After you setup your site and choose your theme, the next step is choosing the right plugins. I’ve got a number of plugins I pretty much always install the instant I create a new wordpress website. Its notable, though, that the plugins you should install will vary based on the theme you choose.
As per usual, the first place to look for plugins is the WordPress Plugins Directory. You can also search for plugins in the WordPress admin at “Plugins > Add New.”
Just be warned. Plugins are great, but too many can be a problem. It is NOT recommended to add too many plugins as it can seriously slow down the speed of your site. You shouldn’t rely nearly so much on plugins if you are using a custom theme, as many features can be added directly to your theme.
I’d highly recommend immediately installing all of the following plugins for all users.
There are other SEO plugins as well, but Yoast’s is the one for me that has the most variety of features and is easy to use, too.
Contact Form 7 is a must if you want a contact form on your site, and the grand majority of business sites all have one. It even has an easy-to-use CAPTCHA, and Are You a Human? also has support for Contact Form 7, as well.
For some reason, Captcha for a lot of people seems to be the end-all choice for most people looking to prevent spam. My question is: Why?! Captcha is absolutely horrible, it doesn’t stop spam, and its a huge hindrance on the end-user.
After some search around, I found Are You a Human? which I really like so far. It doesn’t hinder users while at the same time DOES appear to hinder spam. So why not use it? I highly recommend trying it out. I had some issues getting it to work on this site at first, but after I found an upgrade it apparently fixed whatever issues I was having.
The only thing I’ve noticed is that it may be a tad bit slow… that’s the only problem I see, but Captcha isn’t much better, is it?
Before I kept using multiple plugins to try to send my posts to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. When I installed Add Link to Facebook, though, WP to Twitter wouldn’t work on this website. The WPGPlus plugin I was NEVER able to get to work. Then after trying to make some fixes so I could make WP to Twitter work, Add Link to Facebook stopped working as well.
After some searching around, I found Social Networks Auto-Poster. This little plugin sends to all of them… all in one plugin! No incompatibility issues with separate plugins. It even has a nice little feature where you can send a test post to MAKE SURE they are working first. This post will be my first post using it, though I have run the tests and it properly sends to all sites I’ve got it linked up with.
Only issue is that for certain sites such as Google+ and Pinterest, they do not have internal support for posting from outside sources. As such, you have to pay for a $49 extension that will enable the capability. That’s $150 total for all three extensions required to post to the three sites that don’t innately support normal posting. I’ll just save my money and not post to Google+ for now.
The following plugins are incredibly useful, but not everyone may necessarily need them. However, if they fit into your niche, I’d definitely recommend them.
Widgets are extremely versatile. This is even moreso the case with Dynamic Widgets. Dynamic Widgets allows you to put widgets only on specific pages, making it extremely useful. Naturally, by default, wordpress widgets just appear on every page. Some theme compensate for this by adding widgets to specific page templates, but it can never stack up to using Dynamic Widgets.
Before I was using Widget Logic and Widget Logic Visual. Widget Logic is too complex for ordinary users, though, and Widget Logic Visual stopped working after the upgrade to 3.5.1. Even then, though, Dynamic Widgets is far more useful, I definitely recommend it.
Typically I always install Dynamic Widgets. However, I moved it here after I realized that on many sites there’s really no reason to install the plugin. Still, in cases where you need a plugin to set widgets on specific pages, Dynamic Widgets is definitely the one you want.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the best if your client requires complex styling; for example, three images in one Widget. But when you just need one, and having just one image in a widget is incredibly common, this is extremely quick and easy to use, as it ties directly into the default wordpress media popup.
Typically I always install this widget, but like with Dynamic Widgets, it really is something you don’t always need. For example, I’m not using it all on this website. If you need to display images in your sidebar, though, Image Widget is great for it.
WordPress’ default TinyMCE editor is great. However, it doesn’t come prepackaged with as many options as I’d like. Ultimate TinyMCE greatly simplifies the process and adds the ability to put in a whole series of new icons and shortcodes for easy usage.
