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How do I avoid plugins overloading the server and plugin conflicts?

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Some plugins can slow down your page load, especially ones that call up photos or videos randomly.  You can check your site out with the YSlow feature; it’s an addon to Firefox.  We demo Yslow on our site and show you what slows the page down could be fixed or optimized.  Also, there is no plugin that analyze your plugins for conflict. Most conflict between plugins is due to one being poorly written or javascript conflicts.

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Video Transcript

Rick: Okay, how to avoid plugin conflict? Is there any program for that?

Sandy: Hi Rick, I seem to get into problems where my plugins load the server too much so… I don’t know how many is too many and I was wondering whether there was a program that I can put on the website that would analyze my plugins for conflicts that are coming up.

Rick: Well, no there isn’t a plugin that will check for conflicts. Most conflict between plugins are either because they are, oh you know, poorly written or one of them is poorly written. So it could be that…and with that problem check for the plugins that have tons and tons of downloads because if it had tons of downloads and decent ratings then it wouldn’t get that if it had problems being poorly written. And the other one is Javascript conflicts and Javascript conflicts are still real because some people still don’t load the specific libraries in their conflict mode. So, there isn’t a plugin that checks to make sure that all the other plugins all work together properly. That’s the first answer to your question.

The second answer is if you’re concerned about a plugin having a high load on your server, the way to check that is by using… let’s see if Firefox is working properly now… by using this YSlow which is an addon to Firefox. Here’s your addon to Firefox. And you can add this YSlow to your Firefox installation and then if you go…we’ll go over to my site and then you can see how it works. You know, YSlow shows up in the same place as Firebug does.

And if we run the YSlow test, I don’t think I’m gonna do very well here right now because I’m still in the process of fooling around with the page. It gives me an overall performance of a C and it says “Make fewer HTTP requests”. Well, that in particular, is one of those things that is influenced by your plugins. So it says, “This page has 22 external Javascripts. Try combining them into one.” And “This page has 10 external stylesheets. Try combining them into one.” Those 2 things are plugin driven so if we take a look at Edit CSS for a moment… I have standard style CSS, layout CSS by Thesis and I have my custom CSS which is the one I’m doing and then there’s this GDR star rating CSS. I added star ratings to this site and unfortunately even though there are no star ratings on this page it loads… because the way the plugin is written, it loads the CSS file on all pages which is not really good.

Well you see that and you see it here, these two things actually are based off of that GDR star rating and then you know, it gives you… the one plugin loads 2 CSS files. Then contact form 7… you know, I don’t have any contact forms added here. Contact form 7 has added a stylesheet to the page and actually, this is something that I can fix. I have a video series on how to use contact form 7 and if you look at that, you’ll see that there is one more missing video which is how to optimize contact form 7 for Thesis. And when you optimize contact form 7 for Thesis, it gets rid of this excess stylesheet except on the pages that it’s gonna be used and also, it gets rid of some of the Javascript. But then, wpfp… I don’t know what that is. Unfortunately, WP estore is loading its styles on this page even though there isn’t anything related to the store on the page. And so is… this is another star rating so again, we’re still for whatever reason, this thing has 3 different CSS files.

There’s a blank custom CSS file but I don’t know why it exists and then Wishlist Member which is a membership plugin we use, creates its own on the fly stylesheet and again, even though there is no membership component to this front page… oh no, there is. It’s got the log in so it’s gonna have that every time.

Okay so you can see we have… if I were to deactivate that star rating, i would automatically lose 3 stylesheets and were I to optimize contact form 7, I would lose this stylesheet. So I would’ve gotten rid of…I’m taking it from 10 down to 6 and then the 22 external Javascripts…okay so there are 12 Javascripts in the head of the document. One of them is for my video player that I don’t actually have set up all this page yet but will pretty soon. The second one is standard jQuery in the head. The next one is star rating, again, that’s the javascript. And then I have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Wishlist Member one… just another continuation of my disappointment in that plugin because it loads…it’s one plugin and it could easily just reload one javascript but it chooses not to. Instead, it adds 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 javascript plugins or 5 javascript files and then simple forum creates javascript file in which is, again, related to a plugin. WP favorite posts is related to a plugin and it loads that. Flow Player, I’m getting ready to stop using and but I’m in a transition between plugins right now and… so this one gets loaded too. And then another javascript file, the shopping cart from WP eStore… so you can see all of those are related really to different plugins that I have installed on the site.

And one of the ways that this can get solved is if… and I’m sort of loathe to just come right out and say this because it’s a little… it’s dangerous. That is, I have not been able to make it work properly in my site and that’s W3 Total Cash. One of the nice things W3 Total Cash does to you though is that it will minimize and combine all of these files into a single javascript file before it outputs it which is actually quite nice. But because my site is complicated and because Wishlist Member is complicated, the cashing interferes too much with Wishlist Member for me to be able to use. But there may be other plugins out there that will combine and minimize javascript files for you.

So that was the first point. Let’s see, “Use A Content Delivery Network” – that’s kind of advanced. What else? “Put the javascript down at the bottom” – again, that’s still a problem with the plugins themselves.

“Reduce DNS lookups” – you could very well have a lot of DNS lookups on your site because of the way that a lot of plugins have their own DNS lookups. So right now for example, you can see I looked up in order to put the gravatar inside of the testimonials and I’m not sure why it looks up… obviously, I’ve got a canonical URL issue here between this URL and that URL. Now they’re really the same thing but for whatever reason, it’s looking at both places.

This is a tracking that I’m using and I don’t have any idea what this is or why I’m looking for. And this is my Google Analytics. These things actually might be combined for some reason or another. And then I’m calling the jquery from Google rather than from my site. So some of these… well, I guess none of these are… This one on my site is related to plugins but if you got a Twitter you know, plugin or Facebook plugin or you have a bunch of other plugins like that that go out to other sites, grab information and bring it back to your site, those all have DNS lookups. And let’s see… I’m going to put you back on line here Sandy and why don’t you talk about the plugins that you have working?

Sandy: I think the problem I have is with a plugin that maximizes the…a plugin that constantly pulls photos from Flickr. If a person pulls up this particular webpage, it’ll pull up a certain Flickr photo. But if somebody else pull ups that page, it might pull up a different photo. So my images folder gets large and unfortunately that the server load is more than I like to have so I was trying to see and find out which plugins weren’t battling each other and that’s not an easy thing. other than turning one off. So I’m trying to come up of a simple way for the photos.

Rick: Well the plugins conflicting with each other probably doesn’t have anything to do with server load. What is the URL of the site you’re talking about?

Sandy: I don’t really want to go there.

Rick: Oh okay, okay. That’s fine. While you write that… a plugin that draws random images from Flickr or draws random content from any place is going to increase the server load because every time the page is fed, it’s got to run out and grab that information and then bring it back. And if it doesn’t increase server load, it will increase page load. So again, you know Flickr’s not the only example of that. I mean, there are YouTube video plugins that allow you to you know, serve up popular YouTube videos and so you don’t actually control what video is being served up. You know, the plugin is going to go out and find the 3 most popular or what’s cool now or videos on this topic or something like that. It’s gonna go out there and make that query and get that information and bring that back. Any kind of a plugin like that is going to slow down your page load just because the page is not going to be able to load until after it’s blocked out information back. Does that make sense?

Sandy: It makes a lot of sense actually. So, that’s fine.

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