Plugins can be a great asset for website owners looking for a bit of extra functionality without having to retain a developer to provide it. Plugins are also a double-edged sword. Plugins often go without maintenance and you leave yourself at the mercy of unpaid developers to update their work to be compatible with future versions of WordPress. We always ask our clients to use caution when deploying a plugin.
We do have a core set of trusted plugins that we use on every one of our WordPress sites. These plugins are tried and true. Some of them are commercial and require a licensing fee while others are free. Nonetheless, you can trust these to do what they do well without opening yourself up to unnecessary future risk.
Price: $39 – $199
GravityForms is quite simply the best, most comprehensive form builder available on WordPress today. It makes the creation of simple and advanced forms quick to build and quick to deploy. It has a ton of features without feeling bloated. It’s quick, efficient, and does it’s job extraordinarily well.
Great for the average user
Well documented for advanced WordPress developers
The default styling for forms isn’t the best
Often requires a front end developer to customize visual look-and-feel
Advanced Custom Fields
Type: Freemium (with premium upgrades)
Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) is a fantastic plugin that gives developers the ability to add metadata to any WordPress post type. If you’ve ever needed to add a bit of extra information to a blog post, such as a product rating, ACF does this job very well. However, ACF is relegated to developers as each piece of metadata needs to be applied to the front end accordingly. However, using ACF to transform WordPress into a more robust CMS is an absolute timesaver for us.
- Adding metadata to WordPress post types is quick and easy
- Storing metadata in the WordPress database is efficient
- We would like a little more control over which fields get pulled from the database on Options field types
- Storing large repeater fields via the Options can run against the WordPress database column size limit
The WooDojo is less of a plugin and more of a compilation of plugins by the purveyors of WooThemes. The plugin we use most often is WooSidebars which allows you to add custom sidebars to any page, post, post type, or other conditional criteria. After activating a custom sidebar, the WordPress Sidebars area will have a new draggable space for you to apply plugins that will reflect on the front end based on your conditional requirements. Also packaged with WooDojo is a litany of social widgets, WooCommerce a fantastic e-commerce platform, as well as a litany of others.
- Adding custom sidebars is a cinch
- None to speak of
Type: Free but requires a SendGrid Subscription
Email delivery can be a complex beast. Instead of relying on your server to send emails for you – which is undoubtedly not on any sort of whitelist, we use WPSendGrid to send emails on behalf of us through the SendGrid network. You get a dashboard widget to show your delivery rates right in WordPress. SendGrid also gives you an advanced rundown on which emails were sent, which ones were delivered, and which ones bounced.
- Allows us to offset email delivery to a third party
- Generous per email pricing from SendGrid
WordPress SEO by Yoast
On-Site SEO can get complicated but WordPress SEO by Yoast makes that job much easier. Each post type is given a specific SEO panel allowing you to override titles and meta descriptions. The plugin comes with an advanced SEO panel allowing you to connect your site with popular search engines and social networks quickly and easily. Although WordPress SEO by Yoast can’t do all on-page SEO tasks for you, it does give you some leverage in modifying SEO data on a per post basis.
- Specifying per post metadata is simple
- Connection to social networks is straight forward
- The plugin adds default columns to the WordPress admin area that feels cluttered and useless
Price: $80 (2 sites), $100 (10 sites), $150 (unlimited sites)
BackupBuddy is a complete lifesaver for us. Each site we host and maintain gets setup with BackupBuddy with routine backup schedules that are run automatically. BackupBuddy also lets you define remote destinations for your backup files. You can automatically send your backup files to Dropbox, Email, FTP/SFTP destinations, the RackSpace Cloud, or the Amazon S3.
- Stable and dependable
- Works great for most sites
- Great securi data integrity check built-in
- The plugin can stall on large sites with massive databases but we’ve found this is more of a function of the server than the plugin itself.