I also had recommendations before for a plugin to allow using shortcodes in widgets. However, Ultimate TinyMCE appears to even have that covered! Definitely recommended, install it and configure it right away to greatly improve the speed at which you can post blog entries.
If you don’t need all the extra options, though, this just takes up space on your server. I’d highly recommend you use it, but if you’re not going to be spending a lot of time doing advanced customizations, perhaps it is best that you just skip out on this one.
If you need to create an eCommerce site in WordPress, WooCommerce has all you need and more. I’ve worked with WooCommerce on a couple of sites where I installed a premium theme from WooThemes, which of course ties into WooCommerce. To go along with it, I also installed the plugin Features.
Naturally, if you don’t need an eCommerce site, you have no reason at all to install WooCommerce. It may still be helpful if your site is not eCommerce, but it does have product listings, though.
The following plugins (or types of plugins) I would NOT at all recommend you install, unless you have a pre-made theme and don’t have the capability of adding the feature in a child theme.
This plugin is one that my clients have kept asking me to add in order to support Google Authorship. At the time this first came up, I had no idea what Google Authorship was. As I was trying to set it up myself, naturally I did some research and found, as per usual, it was far easier to set up than I thought.
This plugin requires a framework called WordPress Framework Reloaded. There’s an additional plugin to add new contact fields. All of this is just extra junk that does not need to be filling up your plugins listing. From what I’ve read, even WordPress SEO by Yoast supports Google Authorship.
Ultimately, the only reason to install this plugin is if you want to show the full author box even if you’re not on a multi-author site. This is easily fixed if you’ve got a custom theme, but if you’ve got a pre-made theme and do not want to create a child theme, that’s probably the one and only time you’ll ever want to use it. In the future when I make new custom themes I’ll skip this plugin as well.
The first widget restriction plugin I used was Widget Logic Last year I found a plugin called Widget Logic Visual, which was a huge step up from Widget Logic. Widget Logic is inferior simply because its too time-consuming entering all the code in manually. Widget Logic Visual provides a visual interface to greatly improve this.
Unfortunately, as of WordPress 3.5 Widget Logic Visual is broken due to the addition that WordPress now comes prepackage with jQuery 1.9. And even if it wasn’t broken I wouldn’t ever use it again; Dynamic Widgets is FAR superior. So I guess upon seeing that the author decided to just let the plugin die.
I wasted hours trying to get this plugin to work the way I desired. On both sites. I got it working great on The Shadow Realm, but it still took me a while to get working. I never got it working on this site, though, probably because I had installed and configured Add Link to Facebook.
Considering the fact that Social Networks Auto-Poster posts to Twitter and Facebook, and to a whole bunch of other social sites as well, why bother with this one anymore? I’m going to convert WP to Twitter to SNAP on The Shadow Realm later, as well.
Just what the title says; this little baby will add social media links to Facebook. It works pretty good, but it appears to be incompatible with WP to Twitter, which sucks because I want to send to both sites, not just one. Also, after adding some additional configuration to WP to Twitter, I couldn’t get Add Link to Facebook to work, either.
Social Share Button Plugins
What do I mean by this, you say? I mean just literally ANY plugin to add social share buttons on your site. There’s no reason to add them; it just increases the number of plugins you’re using which can harm performance. You can easily add social share buttons with child themes if you can’t edit the theme directory, so just stick with that, don’t mess with adding plugins for it.
If you DON’T want to use child themes at all, I guess if you can find a decent plugin, use it. But try and find one plugin that adds them all at once.
Well, I hope you found this post helpful. The only thing helpful for me is that this post is finally out of the way. I’ve been wanting to share my favorite plugins and recommendations for some time now. And this post took way longer than I expected it to take.
If you enjoyed my observations, please let me know in the comments. Time to post one more (shorter) entry and to wrap up this evening. Thanks for reading.