My Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugins
Here are my Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugins which I use for streamlining WordPress Website Development. These ensure my sites perform, are quick to load and are efficient to build, update and use.
WordPress plugins. A dirty term in some studios. As a developer you either love them or hate them. A site with too many plugins can make the site slow, vulnerable to hackers and a general mess to work with compared with well documented code. But they can also be an essential part of your workflow. They can protect against hackers, speed up production time, decrease costs. If used well they can offer endless possibilities to your WordPress site.
Building a CMS powered website is like skinning a cat – there’s more than one way to do it!Me
So what’s the best solution? I have been designing WordPress & Shopify websites for many years and I have found that building a CMS powered website is like skinning a cat – there’s more than one way to do it! Some developers like to do the code themselves and feel more in control but I am more of a visual person and don’t have the headspace for countless hours writing code. My personal preference is to use a handful of what I call my “Essential WordPress Plugins”. These plugins I have become reliant on over the years to design & develop WordPress websites efficiently – saving clients time and money. I also use my Essential Plugins to ensure the sites perform well on website speed tests, are accessible and have everything in place for high performing SEO. All essential for maximum ROI on a client’s website.
So here is my Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugins…
- All-in-One WP Migrate
- Child Theme Generator
- Contact Form 7 & Honeypot for Contact Form 7
- Duplicate Post
- Simple Sitemaps
- Site Kit by Google
- Super Cache
- Yoast SEO
All-in-One WP Migration
All-in-One WP Migration by ServMask is a widely used plugin designed to help with moving and creating back-ups of my WordPress websites. I use this for simple updates but also for major work which gives me peace-of-mind .
What I like is I can do things like just backing up the content, the theme or the website’s media files in just a few clicks. Another really useful took is the “Find & Replace” function which allows me to change URL structures for all links within the site. Useful when I move websites from local / development environments to live servers.
There are alternative techniques and please don’t think this is the best solution. It’s just easy and reliable so it makes my essential list.
Have a look at All-in-One WP Migrate on the WordPress website.
Child Theme Generator
The Child Theme Generator Plugin is an easy to use utility plug-in by Lilaea Media. Due to WordPress switching to block themes and site-wide editing this has become part of my Essential WordPress Plugins. It allows me to easily configure child-themes from any parent theme. Which at the moment I am using the 2022 theme more and more.
Using a child theme like this allows developers to maintain the integrity of the parent as you keep that code in tact. You can then just edit the files you need, overriding the parent and keeping your new theme tidy and manageable.
What I like about the Child Theme Generator is that it’s quick and easy to use. It allows for further customisation to your WordPress website that the site customiser provides. You can make edits easily without loosing your work, quickly add web fonts, customise CSS and widgets and loads of other little goodies that have certainly saved me hours of developing times. Making projects more efficient and my life easier.
Contact Form 7 & Honeypot for Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi is a simple to use plugin for creating & managing multiple forms on your WordPress website. It’s part of my Essential WordPress Plugins because of it’s simplicity. In a matter of minutes you can whip up complex forms, add logic, set responders and track results.
Unfortunately it does open sites for spambots so it’s essential to team it up with the Honeypot for Contact 7 plugin by Nocean. Spambots search the web for forms and automatically tries to blindly fill in forms spamming servers with junk. A “honeypot” fools spambots by using a hidden form field which entices the bots to enter and causes the form to fail so you don’t get spammed. It looks far better than an ugly captcha which is an additional bonus.
Team these two up for flexible, customisable forms that don’t annoy your clients with junk.
Duplicate Post by Enrico Battocchi & Team Yoast is a simple utility plugin that I use for quickly duplicating posts so I can quickly reuse pages I have designed in the WordPress block editor. It just allows me to create content quicker from all over the WordPress backend – the edit screen, the editor itself or as a bulk action. It is part of my Essential WordPress Plugins just for its convenience.
