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How Many Plugins Is Too Many To Create?

No, not how many is too many to use. How many is too many to make, support, manage, and wrangle. As a developer.

That wasn’t the way you expected that title to end, I bet. You were thinking “How many plugins is too many to have on my site” and that’s absolutely not the topic here. No, instead I’m asking how many plugins is too many for a developer to create?

I Got 99 Problems … I Got 99 Problems …

I think that plugins should be specific. That is, I’m not a fan of a conglomerate of plugins like Jetpack, that do a little of everything. Instead, I like a plugin that does the thing it’s supposed to do, preferably simply and well, and it moves on. That means I often have 20-30 plugins installed on a site, and that’s okay.

At the same time, as a developer, having to support 20-30 plugins is a drain on my limited resources. Becuase here’s what I have to do:

  1. Keep up with all core changes
  2. Include and test all library updates
  3. Test with every release
  4. Update my readme
  5. Review reviews and support posts to make sure I’m not missing things

Multiply that by 20 and it’s a lot of work. And is that work I feel like I must do?

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Gimmie One Reason … Gimmie One Reason …

The reality of having plugins for WordPress, or any add on for any project, is that it’s generally thankless work and you will have more bad days than good. That’s true of many things in life, and as depressing as it can be, it’s important to keep an eye on the reality of the situation. 

Developing software is very analytical art. You create something out of nothing, you design and test and change and tweak, and then present it to the world. Of course those days when people tell you “I don’t like the color” suck, but being humans, we discard that and grab on to the days when someone says “I love the carrot!”

And the reality of the question at hand isn’t how many is too many, but how many are worth the work and the little reward?

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Bring it Together … Bring it Together …

Lately I’ve been advocating something different. Instead of making 13 separate types of gallery plugins, I’ve suggested people make one plugin for galleries and include those 13 types as display options. The amount of work is roughly the same, but it means I only have one plugin to manage instead of 13 separate readme files to edit and installs to spin up. I also have one place to look for any support posts or reviews.

Obviously this doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to split things up. There’s little point it combining a WooCommerce plugin with a NextGen Gallery one (unless the plugin is implementing NextGen with Woo products…). But if you can connect your projects by type, you may find out that there’s crossover. Instead of spreading your user base out over 10 plugins, you can keep them manageable with 5 to 8.

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Working For The Man … Working For The Man …

And what about Jetpack? It’s effectively XX separate types of plugins:

  • Writing
  • Sharing
  • Discussion
  • Traffic
  • Security

Except when you look at that, it suddenly all connects. When I write I want to share and I want people to discuss. I also want to keep an eye on my traffic and being secure…. Okay that last one might be better off on it’s own, but it’s a suite of related apps. 43 separate apps, but they are all related when you get down to it.

Which means even if you’re making a plugin for your company, you can probably combine it with other things safely. And that means less access and security concerns for you too, as you only have to keep track of who has access to one plugin instead of 50.

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How Many Is Too Many? How Many Is Too Many?

This is as subjective as all get out, but I’ll say this. Once you personally support 20 plugins for WordPress, take a good hard look at how much time you’re spending and ask yourself… is it worth it?

It’s okay to say no.