As web developers, we like to create a lot of things from scratch. For different reasons: it will do exactly what you want it to do, you can put your name on something (this is always a nice feeling), and so on. Sometimes there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If a thing works don’t question it or change it. That’s why I’ll get on with a list of our most used WordPress plugins.
We noticed some plugins that we used frequently on our projects. They definitely help us make the final product better and also finish it faster (deadlines are always a pain in the ass).
List of most used WordPress plugins
Advanced Custom Fields
This has to be the most used WordPress plugins by us when it comes to custom themes and projects created from scratch. This plugin just doesn’t have any kind of downside. I love it!
You can pretty much do whatever you want in terms of content and it will be very easy to manage it from the back-end and also to display it on the front end.
You can add simple custom fields like text, text area, and images, but you can also add repeaters, you can create groups, option pages, flexible content (awesome feature) and so much more. Once you got to understand how all the field types, functions and action work you will see ACF as a swiss knife.
If you end up creating the entire pages with ACF you can use ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO if you want to integrate ACF with Yoast SEO.
I don’t think it needs any kind of introduction. It’s the “standard” SEO plugin on WordPress sites. I’m aware that there are other plugins that do a good job, but I was never disappointed by this one. Also, if it works there is no need to change it.
This should be one of the most used WordPress plugins on all WP installments.
You can set a lot of things: from the main website details (name, logo, etc.), connect it with Webmaster Tools, and customize every page/post SEO proprieties. There is also a very nice option to set the image and meta details for Twitter and Facebook sharing.
The plugin has a color rating system for your articles. It will let you know how the article has scored for readability and SEO. It provides some tips on who you can improve them. Getting Yoast SEO Premium will add some more tips and a bit more control over the keywords and content.
If you’re client plans on having a big blog/magazine or whatever type of content with a lot of articles, the premium version will help out.
When it comes to the optimization part of the project, you will want to adjust everything to be efficient. One important issue is serving images at the correct size in the page. If you don’t upload the image at the exact size needed (but a bigger one) you will end up loading a huge image on the page in order to adjust it with CSS to a smaller size. It looks good, but you just loaded an 800KB file on the page instead of a 60KB image.
For this you will set different image sizes in functions.php using add_image_size().
If you do this at the end of the project, you will need to regenerate the images that you already have added in place. That’s when Regenerate Thumbnails will get in action and do the work for you.
I do the image optimization and most of the speed loading tests at the end of the project. This makes sense to me because the client might change his mind a few times before launching the final product and you don’t want to waste time on this until you have the green light when it comes to design and content.
EWWW Image Optimizer
Related to the previous plugin, this one helps you optimize the images uploaded on your site. The plugin is packed with useful settings. (you can also enable JPG/PNG to WebP, which is nice to test at least). There is also a Resize Settings tab that lets you select if you want to skip resizing some certain sizes.
I prefer this one to the more popular Smush Image because on the free version of EWWW Image Optimizer you have more control compared to the free version of Smush Image.
Images can be optimized based on a path. So, you can optimize images in different folders and not just the one uploaded via Media.
It’s very easy to set up. Basically, you just activate the plugin and enable the cache after that and it will take care of most of the things you need. It also has preload, which is great. You want to have preload on a caching plugin. It will crawl the pages automatically and even if for the visitor is the first-page load it will still deliver it as cached.
It has this feature in the free version of Fastest Cache. Most plugins offer that after you purchased premium.
The CSS and JS minify and optimizing are also pretty good. If you want some more control over that you can try Autoptimize for CSS/JS optimization.
Another caching plugin that I like lately is Comet Cache (the premium version). It’s pretty easy to set-up, it has a preload (called autoload) option and it can be done based on your sitemap or specific page links.
This is a must have plugin if you have comments or forms on your site. It’s free to use for personal sites with API key from Akismet.com and it will get rid of spam messages. You can use it with Contact Form 7 and a lot of other form plugins.
This is a no-brainer.
UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
Backups can save your life when something goes wrong. You want to update the WordPress version, some plugins or the main theme (that your child theme depends on) and you end-up with a broken site, backups are there to save the day.
You can rely on your hosting provider to create back-ups for you, but you can also set up UpdraftPlus to do it.
By default, it exports the backups to the server. You can choose to do it on your Dropbox, Google Drive, different FTP account, and so on.
Some other important settings available: backup schedule and number of backups to be stored.
As we work on more and more projects we realize how useful the plugin is. Clients will try to update or change things by themselves and it doesn’t always end up well. That’s why UpdraftPlus Back-up is one of the most used WordPress plugins by us.
These are the most used WordPress plugins in our projects from the last years. A lot of them can be replaced by similar plugins. We like them because they receive periodical updates and they have a very good documentation available.
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