Most likely you will need plugins when you set up your blog. Maybe not at first, but eventually you’ll need them.
Wordpress is great, but it doesn’t do everything.
Plugins add specific capabilities you might need depending on what you want your blog to do.
This list of plugins isn’t all the plugins I’ve ever used, but its a list of the plugins I use most frequently.
The list is in no specific order.
Contact form 7 (Free)
I love Contact form 7. There, I said it.
It is incredibly useful, and relatively simple to use.
Once you get the idea of how it works the world is your oyster!
I’ve used it to put simple contact forms on my sites, and I’ve also used it to create complex forms where the user needs to fill out lots of information.
It is a good alternative to Gravity forms (a paid plugin), but to be honest it can’t do everything Gravity forms can. But unless you need a bunch of complex features, you can’t beat Contact form 7.
Duplicator (Use the free version… don’t bother with the paid version)
Duplicator is a site backup and restore plugin. These days most backup plugins are complicated because they try to do everything and store the backup everywhere. I prefer simple. If I have to choose to backup to Dropbox, Amazon, my server, wetransfer, etc.. etc… I don’t bother with it. All I want is to make a backup of the site, and download it to my own hard drive. Duplicator does that almost flawlessly.
Most backup plugins are horrible at restoring the backup. Duplicator is not. I have used it literally hundreds of times and it has never failed me.
It’s primary purpose, I think, is to make a copy of your site and restore it to a different server – that is a very useful thing. Suppose you make a test site before you launch under a new domain name. Duplicator makes it very easy to copy your test site (i.e. mytestsite.com) and restore it to your live site (i.e. puppydogsareus.com). Of course you don’t have to restore to a different domain name. You can copy your domain and then restore it to the same location and domain. (You might want to do this with a backup copy of your site if you’ve been hacked and are having trouble cleaning up the hacked site).
Anyway. Highly recommended. You really don’t need the ‘Pro’ version. The main feature about the pro version is that it will copy larger sites without interruption. I admit, sometimes this is a pain, but most of the time, the free version is more than enough.
This is an excellent plugin. Unless you know how to optimize all the tables in your database, get this plugin. It does a great job and offers a few other options to keep your database in good shape. (see image below).
Yoast seo (Free)
Yoast SEO is a plugin that helps your posts and pages in wordpress become structured and written in a way that makes them search engine optimized. It is very good at making sure you create the right alt-tags for your photos, have the proper number of keywords on your page and in your titles, and lets you create the snippet that Google will show on the search results pages for your keywords.
You still need to do the work of finding good keywords, but Yoast will help you make the best use of those keywords. Highly recommended.
Metaslider is a ‘Slider’ plugin. I’ve tried ton’s of slider plugins and this one is by far the easiest one to use. In addition to it being easy, it works.
A lot of times you find what looks like the perfect solution, you download and install it on your site and what happens? It doesn’t work. Or its waaayyy to complicated to figure out in the short amount of time you have.
You won’t have that problem with Metaslider.
Shortcode in menus (Free)
Admittedly, you probably won’t need ‘Shortcode in Menus’ very often.
This is an essential plugin IF you ever want to do something in the menu and the solution you’ve found only gives you a shortcode.
For example, you might want an appointment calendar in the menu and the calendar gives you a shortcode to paste onto the page, but you want it in the menu above.
The only way to accomplish this (without wasting your time programming something) is to put the shortcode in the menu using this plugin.
If Menu is a plugin that is similar to widget context, except its specifically for giving menus the abilitity to be conditional. By using this plugin you’ll be able to control where specific menu items appear or don’t appear.
You can set up simple ‘visibility rules’ based on things like displaying only if a user is logged in, or whether the device is mobile or desktop, displaying if the user is from a certain country, etc…
You can designate the rules for each menu item. Highly recommended.
Widget context is a great little plugin that allows you to show (or not show) widgets based on some criteria, like what pages to show / or not show it on, what the word count is, or even what the url is. Simple to use and solves a genuine problem.
