It’s no secret that WordPress has grown to become the most popular content management system (CMS) around the web these days. According to ManageWP, 74.6 million websites, or about 19% of ALL websites, run on WordPress. Think about that statistic for a minute. Three years ago, you’d probably associate WordPress with blogs, but it has grown into much more than that in such a short period of time.
WordPress is a powerful open source CMS that offers unlimited ability to customize and optimize your website to your heart’s content.
I have been developing in WordPress for about 3 years now. When I first dipped my toes into the WP pool I was amazed at the knowledgebase out there, and the vast availability of plugins. Now, after building 100+ WordPress sites, I am still discovering new tips and tools to help me become a more proficient WordPress developer. That said, I wanted to take a few minutes to list some of the WordPress plugins that I consider essential – the plugins that I use on almost every one of my sites and which make life plain easier.
WordPress SEO by Yoast: As to be expected, at 1SEO.com, it’s paramount that our websites not only look the part, but also perform from an SEO standpoint. The Yoast SEO plugin makes it easy to manage optimized page titles, meta descriptions and keywords. It also does a nice job handling XML sitemaps.
Contact Form 7: Contact Form 7 is a simple but powerful contact form plugin. It’s easy to style via CSS, you have full control over how emails appear, and you can redirect to a Thank You page. By default, Contact Form 7 comes with a security “math problem”, but there are additional plugins available to add a captcha or honeypot to the form.
Contact Form DB: The Contact Form DB extension is a must if you are using Contact Form 7. It collects all form submissions in a database, which you can display by shortcode or export into a .CSV, so you’ll never have to worry about missing a lead again.
Advanced Custom Fields: I have to admit that it took me far too long to discover this wonderful plugin. I now use it on almost every website. Advanced Custom Fields gives you the flexibility of adding new content areas to pages, which you can edit through the page editor. No more putting custom content in the template. You can choose which content type (text, textarea, image, gallery, etc.) and which pages or page templates to display it on. This plugin also has a number of add-on plugins which can further extend its power.
Meta Slider: I use this simple slideshow plugin on many of my websites. Meta Slider allows you to easily add a slider to your template or embed on a page via shortcode. There aren’t many bells and whistles here, but if you’re looking for a simple image slideshow, this is the plugin for you.
Revolution Slider: This is the only paid plugin on my list, but I thought it was worth mentioning. In contrast to Meta Slider, Revolution Slider offers a robust slideshow experience with the ability to layer text and images, and add animations. The drag and drop interface makes it simple to use with limited coding knowledge.
WP SMTP: There are many SMTP plugins available, this just happens to be the one I use the most. I usually only install this plugin when a client is not receiving emails from the contact form. You just enter a few credentials into the plugin and WP SMTP will route emails out through your email client instead of using the PHP mail() function which tends to get blocked by many email services.
That concludes my list of essential WordPress plugins for website design and development, although there are many more that I use on a case by case basis. Are there any plugins you would add to the list?