The number of plugins available for WordPress is mind-blowing but the more WordPress sites I build there are some plugins that I keep coming back to. Here are my go-to plugins.
For any site security is paramount and WordPress sites are no different. Limit Login Attempts is a simple but extremely effective plugin to stop too many login attempts on your site, typically from brute force attacks which sadly are becoming more common for WordPress sites. It is so effective that Softaculous now include it in their 1-click WordPress installs on server control panels.
If you have not heard of this or do not have it installed then stop reading this and go install it now.
Discovering Advanced Custom Fields was probably the biggest ‘WOW’ moment I have had since working with WordPress. I had always rolled my own post/page/cpt options to give clients more options for data instead of wrangling with the default post or page custom fields. When I first heard of ACF I foolishly thought it would be no use because I could create my own custom fields as the client needed. How stupid was I? You only need to check out the long list of field types ACF supports to realise how much time has been wasted on homemade solutions, not to mention that most solutions would be baked into the specific theme creating the dreaded ‘lock in effect’.
ACF is a must-have plugin for a WordPress site developer with some extremely useful add-ons. Custom meta fields is a weak point in the WordPress core and ACF has filled the gap so well I only wish I had found it sooner.
If you want to sell or offer digital products on your WordPress site there are a few plugin to choose from but Easy Digital Downloads stands out from the crowd. It’s core free plugin has a multi contributor base of developers and it has a rich ecosystem of add-on plugins to cater for just about anything.
Last year I helped my wife develop and launch Harriet & Violet a free teaching resources site. It is built on WordPress using Easy Digital Downloads to power the downloading of the resources (pdf files). Even though EDD primarily is used for purchasing digital goods, coupled with the Easy Digital Downloads – Free Download plugin allows the site to serve the downloads for free.
Most websites I build for clients have some sort of form on them and 99% of the time it’s the classic ‘Contact Us’ form. Recently I discovered the free Ninja Forms plugin and have completely ditched other plugins or homemade forms.
Ninja Forms is a plugin in the same mould as Easy Digital Downloads with a free core plugin with add-on plugins to add more functionality as you need it. It has a growing developer base and some smart guys behind it and I can definitely see it becoming even more of a major competitor to the free Contact Form 7 and the premium Gravity Forms in 2014.
I have something of a love/hate relationship with Yoast’s ubiquitous SEO plugin. I dislike his branding and would rather not look at cartoons of him stuffing his face with Popcorn whilst editing settings. The plugin is also quite bloated in places with annoying tracking messages. However, I use it on every site I build because it is the best plugin out there for controlling the SEO of a WordPress site. It handles site wide and content specific SEO, XML sitemaps, and integration with social media.
Let’s face it, emails that get sent from WordPress are pretty basic and plain. Custom Emails is a great little premium plugin to allow you to take control of the design emails, the sender details as well as how they are sent. The plugin comes with some built in templates that instantly improve the look of the emails and adds a more professional look to a site’s communication. You can connect services like Postmark and Amazon SES to power the sending of emails which allows greater control for sites on servers who have limited support for PHP’s mail() function.
If you have ever moved a WordPress site then you will know the hassle when it comes to moving the database. MySql dump then find and replace? Doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to theme and plugin settings, widgets and other serialised data. As soon as I discovered the free WP Migrate DB I was instantly impressed. It handles replacing your site urls and file paths everywhere when exporting databases. WP Migrate DB Pro is the premium version that introduces syncing databases between sites inside the dashboard. It is a massive timesaver for developing sites across multiple environments. There is also now an add-on for syncing media files making it almost the complete solution for migrating WordPress sites.