This summer has turned me from someone who thought WordPress was cool and a great way of easily building a website into a massive WordPress fan, believing that you can do almost anything with it given the right tools.
I chose it last year when I kicked off this site because it allowed you to pick a theme that looked good, let you add and edit posts quickly and efficiently. That was my thought process, more-or-less in full. It was only when I started thinking about doing more with my websites, and with other projects, that I really got to know WordPress’ true powers. Themes can easily be customised in the editor to be what you want, but the actual functionality of the site is a bit trickier to do on your own. And that’s where Plugins come in.
Much like apps for the iPhone, if you want to do something with WordPress there’s a plugin out there that will do it for you. It’s not always easy to find the one that’s perfect for you, and it does sometimes take some trial and error, but plugins are a quick and easy way to make your site sparkle and do the things you want it to. Some plugins even make up for some of the things that vanilla WordPress can’t do itself.
Plugins are around for almost every type of site and any sort of web functionality imaginable. But there are a few things that every site needs to be able to do, and that’s where this handy list of must-have plugins comes in.
It might not be the sort of plugin that you’ll notice much, but in a sense that means that it is doing its job right. Akismet is a spam-prevention plugin that helps catch unsolicited comments on your WordPress site to help keep your site looking clean. These comments are checked for common indicators and if they are deemed to look fishy, Akismet will flag it up and you can either approve or delete the comments from admin.
Jetpack is a sort of jack-of-all-trades plugin that adds a lot of functionality to WordPress. There are so many helpful features here, which perhaps should be included with WordPress by default, that there’s no reason not to have this. It gives you good stats tracking, so you can see how many people are visiting your site and which pages they are visiting; custom CSS options that let you alter the look and feel of your site in a safe way; spelling and grammar checker in the editor; related articles that can appear under your posts; the ability to post by e-mail and much, much more.
Having a contact form on site is a good way of standardising the way people get in touch with you, and there are a lot of contact form plugins out there, but Ninja Forms is the one I’ve liked most. It’s easy to set up, doesn’t hold back features for a paid plugin, and looks really good on site as it works with your CSS nicely. An added bonus is that the support for this plugin is really good, in case you want to do something special with your contact form.
If you want to get things sold via a WordPress site, WooCommerce makes things very easy to get going. Installing it will automatically create the pages and infrastructure you need to create your online shop quickly and with no more effort than you would expect from WordPress. After sticking in your PayPal (or other payment gateway) details and giving WooCommerce an idea of how you would like your products to be displayed, this plugin gives you a lot of powerful tools to sell your products in the way you want to. There are a lot of free (and paid) extensions that allow you to do even more impressive things with WooCommerce too, there are very few limitations.
In case you ever feel the need to move site or bring another site’s content over, WordPress Importer will let you do the basics quickly and with little pain. It will simply export or import an XML file of your data which will set everything up on your new WordPress site exactly how it was before. It also works wonders with lots of different plugins, making it really helpful.
Unless your site is purely personal, it’s probably a good idea to think about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). This is a way of making your site more attractive to search engines so that they’ll rank your site higher and in return drive more people to your website. The Yoast SEO plugin is the best solution to your WordPress SEO needs, with a few simple preferences to select that will streamline your site and make it more search engine friendly.