“Plugins can extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine,” states wordpress.org, and it’s true. The right plugin will have your WordPress site jumping through hoops of fire and make your site administrator’s life considerably easier. Of course, the wrong plugin — or a poorly-coded one, in any case — can bring your site to a screeching halt and cause premature hair loss and hypertension for the unlucky admin who has to clean up the mess.
So what makes for a good plugin? Here are some attributes that are important to me (not listed in any particular order):
- Functionality. If a plugin doesn’t do what you need it to do, what’s the point?
- Support. While I don’t expect a toll-free number and unlimited technical support from a free plugin, I do want to see decent documentation and a fairly extensive support forum with a high percentage of answered posts.
- Cost. Most plugins are free, created by a community which loves WordPress. Who doesn’t love free stuff? But cost isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to get what you want.
- Ease of use. If I start working with a plugin and I can’t figure out how to use it in a relatively short period of time, even after checking the documentation and support forums, I’ll ditch it. Time is valuable, and I won’t waste it on a plugin with a non-intuitive user interface or clear instructions.
The five plugins listed below each fulfill most, if not all, of the above criteria. We use them on just about every site we build.
We do lots of great things at Deluxe Interactive Services. Unfortunately, large-scale Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not one of them. Thankfully, this plugin is a big help. For people like us with moderate SEO skills, the free version of AIOSEOP provides all the tools we need. Yes, there are other, more powerful SEO plugins available, but for cost (free!) and ease of use, we stick with this one — and include it in our client sites. If our clients need more expanded services we can help them with that, as well.
You never, ever want your site to go down, for any reason. But should the unthinkable happen and you have to restore your site, it’s great to have a backup ready to go. BackWPUp is our answer. I think my favorite part of this plugin is it’s ease of use; like the Ronco commercials used to say, “set it and forget it”. You can back up to a folder on your site, back up to e-mail, schedule backups for whenever you like, and on and on. I feel I can rest easy when BackWPUp is running on my site.
At first available only to wordpress.com users but now free to everyone, this multi-functional plugin does… well, it does a heck of a lot. Site stats. Publicizing posts on social media. Extra widgets. The list goes on and on. The only hassle with Jetpack, and it is a minor pain, is that your site has to be registered with wordpress.com to work. It’s an easy registration process, however, and the benefits are well worth it.
Want an excerpt of your most recent post to show in your sidebar? Then the Query Posts plugin is your answer. It features all kinds of options to display your posts in almost any form without all that mucking around in PHP code. It is an older plugin and hasn’t been updated in a couple of years, but sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
The Wysija (What You Send Is Just Awesome) newsletter plugin is relatively new to us, but we sure do like it. With this plugin, you can create MailChimp-like newsletters directly from your site or set notifications to be emailed to your subscribers whenever you publish a new post. East to use with a good user interface, this plugin is becoming one of our new favorites.
So those are a few of the favorite plugins we use at Deluxe Interactive Services. What are some of your favorites, and why?