WordPress plugins are the ideal way to add functionality and improve performance to WordPress sites.
While there are thousands of free and premium plugins available, I have my own list of favorites. From clients’ sites to my own sites, I’ve used all of these on a regular basis.
Each adds something useful to the site. From ecommerce tools to improved SEO, each is designed to make the sites I develop even better.
Gravity Forms provides a drag and drop interface for creating basic and advanced forms. It’s easy to build and customise forms to meet any site’s needs. You can even create your own fields and schedule how long a form is displayed.
Takeaway: If you’re building forms for WordPress, this plugin has you covered. It’s used on millions of sites for a reason.
WordPress SEO By Yoast
WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the most popular plugins for optimising posts and pages. SEO can be confusing, but this plugin makes it as easy as filling in a few blanks. It double checks your content to ensure it’s optimised. It doesn’t just focus on keywords. It also creates XML sitemaps, provides meta and link element control and improves RSS feeds.
Takeaway: Don’t try to manage SEO fully on your own. Let this plugin give you the help you need for a more optimised site.
Run a full ecommerce store with the WooCommerce plugin. You can manage inventory, accept payments, create sales reports, run marketing campaigns and much more. The long list of features provides everything you need for your store. Plus, there are hundreds of extensions available to boost the power of the plugin.
Takeaway: No WordPress ecommerce site is complete without this plugin. It currently powers 24% of all ecommerce sites.
Jetpack offers a wide variety of features for WordPress sites. My favorite features include WordPress.com Stats, Publicize and Sharing. The first provides detailed stats without degrading site performance. The latter two make it easy to automatically share posts and provide one click social media sharing.
Takeaway: Use just the features you need to optimise and learn more about your site. Plus, it doesn’t harm a site’s performance.
WP Migrate DB Pro
Migrating WordPress sites can be time consuming and difficult. WP Migrate DB Pro helps save valuable time so clients’ sites are moved quickly. It gives developers full control over the migration process, including backing up the database.
Takeaway: Reduce the stress and hassle of migration. Use this plugin instead.
Automatic Domain Changer
Automatic Domain Changer does exactly what the name implies. It’s a life saver for ensuring a smoother migration from one domain to another. The plugin detects domain name changes and updates all your WordPress tables to reflect any changes.
Takeaway: This is another must have plugin for WordPress migrations. It helps prevent annoying domain errors during the process.
Custom Sidebars Pro
Custom Sidebars Pro gives you full control over customising exactly how, where and even when widgets appear on a site. It integrates with the widgets area in WordPress to make it easier to manage complex widgets across the entire site.
Takeaway: Using this plugin gives you far more control over widget customisation. It also makes managing the look and feel of widgets even easier.
Easy Add Thumbnail
Easy Add Thumbnail automatically adds the feature image ID to posts, including old ones. It doesn’t actually change anything in your database. This removes the need to manually set it for every post. It’s ideal for any themes that don’t automatically add thumbnails for featured images.
Takeaway: Adding the thumbnail meta key for old posts takes hours. This plugin does it quickly and prevents you from forgetting to do it on future posts.
W3 Total Cache
A cache plugin is a must for optimising WordPress site performance. W3 Total Cache can boost page loading speeds by up to 10x when it’s fully configured. This helps improve a site’s rank and visitor satisfaction. It helps improve server performance and handles compression for optimal bandwidth savings.
Takeaway: Visitors expect sites to load quickly. This caching plugin gives site the extra speed boost they need to prevent visitors from leaving due to slow loading pages.
Post Thumbnail Editor
Some WordPress themes create thumbnail cropping chaos. Post Thumbnail Editor provides an interface to manually fix the random sizing and cropping issues of thumbnails on WordPress sites. This allows you to create a more uniform and professional look for thumbnails across the entire site.
Takeaway: Automated thumbnail sizing tools don’t always work as expected. Use this plugin to fix any issues left behind.
I don’t just use these on clients’ sites. I also use them on my own WordPress sites: Retro Race Cars and The Startup Pitch. Professional developers utilise these plugins and many others to provide the best sites for their clients. It’s important to have a developer set up these plugins to ensure a site receives the most benefit.
Thinking of using any of these WordPress plugins on your own site? Contact StuartMedia today to see which ones are best for your needs.
Image: Rob Davies