WordPress is the most popular website builder in the world, powering nearly 40% of all websites. One of the many reasons for its popularity is the ability to easily customize your website to fit the needs and goals of your brand using themes, custom code and/or plugins.
You may have heard of plugins before, but what exactly are they, how and when should you use them, and which plugins do you really need? Let’s dig in:
What is a Plugin?
Plugins are pieces of software that are used to add new features or extend the functionality of a website. They work in the same way as apps do for your smartphone. Simply put, they make it easier for users to add features to their website without knowing a single line of code.
For example, a hair salon may use a plugin to add a calendar booking tool to their website while a doctor’s office may use a plugin to add a HIPAA-secure contact form. But, with over 58,000+ WordPress plugins to choose from, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide which ones are best for your website.
How and When to Use Plugins
Plugins are convenient and make building a website easier, but it’s important to use them only when necessary. You should also periodically review what plugins are installed on your website and remove any that are no longer relevant or in use.
Having too many plugins can bog down the speed of your website and negatively affect the user experience—both factors that impact your search engine rank.
Before installing a plug on your website, ask the following questions:
- How long has it been since it was updated?
- Is it compatible with the latest version of WordPress?
- Are people getting answers to their support questions?
- What type of rating does it have?
Must-Have Website Plugins
When developing websites for our clients, we try to keep plugins to a minimum when possible. But, no matter what kind of site you’re running, or what niche it belongs to, these are the go-to plugins our developers recommend:
1. Advanced Custom Fields Pro
WordPress is built to be an easy-to-use Content Management System, so if you are getting a custom-built theme there needs to be a bridge between developer and client. Advanced Custom Fields brings the ability for anyone to swap out content on the site without ever having to touch the code. It is highly expandable with add-ons for uncommon field types like Gravity Forms or FontAwesome.
The Pro version will also grant access to the useful Options Page and Flexible Content. The Options page is the place to store any content that will be used site-wide or for pages that are not easily updated without code such as archive pages. Meanwhile, the flexible content field allows the client to add as many sections to a page and order them as they please while maintaining the full customization the developer needs for repeatable sections.
2. Gravity Forms
The most valuable form plugin out there with built-in add-ons for most integrations you’ll ever need. Gravity Forms combines the ease of use for building the form and its settings with the complete freedom for coding customizations.
3. Duplicate Page
There are a lot of duplication plugins out there, but the one by mndpsingh287 is the only one you’ll need. It will allow you to create a copy of a page, post, or custom post type and all its content in a single click. Useful for quickly testing what a change will look like or troubleshooting issues on a live site.
4. Yoast SEO
Sticking to the balance between developer and client the Yoast SEO plugin allows quick and easy access to updating a page’s title, description, or image you will see on google or posted on social media. It comes packaged with an autogenerated site map to submit to search engines and breadcrumbs to use that the developer can customize.
The base version of Yoast SEO is 100% free, and there’s a premium version with additional features.
5. A Migration Plugin of Your Choice
Migrating sites are a pain. That’s why if your hosting service comes with a migration plugin or if you prefer to set up a blank site to then migrate over your development build it will save you massive amounts of time and a guarantee for the end result to simply work.
Like with duplicating pages, there are a lot of redirection plugins out there. We find the one by John Godley easy to understand and it works like a charm. It will keep track of how many times viewers are triggering your redirects. It will also keep a list of URLs a user tries to visit resulting in a 404. This is a great tool to help you find redirects you may have overlooked, and might even give you inspiration for a new page you should add to your site.
A vast majority of our clients ask how they can quickly and easily add a notice to their website. Icegram is the best plugin to easily create beautiful options and call to actions of your choice, show them to targeted visitors, and convert them to customers and fans. It allows you to create and customize popups and easily enable and disable them as needed.
A custom WordPress site with the right plugins can make your site more functional and user-friendly, but with thousands of options to choose from it’s worth getting an expert opinion. Request a complimentary website audit and learn more about how investing in an updated website could positively impact your business’s bottom line.