One of the things that many folks like about WordPress is plugins. Plugins are extensions, if you will, small programs that extend the functionality and use of WordPress for your website. WordPress, in itself, is the most basic components need to run a dynamic blog or website with a content management system.
WordPress’ website says it this way:
Plugins are tools to extend the functionality of WordPress. This article contains a list of plugins by category, and links to other plugin repositories. The core of WordPress is designed to be lean, to maximize flexibility and minimize code bloat. Plugins offer custom functions and features so that each user can tailor their site to their specific needs.
The need for plugins to help WordPress along is something that every website owner, designer and developer knows. Some of the things you need plugins for ranges form security, spam control, forms and social sharing. There are other reasons and needs, but these are among the most critical.
The question was raised about important plugins in the #AskAngel twitter chat. In this blog post, I give several that I think are important, necessary even, for websites that I design and manage.
There are different ideas about what plugins are really essential. These are my ideas.
The bottom line is that you need to have some kind of back up plan in place for your website. Backing up your database and content is something that helps in the case of a possible disaster. Several are available.
Recently, I researched and came up with BackWPup. I like it. It allows you to backup your content, download it, or save it to a second location such as Dropbox. It is very user friendly. You simply set up a job and run your backup. There is a free version and a pro version with more features.
You need something to help with possible attacks. Wordfence may not be the most comprehensive, but it has some nice functions for a free plugin.
Wordfence also has a pro version, giving you more features.
It is important to note that there are several angles you can take to help secure your website. Some of this is at the server level, some is just common sense and mostly, keep your WordPress website updated to the latest version. WordPress uses updates to help with security lapses.
Keep your passwords a little more complex, that will help tremendously. Finally, Websynthesis has a great article with some easy to follow tips.
WordPress SEO | Yoast
There are a couple of SEO plugins I have used over the years, but this one by Yoast has taught me more about writing for SEO. This is the SEO standard-bearer, in my opinion. Follow his directions, configure your settings, and pay attention when you write. The plugin gives you a green light when you have hit your SEO sweet spot.
Yoast’s plugin also has the ability to create a XML sitemap and set up your webmaster tools. I have always done these apart from the plugin, so I have yet to use that feature. A sitemap is necessary to do to submit to the webmaster tools of Google and Bing, the major search engines. Setting up the webmaster tools with the sitemaps is the quickest, easiest way to be indexed in these search engines. You don’t have to wait for their crawlers to find your website.
When I first started using WordPress, years ago, the first thing you were supposed to do was install Askimet for Spam control. You still can. Some think it is the best available. I will not debate that.
Years later, you really need to be paying for Askimet to use the plugin. In fact, Automattic, the company that powers WordPress, also is the company behind Askimet. In fact, they make a security plugin called VaultPress.
Nevertheless, because I try to keep things as lean as possible, I looked for a free alternative to Askimet. Some time ago, I found AntiSpam Bee.
So, if you don’t mind paying, you might as well go with Askimet, but if you are trying to keep it lean, go with AntiSpam Bee.
You really are going to need a contact form. If you are a designer or developer, one plugin you can consider is Contact Form 7. It is a great contact form, very flexible and a solid plugin. However, if you are not a developer, you might struggle with putting everything together. There is good support available, and it is a free plugin.
Nevertheless, Gravity Forms seems to be the champion contact plugin. It is extremely flexible and full of tons of features and some addons that integrate with third party applications such as Mailchimp and others. Gravity Forms does cost, however, but it is very reasonable.
I pay for the developer license, therefore, all of my clients’ websites get Gravity Forms to handle contact forms. In fact, for one client, a real estate broker, I developed a comprehensive form to get the info necessary for a home valuation. For another client, I developed a job application.
I was introduced to Gravity Forms by my friend Rodney O. Parks from Parks Professional Group.
I discovered this little social media icon plugin through StudioPress who actually developed it. I use the Genesis framework often for my WordPress websites, which is maintained by StudioPress.
I like this plugin because you don’t have to download any images. The drawback is that not every social media is available, but all the ones I need are, and most are. Another reason I like the plugin is you make the changes through the CSS meaning you can make the icon the color of your website’s color scheme by using the correct code. This makes the plugin less bulky and ultimately, adds little to the weight of the website as a whole. It helps keep your website lean making it load faster.
By the way, you don’t have to be using a Genesis theme to use the plugin. It works with any theme. You simply add it to a widget and customize.
Google XML Sitemaps or use WP SEO by Yoast
As I mentioned above, a website needs to take advantage of webmaster tools by Google and Bing. This gets your website indexed faster. Further, each webmaster tools has other benefits such as alerts and a chance to completely optimize your website to perform well in the individual search results.
For making the most of your webmaster tools, you will need to submit an XML sitemap. There a number of software programs, web applications and websites that will generate a sitemap for you.
However, if you are using WordPress, there are a number of plugins that will do this for you. In my earlier days, I used Google XML Sitemaps. It has served me well. Very well.
In the interest of running a lean website, and not adding a plugin you do not need, you can get by by generating your XML sitemap with Yoast’s WordPress SEO. I have used Yoast’s plugin for my XML sitemap and it worked fine.
I have used a number of sharing plugins, but I like Addthis the best. I have been left a little bit unsatisfied with most of them, but this has the best options in my opinion and has tons of users. In fact, the website boasts 14 Million domains. I guess that’s pretty good.
One thing I like about the plugin is that if you are having problems with the plugin, they have good support on the website with lots of help.
Other things good is the account creation for analytics, the hoverbar and further customization. You don’t have to have the plugin to actually use their service because the website lets you generate code you can use. It is a very flexible product.
What WordPress plugins can you not do without?
What are you favorite WordPress plugins?