Are you new to WordPress and its plethora of plugins, or are you a seasoned professional looking for some more inspiration on how to improve your WordPress web design workflow?
Adtrak uses WordPress on a daily basis, and we’ve tested and used multiple plugins for different purposes over the years. Here’s our top 10 picks on which ones we recommend.
1 - Nested Pages
The lowdown: organise your posts and pages in the admin, great for beginners
If you’ve used WordPress, you know the way they sort and order their pages in the admin system can be a little clunky. It’s fine for smaller websites, but what happens when you start getting lots of pages, some of which are children (or even grandchildren)? You need a better method to organise them.
Nested Pages is a lightweight plugin that allows you more control over how your pages are displayed in the WordPress admin section. Rather than them all being in alphabetical order (which can be great!), instead we can organise them so they follow our website sitemap a little more accurately.
Want your Contact page to be at the bottom because it's the last page on your website? Move it. Need to make a page a child of another quickly? Drag and drop. Want to collapse all those child pages that are in the way? Toggle it.
Even better, you can use Nested Pages with a simple WP_Query and output the pages in the order you’ve assigned them. Brilliant!
2 - Post SMTP
The lowdown: optimise how emails are sent, minimise spam
Out of the box, WordPress uses PHP to send emails. Generally, this is fine, but over the years this delivery system has become prone to spam, and more often emails from legitimate websites are landing in people’s junk. How do we fix that?
Enter Post SMTP.
With Post SMTP, you can use a different mailbox to send emails from your website. The best outcome you can do is use an email from the same domain as your website to really improve deliverability. If your website is mygreatwebsite.com, set up a firstname.lastname@example.org, add in your credentials and away you go!
What’s more, you can even add a fallback in the event that your primary solution fails, and from the same plugin ensure all emails that are sent come from the same name across the website, regardless of what sends it.
Worthy mention: WP Mail SMTP
3 - HTML Forms
The lowdown: lightweight, fully HTML and CSS customisable forms, with very little bloat
So you’ve had a play with Contact Form 7, and it feels a little dated, or perhaps you struggle to remember the syntax it uses? So you’ve switched to Ninja Forms - it does everything you need it to do, right? But your page speed has plummeted because it’s injected loads of extra code you can’t quite wrangle?
You won’t find a drag and drop here - this is for coders - and it’s rapid to use. We tend to build our forms in code first, drop that code straight into HTML Forms and then output using the shortcode. It’s simple, it’s developer friendly, and it feels like the new age of WordPress forms.
4 - WP Migrate DB Pro
The lowdown: quickly migrate databases without doing a find and replace
You’ve probably got two or three environments you’re dealing with; local, staging and production. Marketers have been posting blogs on production for a few months, and now it’s time to do some work on the website, but you need to amend things in the database, and your common sense says don’t do this straight to production; plus, your client needs to proofread it.
With WP Migrate DB Pro, you can really quickly pull down the latest version of the website’s database. It will bring it all down, replace all your local data (safely changing serialised data too), and now you’re running a version that is identical to your production version.
Once you’ve made your changes, simply push it to staging, receive a very happy email from your client, and then push it to production. All with a simple click of a button.
Yes, it’s a paid plugin - but we think it’s worthy to save you that much time across lots of websites.
5 - WP Migrate DB Pro Media Files
The lowdown: works beautifully with WP Migrate DB Pro and migrates all your media
If you’ve bought the pro developer or full-stack version of WP Migrate DB, you get WP Migrate DB Pro Media Files with it, and it’s a huge time saver. Working in conjunction with WP Migrate DB Pro, when you’re migrating the database, you can migrate all your media too; it just works, and ends up on your server in the right place. A must-have if you’re migrating databases and need the media to migrate too.
It gives options for a full migration, or just newer updated media files too. Got a full site? Press the migrate button, then stick the kettle on. When you’re back, your media files are comfortably sitting in the right place.
6 - Advanced Custom Fields PRO
The lowdown: customise WordPress to your heart’s content without getting deep into PHP
This wouldn’t be a WordPress top 10 without Advanced Custom Fields (ACF).
Yes, Gutenberg is great in some cases, but ACF remains the top performer for those that want full control over the development, but the ability to lockdown what appears on the page.
ACF has so many options - their flexible content field is one of our favourites. It’s a page builder, but you can decide what elements to have. It doesn’t output any code to your front-end; it simply allows you to dictate how people can build pages, add additional fields and generally keep your admin section really tidy.
Need to have the same button repeat in different components? Use a clone field. Want to repeat a list of items somewhere? The Repeater was made for it. Just want a gallery of images? Great - use the Gallery and drop your images in.
ACF exposes an API that you can access really easily, whether you’re using vanilla WordPress or an extension such as Timber.
7 - Yoast
The lowdown: marketers love it, and so should developers
Yes, this is primarily an SEO tool; it helps marketers and SEO professionals work their magic with extendable fields to really drive home the optimisation for each page or post.
But it also has a powerful breadcrumbs feature - something you can drop into any page and it works. It has its quirks when it comes to categories and custom posts, but on the whole Yoast does a solid job for breadcrumbs, and really helps the marketing of your site.
It also means you can let your marketing team do their work, without having to build anything custom in order to amend page titles or meta descriptions.
8 - WooCommerce
The lowdown: turn your WordPress build into a shop quickly and easily
WooCommerce really is the big player in the WordPress e-commerce world, and for good reason. It’s regularly maintained, has a fairly simple approach to building custom themes, and has extensions coming out of its ears.
Whatever you want your e-commerce website to do, it’s fairly likely WooCommerce has the solution for you.
You do need to pay for some extensions, and the learning curve to get a custom themed WooCommerce site up and running can be a little steep, but it’s worth taking that step.
It’s also super client-friendly, so you can be comfortable your clients will be making sales in no time.
9 - UpdraftPlus
Link - https://updraftplus.com/
The lowdown: back up your site files and media to an external source
Backups. We know we need them. We often forget them. We don’t realise how much we need them until our website goes down, and our client is getting a little impatient.
UpdraftPlus is a simple solution to backups. Install it, confirm a few settings such as how often to back up, then choose where you want UpdraftPlus to back up to. It’s really that simple.
It works great with modern file storage platforms such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Amazon S3. Heck, you can even get it to FTP the files to a different standalone server (because why would you back up to the same server?).
UpdraftPlus can be a real life-saver in those precarious moments when you feel like the world is crashing around you!
10 - Wordfence
Link - https://www.wordfence.com/
The lowdown: a robust security system that protects your website
We’ve all heard and potentially seen the issues; another WordPress site has been hacked and is now trying to flog some dodgy gear to your client’s customers. Not a good look.
That’s why the folks at Wordfence built their security plugin; to help prevent, protect and limit the nasties of the world hijacking your website.
You can set up email alerts, do full site scans, manual blocking, repair files and enable two-factor authentication; plus, Wordfence works autonomously to keep unwanted traffic at bay.
Hopefully you’ve found some nuggets of information in this post. As a general rule, Adtrak prefers to use as few plugins as possible that drop extra code onto the front-end of your website; but that isn’t to say there are some great admin-side tools that we can use to help keep your site in tip-top shape.