About WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are created by developers all over the world. You'll find thousands (9800 at last check) of them just by visiting the WordPress site and going to the plugin page. These are all FREE and open source (unless otherwise noted) which means you can use without a fee and can edit, should you have the need and talent.
Plugins can be installed from within your WordPress administration area but a word of warning (actually several):
- Always back up your site before you start installing a bunch of new plugins.
- Only install plugins from a trusted source
- Keep the number of plugins installed to "must have's" -- they do take up resources and can slow down your page, not to mention affect other issues concerning your site. In short, don't get carried away!
- Update your plugins. You'll see a red flag when you login to your WordPress site letting you know an update to one of your plugins is available. It's usually a good idea to do this but be sure to read any and all messages that come with the upgrade before you do.
- Be sure the WordPress installation you are running is compatible with any plugins you wish to install.
- Keep track of what plugins you installed and when. If your site starts to have issues, you can narrow it down possibly to a plugin issue and simply disable or remove a plugin one at a time (in reverse order) and see if that doesn't clear up the issue.
Our Top 12 WordPress Plugins
Like any WordPress developer, after awhile you start finding yourself using the same plugins over and over. We have some favorites ourselves and typically include with each custom WordPress site we develop:
- All In One SEO Pack - Probably one of the most downloaded plugins out there! You control your page titles, meta description, and so much more. It really works!
- CJ Coming Soon - This is great when a site is in its development stages. For the casual visitor, they see a pleasant landing page that shows a count down of when the site will launch. For the website owner, as soon as they login to their WordPress site, they'll be able to see the site as it's built out at that point in time. As soon as the site is live, this plugin can be uninstalled/deleted.
- Contact Form 7 - A nice tool that lets you create as many different forms as you'd like on your site. It takes a little while to understand how the plugin works (which is why we probably built most of your forms for you). But, spend a little time and play around (just don't make your site live to the public) and in no time you'll be a Contact Form hero!
- Google Analytics for WordPress - This tool makes is super easy to install your unique Google Analytics tracking code into your site. Of course, this assumes you already have an account...if you don't we've probably already created one for you. Now you can login to your account and see where your site traffic is coming from. An invaluable tool!
- Google XML Sitemaps - Search engines (bots) love these sitemaps as it makes it easy to index your site and include your pages in their database. We always want to make it easy for search engines to find us!
- NextGen Gallery - If your site needs a photo gallery, then most likely we've installed and integrated this plugin in to your site. You can have different albums with different galleries...lots of options but we usually stick with the basics. You can experiment more if you dare...
- pageMash - When you create new pages in WordPress, it lists them in the order they were created. It's also the order they appear in your site. With pageMash's simple drag and drop interface, you can easily recreate the hierarchy of your site in seconds. You can also "hide" pages, which is helpful for pages such as sitemap, privacy, etc.
- Page Link To - Nice tool to let you set a link to null, to a link outside of WordPress pages or to create a permanent redirection for a page.
- Really Simple Captcha - This plugin works with Contact Form 7. It keeps the spam bots away by asking live human beings to enter a special "validation" code. It's much easier to read then some of those other services, so it should not be a hindrance to your visitors when completing your form.
- WordPress Database Backup - Very important tool and one you'll want to become familiar with right away. Note, this does NOT backup your page or post content, among other things. You'll want to export that information every so often. Keep your backup and export in a safe place in case you ever need to reinstall. You can automate the database back up but not the export; just put IT on your calendar and do it without fail. You'll sleep better knowing all of your content is safe, should your server crash, etc.
- WordPress Exploit Scanner - We hope our sites will not be subject to hackers, but to be safe, this plugin will alert you to any possible "gaps" in your WordPress files that might be a source for injection of malicious code by those nasty hackers.
- WordPress Firewall - From the authors "This WordPress plugin investigates web requests with simple WordPress-specific heuristics to identify and stop most obvious attacks. There exist a few powerful generic modules that do this; but they're not always installed on web servers, and difficult to configure."