With the start of the new year, we’re given an opportunity to look back over 2014 and reflect on the range of websites we’ve built. It is the perfect time to take stock of what has worked well and what can be improved on for 2015. A main area where this is crucial is with what plugins we use. Often client’s budgets can’t extend to having every feature custom built for them, so WordPress plugins can quickly and easily implement functionality that would otherwise be unachievable within their price range.
However relying on someone else’s creation can cause problems. Sometimes plugins may be buggy or not perform well and sometimes they can just grow out of date or be surpassed by alternatives methods. Occasionally you’ll find the plugin is just too restrictive in functionality and not quite do things how you want them to, so it is important we stay on top of any better alternatives.
Below we list the top 10 WordPress plugins that have made the cut to stay in our web developers arsenals heading into 2015.
Elliot Condon – wordpress.org/plugins/advanced-custom-fields/
Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) is a must and is installed on every WordPress site we build. It’s a free plugin but it has paid for add-ons, like the Repeater and Flexible Content fields and a customisable options page. We always use this plugin to make more advanced content pages (like team profiles or testimonials) not only easier to build but dead simple for clients to add to without having to know any html or do any styling.
Modern Tribe – wordpress.org/plugins/widget-builder/
WordPress comes with some widgets built in, and more are added with some plugins, but it’s a long winded process to create and manage your own. Widget Builder give you a new post type to play with, where each post becomes a widget, making the content of them easy to manage for clients and a doddle for us to set up. Combine this plugin with ACF and simple, multiple style widgets are easily tamed.
wpmudev – wordpress.org/plugins/custom-sidebars/
Once you’ve created all of those widgets, you need to be able to put them exactly where you want to. Out of the box this is time consuming in WordPress and you still don’t have that much control. Custom Sidebars lets you quickly set up multiple sidebars and gives you full control over what should appear where.
Joost de Valk – wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/
The definitive SEO plugin for WordPress. As with ACF, this is installed on every site we build in WordPress and lets our digital marketers have full control over the SEO content for the whole site. Although WordPress itself, is pretty SEO friendly out of the box, it is missing some core functionality that you need to optimise your pages. Adding and editing meta information and defaults, automatically creating xml sitemaps, allowing the ability to edit .htaccess and robots.txt files from the admin and many more features are enabled instantly on install. Although for more complex or extensive work you are going to have to customise the website further yourself, Yoast’s plugin easily covers all the basics with very little effort.
OnTheGoSystems – wordpress.org/plugins/types/
Types is simple, it lets you easily set up custom post types from the admin. Give it a name and a slug (you can even choose a nice icon for the admin menu) and you’re done. The plugin does come with custom field functionality but we prefer to use ACF for this.
Alex Mills – wordpress.org/plugins/regenerate-thumbnails/
WordPress’s multiple image size feature is brilliant, but when you want to add a new size to the list it won’t automatically go and retrofit all of your existing images. Regen is a one button plugin that solves this problem and goes through all your images and recreates all of the thumbnail sizes, new and old.
This is an incredibly comprehensive security plugin that lets us quickly cover all of the high level security issues with a WordPress site. As a bit of advice you should not:
Use ‘admin’ as the default administrator username
Leave the ID of the default user as 1
Leave the admin location as /wp-admin
Leave the database prefix as ‘wp_’
Rocketgenius – gravityforms.com
While ContactForm7 is probably the most popular contact form plugin for WordPress, we find that Gravity Forms is the best. It is a paid for plugin but, as with ACF, it is completely worth it. It offers a lot more control over your forms and their behaviour, a much clearer and easier way to manage form fields and is highly extensible.
This user role management plugin is a simple way to add and manage custom user roles to your site. We prefer clients to not have access to updating plugins or the WordPress core, and this is easily achieved with this plugin.
Better WordPress – wordpress.org/plugins/bwp-minify/
One of the major drawbacks of WordPress, especially when you have a multitude of plugins installed, is that it can be stylesheet and script heavy, with file (and therefore http) requests all over the place. With page load speed becoming increasingly important, this script does a great job of combining your styles and scripts to reduce filesize and the number of requests.
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