Recently Wordpress came out with a new version that uses what they call the ‘Gutenberg’ editor. If you are new to Wordpress, then I would advise you to simply use the Gutenberg editor and don’t bother installing this ‘Classic Editor’ plugin. But if you are a dinosaur, like me, then this plugin will save you a lot of time simply because you won’t have to learn the new editor (yet).
Dagon design sitemap generator
This plugin is a freebie and it’s pretty good. It’s competition are also very good, but you need to pay… in some cases for a monthly subscription and in others just a single flat fee. But I like free and I’m sure you do too.
The way I would use this is to generate a sitemap once your blog is up and running and then I’d put a link to the sitemap page in my footer menu. Don’t get this confused with a sitemap that you will submit to Google which helps a little in your seo efforts. The Dagon design sitemap is for use by humans who would like to see whats on your site on a single page.
Google xml sitemaps
The Google XML Sitemaps plugin is an easy way to generate an xml sitemap that you can let Google know about. This helps the Google bot crawl your site and find all the pages. In that way it will help you with seo simply because everything gets found.
Gravity forms is a form builder plugin that has been around a long time. It is very good at creating input forms on your site that are complex, either because of conditionality or because it just needs to collect a lot of data in specific ways and formats.
It is a paid plugin. I recommend it only if you need to build complex forms. For relatively simple forms… use Contact form 7.
That being said, some of the things Gravity forms does could be essential to what you are trying to do. You can easily allow users to upload things through the form (like documents, images, pdf’s…).
It has all the conditional logic you’ll ever need, like if a user fills out a Country field, then it can show the appropriate states or provinces depending on the country, etc…
It has a feature that allows a user to save and then continue later. Very useful if what you need is a long form that could be time consuming to fill out.
Insert headers and footers
One of the curious things about using wordpress is that there is not an easy way to add code or shortcodes to either the header or the footer.
The classic example is if you want to put facebook or google analytics codes on your site, you need to take the code that they give you and put it in the header.
This is where ‘Insert Headers and Footers’ comes to the rescue. It makes it very easy to add the code and you always know where to go to do it.
Smush image compression
Smush is a great plugin for reducing the affect of having lots of images on your site.
As you know, images can slow down a website a lot and users get impatient if they have to wait for a screen to load.
Smush reduces the load time by compressing the images. Surprisingly, the compressed image still looks pretty good. I’d say that in most cases you won’t even notice a difference.
It’s 100% free so give it a try. Google will be glad you did.
Wp super cache
Its really hard to quantify how much a caching plugin helps. To be honest, in some cases it doesn’t help at all, and in others it makes a huge difference.
My advice is that if you have a site that has a lot of static data (data that doesn’t change very much), then by all means, use a caching plugin.
What caching plugins do is to create a copy of your page and then everytime someone goes to your page, they see a copy that is stored on the server, rather than the data being retreived from the mySQL database that wordpress uses. A stored copy is served up much faster than data retrieved from a database.
I use WP Super Cache. I find that its easier to use than others (like W3 Total Cache) at least for me. The setup in Wp Super Cache is much easier and you don’t have to answer tons of questions where you won’t have the slightest clue what they’re talking about.
For most of my sites, it definitely helps speed it up.
WP Data Tables
The Wp data tables plugin saved my life.
Well, not really, but it did make my life a whole lot easier.
Imagine you have an excel spreadsheet with 5000 rows (or more) and 20 columns.
Now imagine you want to put that on a webpage for people to see, query and sort in a way that would be helpful to you and them.
I’ve used wp data tables for several years now and its perfect for loading data in spreadsheets and database tables in a way that makes it attractive and useful for your users.
It takes a very complicated task (showing database information) and makes it easy to put on your website.
Not everyone has this need… probably most people won’t.
But if you do, I sincerely, completely and without reservation recommend the Wp Data Tables plugin.
Is it free?
No, but for what it does its incredibly inexpensive.