My 11 Must Have WordPress Plugins

I’m a huge fan of WordPress. Not because it’s the best CMS out there but because through a combination of experience and the light weight, flexibility of the platform I’ve found I can build most anything I need quickly and easily.

At the heart of this (aside for WordPress itself of course) are a range of plugins that I deploy to pretty much every single site I build. Some are commercial and I have no problem paying the developers for what is often an awesome amount of work. Some are free, some are complex and some are really simple.

Custom Post Types UI

Site: wordpress.org/plugins/custom-post-type-ui/
Price: Free (open source)

Custom Post Types are the first tool in a serious WordPress developers toolbox. They allow you to transcend the blog inspired world of posts & pages and create your own post types or data types.

Sure you can do this through code (https://codex.wordpress.org/Post_Types#Custom_Post_Types) but a clean GUI and an import export function makes it more accessible and just plain simpler. On its own it may not look like much but wait…

Advanced Custom Fields (ACF)

Site: www.advancedcustomfields.com
Price: Free or $25AUD – $100AUD for Pro

So we’ve got out post types organising our content, now let’s bring ACF into play to define the fields for these types. Total customization of the WordPress editor including validation, conditional logic and a ton of advanced features make the pro version of this plugin (£15 for a single site or £61 for unlimited sites!) a must have. Oh and it can all be done differently depending on the post type, user level, day of the week or what colour socks you’re wearing!

I could (and may) write an entire series of posts on how to use this workhorse to build out a full CMS with flexible layout. Just take some time to read the docs and you’ll see what I mean.

One thing to note, while this plugin super charges the editor, you will still need to add the various fields to your templates. The provided functions are simple and easy to use so this isn’t the end of the world but bear this in mind before you complain that you’re not seeing any of your ACF fields.

Gravity Forms

Site: www.gravityforms.com
Price: $39 per year single site (other pricing options available)

If ACF turns our back-end into a wonderland of flexible fields, so Gravity forms does the same for the front-end. Totally customizable form builder with an amazing drag & drop interface, conditional logic and a range of different actions for your form data. Use it to build registration forms, contact forms, login forms, you name it!

Hell, this plugin is so powerful it even has it’s own plugins covering integration with common services like Mailchimp, right through to power add-ons like Zapier, Twillio, Dropbox, Slack and loads more (note this requires a developer subscription).

The only thing I don’t like – you can forget extracting data from the database directly but there are enough hooks and plugins to send the data off elsewhere this this really isn’t a concern.

Relevanssi

Site: www.relevanssi.com/
Price: Free (premium version available)

The WordPress search function is ok but it really could be better. Relevanssi makes it better – a lot better!

Results are ordered according to relevance, you get fuzzy matching, boolean searching, phrase searching and the results from searches are useful and gorgeous with highlighting for matched terms. Oh and it’s really customisable so you can index the content you want and exclude content you don’t (perfect if you have post types you don’t want returned).

Postman SMTP

Site: wordpress.org/plugins/postman-smtp/
Price: Free

This little gem gives you total control over your email from WordPress. Send mail via Mandrill, Sendgrid, Gmail or your own SMTP server without tinkering with PHP settings. Simple and easy to setup it just works! Oh and you get the benefit of a mail log as well.

Redirection

Site: urbangiraffe.com/plugins/redirection/
Price: Free

Does what it says on the tin – redirects URLs to other URLs. If you’ve migrated sites, moved content or just messed up a permalink and the content has been published Redirection let’s you sort it all out. Choose between 301 (permanent) and 302 (temporary) redirects, group them and generally manage the hell out of bouncing your users around the Internet.

Yoast SEO

Site: yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/
Price: Free (premium version available)

I’m not going to lie I have mixed feelings about Yoast but if you’re serious about SEO then your simply have to install it. Sure it’s a bit invasive adding a huge box to your editor but you can always collapse it. The power it brings to managing keywords and advising you on readability as well as sorting out Social Network Open Graph data is well worth the hassle.

Be sure to install “ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO” (https://wordpress.org/plugins/acf-content-analysis-for-yoast-seo/) as well if you’re using ACF to manage content to get the benefits extended over the whole site.

WordFence

Site: www.wordfence.com
Price: Free (premium version available)

Security is a must in the world of WordPress and WordFence does nothing but. It’s insanely powerful (even in the free version) and protects against a wide range of possible security issues. Brute force detection & lock out, out of date plugins, modified ore file detection and a full application firewall make this the granddaddy of security solutions for the conscientious WordPress administrator.

Note, WordFence can be a bit over eager at times so the configuration requires a little setup but it’s well worth the effort for the piece of mind it brings.

Honorable mentions

Akismet is pretty much a must have – it’s there by default and just requires a key to activate to ensure best in class anti spam.

Jetpack is getting pretty damn good and brings a host of features from WordPress.com to your site. Specifically site monitoring and a seamless CDN for images which can really speed things up as well as a load of warm and fuzzies like social sharing, post likes and email subscriptions.

WP Super Cache is my go to, light weight caching solution. There are more advanced, flexible caching plugins (W3 Total Cache has all the bells and whistles) but for this easy to configure plugin does most of what you’ll need to boost the crap out of your site’s performance.

So there you have it, my core plugins for any WordPress build. Any I’ve missed? Any you swear by? I’d love to hear them so please, drop me an email or hit me up on Twitter!

 

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