WordPress has existed for 10 years and I’ve been building WordPress websites for almost as long. During this time, a lot of things have changed, but one thing that hasn’t changed is using plugins to enhance the functionality of your website.
Plugins can add or enhance features not found in the core of WordPress software. Anyone who knows me knows that I generally try to avoid using a plugin if I can manually code what I need in the site (less moving parts, less things to break and all that). But there is a small list of plugins that I use without hesitation on almost every site I build. And then there are some plugins that can create some really useful websites.
The following list are 10 of the most used plugins by the Blog Movers that help in creating the useful and dynamic websites we build when moving blogs to WordPress.
1. Akismet – This plugin comes with the core WordPress installation and is absolutely fantastic at blocking spam commenters on your site. Because it works so well, I normally like to configure my blogs to where comments need not be moderated before publishing (unless they contain a lot of links), and it really improves the interaction on blog posts when visitors don’t have to wait hours for their comment to be approved and visible to others.
2. Gravity Forms – Without a doubt, this is the best form plugin available for WordPress. It has so many options, features, and add-ons that the possibilities with forms on your site are nearly endless. With Gravity Forms you can create anything from a simple contact form to complex, multi-conditional forms and anything in between. A person could easily write a book on everything that is possible with this plugin.
3. W3 Total Cache – I use this plugin religiously to ensure that every WordPress site I create runs as fast as possible. In a nutshell, W3 Total Cache speeds up your site by storing HTML versions of all your posts and pages and serves them up to visitors instead of WordPress having to query the database to recall the requested information. That alone can greatly speed up your website, and with other options such as minification (reducing the file size of your scripts and pages), your content can be delivered even faster.
4. WordPress Firewall 2 – This plugin hasn’t been updated in quite a while, but it still has performed well on many of my blogs by preventing malicious hacking attempts. Even if you choose not to use this security plugin, it would be smart to choose an alternative. Nobody wants their day ruined because some script kiddie decided to have some fun with your website.
5. WordPress SEO – The best SEO plugin in my opinion. This lets you easily set your meta descriptions, custom meta titles, indexing or no-indexing of posts and pages, default meta templates, social settings, sitemaps, and more. Don’t start a WordPress blog or website without it.
6. Advanced Custom Fields – When creating custom WordPress sites that involve precise placement of certain content, this plugin (along with theme customization) makes it a breeze. I’ve used this plugin for making real estate websites, medical sites, and directory-type sites. It’s a good plugin to have in your toolbox.
7. Custom Post Type UI – Like Advanced Custom Fields above, this plugin makes creating custom post types in WordPress dead simple. If you want to avoid any intricate programming in your theme files to create a custom post type, then this plugin is for you.
8. Widget Logic – Have you ever wanted to place a widget in your sidebar, and only have it appear in certain areas of your site? Then this plugin is for you. After installing this plugin, all your widgets will have an input area at the bottom of your widget where you can insert a conditional statement that manages where the widget will be seen.
9. Membership – The perfect plugin to create a membership type of site, and to keep content private from non-members. You can create as many membership levels as you desire (including expiration times), choose from several payment processors (if your memberships are paid), protect as many pages or posts as you want, and even protect parts of a page while leaving the rest viewable to the general public.
10. 3d Cart – For commerce abilities, 3d cart is one of the best options I’ve come across. It has been around for a long time (under different names), the interface is easy to use, and does exactly what you would expect an e-commerce system to do. I’ve used 3d Cart in creating a full-fledged online jewelry store, and it has performed flawlessly for a few years now.
While there are literally thousands of plugins available for WordPress, and I have not mentioned every plugin I like to use, the 10 listed above are what I consider to be essential for the work we do here.