Part of WordPress’ popularity is the wealth of plugins available to add all sorts of functionality. This extensibility allows the WordPress user admin afford a very rich environment for their users. However, as the title suggests plugins are a two edge sword. While they deliver new capability, they also deliver upgrade and version control headaches.
This is because plugins are a voluntary effort. They invariably start as a effort to provide functionality to the author’s own site as well as sharing with others. But over time maintenance of plugins becomes a lower priority over making a living.
If you have a large site that depends on stability and performance for a living, the rule of thumb for WordPress Plugins is less is more. Job number one is stability ahead of functionality which sits just behind performance.
Job one includes making sure you regularly upgrade to maintain the security of your site. If you need to add a plugin, make sure that it can survive upgrades or discard them. Remember, the more complex the plugin the more things that can go wrong.
Secondly, have a test site. I can’t believe the number of bloggers who do not maintain a test site to test upgrades, plugins, theme changes etc. This sounds like a lot of work, but believe me, when your site crashes in the middle of the night and the complaints roar in, you will thank your ability to quickly recover.
Thirdly ask the hard question, do I really need that plugin or is it just vanity. Quality content is really the key to traffic.