Redirection by John Godley is part of my Essential WordPress Plugins but isn’t always needed if I have htaccess access to manage redirects myself. Without htaccess this plugin does allow for easy management of 301 URL redirections and it gives you an interface to help keep track of any 404 errors. This helps keep things tidy, reduces errors and helps maintain your SEO site ranking.
Simple Sitemaps by David Gwyer is part of my go-to SEO plugins so makes my Essential WordPress Plugin list. Simple Sitemaps is used on thousands of WordPress websites to simplify the process of creating dynamic html sitemaps (here’s mine).
It allows you to use short-codes which can be useful for development or like I do using the Block Editor. The plugin allows you to organise your sitemap by different content types which is handy for larger sites. You also have access to a range of features including; tabbed display, css for styling, sort fields and a whole host of functions that allow you to tweak you map if you’re so inclined.
Site kit by Google
Site Kit by Google is an obvious inclusion to my Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugin list. It has become a bit of a pain to add analytics to themes that use the block editor so this eases that load. It allows you to manage your Google tags without having to touch the source-code.
That’s not why I have included it in my list. My job as a website developer is to design websites that work for my clients themselves, as well as their target users. Clients don’t usually need access to granular data so this plugin saves them from complicated interfaces – giving them top-level data in a more digestible format.
With Page Load Speed data maintaining an ever present consideration with search engines when it comes to ranking your websites – having images with large file-sizes is a major concern for web editors. Smush by WPMU DEV gives you an image compression engine that compresses your images without the loss of quality. You can’t always rely on clients and content editors to compress their files properly so this does the heavy lifting for you.
That’s not all, it also offers Lazy Load – a technique that defers the loading of non-essential resources at page load time and loading the “critical” items as needed or “off-screen”. Those who have seen lighthouse at work can tell you how important this is to your page load score.
I installed Smush on my website and saw a 58.7% saving on the file size of currently 900 images which equates to 61MB – it’s not massive but I’m a pro designer and developer so already work with my images before I upload them.
There are heaps of handy image compression and optimisation functions available in this handy plugin. If your website is already built you can use the “Bulk Smush” functionality and optimise an entire directory in just a few clicks.
I’ve just upgraded to a Pro licence which gives me the ability to convert the images to next generation WebP files for even faster delivery of my image assets.
Smush is definitely an Essential WordPress Plugin and the free plugin is well worth looking at before exploring the Pro License.
WP Super Cache by Automattic provides you with a cache service which helps increase your page load speed. It does this by generating static HTML from your dynamic WordPress site. Your server then serves these to your users instead of the somewhat cumbersome WordPress PHP files.
The plugin is simple to use allowing you setup an efficient cache policy for your site in a matter of minute.
Testing your website’s speed
There are many performance services out there that charge for giving you performance data about your website.
I like to use SEMRush for more granular data but to get a top-level overview of my site builds I use Google Chrome Lighthouse or Page Speed Insights. Here is the overview of this website on Page Speed Insights. 93/100/100/100. Close to perfect but that 7% will annoy me.
Yoast SEO is a plugin by Team Yoast and is an Essential WordPress Plugin for Search Engine Optimisation. The free version supplies you with a range of tools to help rank your website as high as possible. Tools like XML Sitemap Generator, Content Analysis and Structured Data Manager all help content creators with their SEO score. It also has a useful, simple to use onboarding workout designed to help get you started.
I’ve never needed the premium version but am tempted to part with the cash and see what the premium package offers. This plugin offers more in keyword analysis, internal link suggestions and their own SEO courses of which are worth that fee alone!
WordPress plugins are essential to the efficiency of WordPress site developments. They do offer risks if over used. My Essential WordPress Plugins have become part of my development arsenal over the years. When used alongside good developing practice you’re able to build sites that not only work for you but also your clients and their users. They may not be for everyone and i’m in no way saying that is the way to do things – it’s just how I do them and I like things to be simple, quick and most importantly – things need to work!