WordPress is the premier website creation platform and content management system available on the web. Not only does WordPress provide a strong foundation for whatever type of website you want to build, but it is also insanely flexible. Part of this adaptability is thanks in large part to WordPress’s massive repository of plugins, giving developers and webmasters the power to do just about anything necessary to extend the base functionality of WordPress.
However, with thousands of plugins to choose from and many accomplishing similar goals, it can be overwhelming to try and figure out what plugins are the right fit for your website. The most critical aspect of deciding on a plugin is choosing one that is actively supported. This is key for a number of reasons, such as:
An Active Development Team – Not only will plugins with active teams working on them update more frequently, but it’s also much easier to get help if something goes wrong after install.
Security – This is the most important reason to get a plugin with active support and regular updates. Every plugin is a potential doorway into your site, and old plugins are more likely to have known security holes that malicious individuals can abuse. Frequent updates to a plugin help to address issues as they arise. An active support team can quickly respond to security threats before they ever become your problem.
Getting the right plugins can make building and managing a site a much easier process. The following plugins are best in class at what they do and will save you time and money on web design in the long run.
(Free and Paid Versions)
Search engine optimization (SEO) (link: https://jsmtmedia.com/services/seo/) is the cornerstone of any well-built site, whether it is a personal blog or custom website developed for a client. As such, there is a wide variety of tools available to WordPress sites to help improve readability, rankings and the end user experience.
Yoast SEO is the best SEO plugin on the market, with regular updates helmed by a full team of professional plugin developers. It offers a robust suite of tools to aid you in optimizing your content, setting SEO titles, meta descriptions, and keyword targets, designating no crawl/no index pages and index status checking. It basically does everything you could want. The visual interface makes it easy to save and manage SEO from the backend for webmasters and other team members who lack technical coding knowledge.
Unlike many plugins available on WordPress, Yoast SEO has a robust free version that matches many other paid plugins that do the same job. However, Yoast does also offer a paid version with 24/7 support and many other features, including many designed specifically for local SEO. For most websites, however, Yoast SEO’s free version will be more than adequate for most users’ needs.
(Paid Version Only)
Converting visitors into leads is usually the most important function of a website. Therefore, you want the most powerful and customizable contact form plugin on the market. That plugin is Gravity Forms. No matter whether you just want a name and email or you want to include user surveys, file uploads, online order forms, or support requests, Gravity Forms is powerful enough right out of the box to accomplish your goals.
Gravity Forms allows your team to see contacts right from the backend dashboard, the path a contact took before submitting a form, and to easily test different forms in order to see what gets the best results. It’s visual editor and ready-made form fields make it simple to create elaborate forms with little to no programming knowledge. It also offers conditional logic enabling you to adjust the contact form based on user selections and allows end users to save and continue submissions at a later time. Gravity Forms also allows for advanced calculations in the event you want to offer functionality like on the fly price quotes. And it offers integration with dozens of third-party applications including MailChimp, Stripe, Paypal, and Dropbox.
Gravity Forms also offers access to their developer API for those tech-savvy users that want to customize their forms beyond the prebuilt options. Gravity Forms has no free version, but any of its three tiers of pricing offer the very best in features, functionality, and ease of use for your money.
(Free and Paid Versions)
When it comes to websites, page speed is critical. A slow website not only will aggravate users, causes them to leave your site, but it will also hurt your digital marketing (link: https://jsmtmedia.com/services/digital-marketing/) campaign by impacting search engine rankings.
One of the most common reasons for poor page speed is unoptimized images. WP Smush offers high-quality image compression and image scaling tools to make sure your website is not bogged down when a user loads a page. WP Smush can compress images regardless of whether they are in the media library or located in a directory and optimize images in bulk with one click. WP Smush also offers lazy loading, which makes it so only images viewable by the user will be loaded, reducing server strain.
WP Smush has a very functional free version but you can get a much more feature-filled version as part of the WPMU WordPress toolkit which comes with a whole suite of premium plugins.
(Free Version Only)
With the advent of services such as Cloudflare and WP Engine, caching plays a huge role in modern web design. Sometimes you made need to update image sizes on your website, and dealing with caching can be frustrating. The Regenerate Thumbnails plugin allows you to quickly regenerate all of your site’s thumbnails and is great for less technical users.
Regenerate Thumbnails is free and highly recommended just because of how much frustration it takes out of updating images.
(Free Version Only)
The worst user experience that can happen is that they click on a link to a page on your website and instead of showing them what they were interested in, they hit a 404 page. That user likely leaves your site right then and there. This type of negative experience can be avoided with proper 301 redirects put in place, and the Redirection plugin is the best available tool for WordPress sites.
Redirection takes the technical aspects out of creating 301 redirects and allows webmasters the ability to handle the task without needing to call on someone with coding expertise. The graphical interface is easy to use and not only allows you to set up redirects but also catch 404 pages and monitor permalinks for changes. Redirection enables you to make sure every page and link on your website is functioning properly with a minimal impact on search rankings.
Redirection is free to use and works equally well on sites with a few redirects or hundreds.
WordPress Plugins to Make Your Life Easier
While WordPress is a powerful platform with a lot of features, it is lacking a lot of functionality. Luckily, the incredible repository of high-quality plugins can help fill in the gaps. Many WordPress plugins are business dependant but some, like the ones mentioned above, can be applied to any web development project. The free plugins have little risk involved and the paid plugins are worth the investment.