Recently I was at a WordPress meetup where the focus of the discussion was on plugins. As a budding WordPress enthusiast, I was eager to learn what plugins the seasoned WordPress veterans were using.

I was surprised when the presenter opened her web site and only had four or five plugins installed. She expertly described what each one was and why it was her plugin of choice, for the given task.

I was disenchanted. I’d had upwards of 20 plugins installed on my WordPress sites. When I asked about that, my question was answered with a question: “Why?”.

Why did I use each of the plugins that I used? What value did it add for me? Those were questions I didn’t have good answers for. I’d installed plugins that I’d heard were cool or useful without understanding exactly what they were and what they do. The result was a complicated collection of plugins that I needed to update frequently that caused performance issues with my sites.

The next day I purged many of the plugins that I didn’t completely understand. The result was a streamlined experience and a WordPress site that is much easier to manage and understand. I gained a lot of performance too, which was the icing on the cake.

The experience reminded me of what’s been an underlying theme in my life for years: simplify. Needless complications is one of my least favorite things. In the IT world, we tend to needlessly complicate things a lot. With custom configurations and a seemingly endless collections of add-ons, we often wind up with solutions that, like my WordPress site, are difficult to manage, and don’t perform well.

A certain amount of configuration is necessary of course, but in recent years, I’ve discovered I’m happiest with my solutions when I use things in their “out of the box” configurations as much as that’s possible, and let the way I work be molded by the solution I’m using as opposed to finding a solution then trying to modify it to fit what I want.

That’s a principal I endeavor to apply very broadly in my life.