like Memcached, Varnish, and Redis to website-specific caches like WP Rocket and WP Lite and even intermediate caches like CloudFlare.

We started by flushing each cache one by one. Fortunately, after clearing the cache with WP Rocket, the website began to show signs of life. Encouraged by this progress, we turned our attention to the plugins. We methodically reviewed each one, identifying those that were redundant or unnecessary. By the end of this painstaking process, we had reduced the number of plugins from over 100 to a more manageable 30. This significant reduction improved the site’s performance and made it far easier to maintain and troubleshoot in the future.

Results and Outcomes

And yes, we reached a successful point where everything was cleaned up, and the server performance was optimized. Once sluggish and nearly unusable, the website started to fly with impressive speed. We also streamlined some payment functionalities the client had previously tried to manage with dozens of plugins. Seeing her website fast, operational, and efficient brought immense satisfaction to our client. She was more than happy with the transformation. We also taught her how to choose WordPress plugins to avoid future issues correctly. While it might be tempting to claim that we succeeded “like we always do,” success comes from knowing how to do the work and understanding what needs to be done. It’s not magic – it’s the expertise and diligence we got while doing projects within web design in Charlotte for more than 18 years.

Conclusion

About two months after our initial overhaul, the client reached out to us again – not with a plea for help, but to express her amazement at how smoothly her website had been running. She experienced no issues since we delivered the optimized, fully functional site. This success story added another happy client to our growing list of satisfied customers. If you face challenges with your WordPress website, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always eager to share our expertise and ensure your site runs as efficiently. Whether you need advice, troubleshooting, or a complete redesign, our experience in web design in Charlotte ensures you’ll receive top-notch service tailored to your specific needs.