WordPress has over 35,000 plugins available to install that help make your website more appealing or easy to use, that integrate your Twitter feed or provide analytics. Whatever the plugins do, one thing is for sure; they definitely make your life easier.
35k is a lot of plugins! So how do you know which to install? Well, I’m going to outline my personal favourites that I use when working for a client or on this blog itself. But since every site’s requirements are so different, I’m going to first explain how I go about finding and installing plugins.
1) Finding and Installing WordPress Plugins
1A. From your website’s dashboard
I am going to assume you know how to access your WordPress website’s dashboard as an administrator who has permissions to see the Plugins page. If you don’t know what the admin dashboard is, or you don’t know your login, you will need to contact the supplier of your website.
Once you are logged in, select Plugins from the menu (usually on the left side). This will show you the plugins that are currently installed, and which of them are active/inactive.
To search for new plugins to install, click the Add New button at the top of the Plugins page. Now you can browse the Featured/Popular or, more often that not you will be using the Search Plugins box. If you know the name of the plugin you are looking for you can type that straight into the search box to find it. If you don’t know a specific plugin already, then use a keyword to explore those available, e.g. “analytics”, “gallery”, “facebook”.
Pay attention to the information regarding the quality of each plugin. Along with the star rating and number of active installs, it is important that the author is updating their plugin regularly so that you know it will continue to work as WordPress evolves, and that the plugin is tested to be compatible with the version of WordPress you are using.
Once you are happy with your choice, go ahead and click the Install Now button. When the plugin has been downloaded and installed, you will need to click the Activate link before you can use it.
1B. Searching the Internet
You can search the available plugins from the WordPress website, which will show the same directory as when you search from your own dashboard. But, I find a better approach is to simply Google Search “WordPress plugin for x y z”, more often than not you will see a result something like “top 10 free plugins for x y z”, where some kind person has done the work and compiled the top contenders together for you to easily decide the best one to try out.
Once you have made your decision, go back to your dashboard to find and install the plugin as described in part 1A above.
2) My Top Plugins
For Almost Everyone
- Contact Form 7 (4.5 stars – 1million+ active installs)
- The contact form built in to WordPress doesn’t offer much, so one of the first plugins I will always install is this. Contact Form 7 allows you to create as many different forms as you want, and place them into various pages and posts as you wish. It’s free, customisable, and it can protect against spam. As if that wasn’t enough, when you combine it with the next plugin, it gets even better.
- Form Lightbox (4.5 stars – 10k+ active installs)
- Sometimes you don’t want a big form taking up precious real estate on your page, in this case Form Lightbox allows you to simply place a link – whether that’s wrapped around a word, a sentence, a button, or an image doesn’t matter – and when clicked, the form you made and selected using Contact Form 7 will show up as an overlay or ‘lightbox’.
- Rotating Tweets (5 stars – 30k+ active installs)
- There are 1000+ plugins with the keyword Twitter, but my favourite at the moment has to be Rotating Tweets. The standard Twitter feeds you find embedded on websites are kind of annoying in ways such as messing with scrolling, iframes, and fixed width issues. This plugin simply shows one tweet at a time, in a nicely formatted way, which rotates one by one through your most recent tweets.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (4.5 stars – 400k+ active installs)
- This is a plugin just for you, not your visitors. If you are not already using Google Analytics to track your visitors, read this post I wrote on “Why you should care about it”. When you install this plugin, it adds a new dashboard widget that gives you a quick look at some statistics, including Real-Time (who’s on your site right now!).
For Web Developers
- Allow PHP in Posts and Pages (4 stars – 50k+ active installs)
- In one sentence, use this plugin if you want to be able to use PHP code within your posts and pages.
- WP Minify (4 stars – 40k+ active installs)
- One problem with installing plugins is that typically each will each require at least one additional script file and one style file to work, meaning if you have lot of plugins you can end up slowing down your page load time. To help overcome the issue, I use this plugin, which combines and compresses all the JS and CSS files into one, quick to load file.
- Bad Behavior (4 stars – 80k+ active installs)
- In a perfect world, this plugin wouldn’t exist. You will often see what is called Referer Spam, which messes with your analytics. This plugin helps to prevent this and some other common forms of spam.
- Rename wp-login.php (5 stars – 70k+ active installs)
- Help secure your website by moving the location of your login page to a custom one. Of course, this really works best when you don’t call the administrator user “admin”, and when you use a strong password that you don’t share!
- Google XML Sitemaps (5 stars – 1million+ active installs)
- Sitemaps let search engines know how your site is structured and how often pages are updated, and Google loves them! This is the simplest plugin to help your ranking.
- Free Stock Photos Foter (5 stars – 2k+ active installs)
- Adds a button to let you browse royalty free images when creating a post.
- Cookie Confirm (3.5 stars – 1k+ active installs)
- Adds a message to your website to let your visitors know you are using cookies.
- Huge IT Portfolio Gallery (4.5 stars – 20k+ active installs)
- The best gallery plugin I’ve come across.
- WP Booklet (4.5 stars – 1k+ active installs)
- Allows you create flipbooks for your website out of images.
- WP Fastest Cache (5 stars – 70k+ active installs)
- Leverages browser cacheing to improve your site’s load time.
- WP Leads Builder For Any CRM (2.5 stars – 700+ active installs)
- Does what it says on the tin!
- WP User Avatar (4.5 stars – 100k+ active installs)
- A very simple plugin that allows you add custom avatar images for your users. This is handy to add personality to your post, and/or if you have a blog with multiple contributors.
These plugins are some of the best ones to use and are ideal if you’re just starting off using WordPress or want to take your website to the next level. If you have any questions please leave a comment.