One of the key features that makes WordPress such a widely popular content management system is the wide range of extensions and add-ons that can be installed.
If you use a self-hosted version of WordPress, you have a distinct advantage over those who use a remotely-hosted version — the ability to install your own plugins.
There are many, many plugins you can install to add new functionality to your WordPress powered website. However, you may find that there are a fair few that aren’t worth your time.
We’ve been using WordPress for many years now. In that time, we’ve made use of hundreds of plugins – some we still use, some we don’t.
On the Sleeky blog this week: we’re going to be detailing some of our most used WordPress plugins, what makes them worthwhile and why you should try them out.
Advanced Custom Fields
This plugin from Elliot Condon extends WordPress’s custom fields functionality closer to as it should be out of the box! Condon, a web developer based in Australia tells me that he “created ACF because (he) saw a need for it” in the WordPress environment.
Condon agreed that “WordPress does a great job of interacting with the user, however, there is no way to add ‘extra’ content to a page or post”. When installed, Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) allows WordPress admins to create new fields for their content which can be coded into your theme to display in potentially limitless ways. “The ability to manage different types of custom fields allows you to have confidence that your theme will be easily editable and safe to do so” explains Condon.
Launchpad – Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode Plugin
Do you ever wish you could hide your site from readers whilst you make changes or hide a new site entirely before it is finished? Enter Launchpad by Obox, the best looking holding page for your WordPress site.
I spoke to Launchpad developer and co-creator of Layers Marc Perel and he agreed that “creating websites is a long process”. Launchpad allows creators of WordPress websites to “develop with confidence that only you and your clients will see the final product before it goes live”.
With a wide array of customisation options, you can enable Launchpad at any time to hide your website content, giving a date to re-enable the site for visitors if you wish.
I spoke to John from Smash Balloon about the inspiration behind the plugin, he told me that “The goal of the plugin is to allow a really clean and customizable way to display Instagram content on your site”. The Instagram feed plugin aims to “look great right out of the box” but also intends to enable users to “completely customize it however they like using the built in settings”.
Once you’ve installed the plugin and connected to your Instagram account, you can display your feed in your posts, on pages or in a sidebar widget by using the shortcode. The plugin also features a lot of additional settings, allowing you to tweak your account feed in a powerful way.
Created by Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com), Jetpack expands your WordPress site’s functionality beyond the stratosphere. Jetpack aims to bring over a lot of the features that Automattic includes into the remotely-hosted WordPress.com service to your self-hosted WordPress website and it truly does pack a punch.
Jetpack offers so many additional features to your WordPress install all in one package, including:
- Carousel: the beautiful lightbox photo gallery plugin, a really great way to display multiple images.
- Contact Form: lightweight and easy to use contact forms.
- Custom Content Types: divide your content by type rather than relying on categories.
- Enhanced Distribution: Jetpack enhanced search-engine optimisation for your website.
- Extra Sidebar Widgets: a bundle of useful widgets for your sidebars.
- Infinite Scroll: enable this to allow readers of your site to constantly scroll through your content without having to change page.
- Likes: Allow your readers to ‘Like’ your posts.
- Photon: Load images on your website much faster with the help of the WordPress.com content delivery network.
- Protect: Additional brute-force prevention to secure your site.
- Related Posts: When your audience is done reading, give them a list of recommended reads similar to what they have just finished with.
- Sharing: Advanced sharing options for social networks.
- Site Stats: In-depth and helpful usage stats for your website.
- and many more…
If you decide to change your default image sizes within WordPress to better fit your site design, you may find that some of your previously uploaded images appear skewed or misshapen. Short of replacing all of your images, what can you do?
Enter ‘Regenerate Thumbnails’, a lightweight plugin which allows you to quickly rebuild your WordPress library thumbnails to match your new image sizes. It’s incredibly simple but will save you a lot of time.
Considered experts at website optimisation, Yoast’s plugin for WordPress brings the best search-engine expertise from Yoast into your hands. With the Yoast SEO plugin, you can optimise each page of your WordPress website for clarity.
The plugin also provides each page with a ‘traffic-light’ score which allows you to easily see which parts of your site need work.
Contact Form 7
One of the most flexible contact form plugins for WordPress, Contact Form 7 has over a million active installs on WordPress blogs globally, and for good reason. By creating contact forms within its menus, you can place them wherever you like on your site using the shortcodes.
Also, with support for reCAPTCHA, Contact Form 7 ensures that no spam will ever come your way, leaving you to deal with legitimate requests.
Extend your website into a force-to-be-reckoned-with by installing WooCommerce. The eCommerce solution of choice for WordPress site managers. If you’re already familiar with how to create content on your WordPress site, adding new products and configuring your shop uses the same admin panel and configuration styles that you are used to. WooCommerce gives you the power to manage your own shop and turn your WordPress into a profit-making part of your business.
If you want to sell online and already have a WordPress website, you should definitely be considering WooCommerce to manage your store.
Media from FTP
This simple yet incredibly effective plugin from Katsushi Kawamori allows you to register files that you have uploaded via FTP into your WordPress Library without having to upload them through the library functionality.
This is incredibly helpful if you are moving your WordPress website to a new server or need to upload a lot of files at the same time.
When your blog receives a comment submission, Akismet checks it against their servers and runs it through a variety of vigorous testing processes to check whether it is spam or legitimate. Spam comments are then funnelled into a separate comment section for your approval whilst legitimate comments get through without fault.
I’ve had a remarkable track record with Akismet over the years and wouldn’t launch a WordPress site without it.
Expand your WordPress website beyond the blog by including community aspects such as user profiles, groups, activity streams, notifications and more.
With BuddyPress, you can use your WordPress website as a starting-point, adding in community aspects around your content. BuddyPress enables your readers to sign up for an account, customise their own profile, join groups, make friends with and private message other members.
Disqus makes it easier for your readers to comment and for you as administrator to track, moderate and manage comments on your website. Using Disqus also helps increase your websites exposure and broadens readership as your site will feature on their website.
Restrict Content Pro
Unlike the rest in this list, Restrict Content Pro is not a free plugin, but it has been getting a lot of good press from users.
Restrict Content Pro allows you to manage user accounts with privileges, allowing you to assign access rights to different users. This would be a fantastic plugin if you were running an online course or tutorials.
EU regulations about cookies require companies within the Eurozone to display a notice detailing their usage of cookies on users devices.
The easiest way to include such a consent notice within your WordPress site is with the Cookie Consent plugin. The plugin settings allow you to change the colours to match your website style and the location of the notification — handy!
This certainly isn’t the first plugin from Automattic on this list! But it is very useful.
The Developer plugin allows you to optimise your development space to make sure you have all of the essential tools and plugin for WordPress optimisation installed. Very helpful if you are coding your own themes or plugins.
Latest Tweets Widget
Once setup, you can include your tweets anywhere on your WordPress website: on your posts, pages or sidebar – with the use of a shortcode.
Theme My Login
If you allow your readers to register for accounts, either for commenting or allowing elevated privileges for members, you may want to take a look at this plugin.
Theme My Login allows you to extend your websites branding onto the login page of WordPress. It’s a small touch but pleasing for your users who may feel more at home with a themed login page.
Would you like a self-hosted WordPress website of your own, or perhaps you already have a WordPress.com remotely-hosted blog that you would like to manage and control yourself? Grab your phone and give us a ring, or send us an email — we would be happy to help.
Photo Credit: Totally Screwed by frankieleon.