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Top 10 Essential Plugins for WordPress

WordPress is an amazing CMS, being used by beginners to experts – it’s a very robust system and can be used for simple blogging (like this website) or complex websites and e-commerce stores.

I love WordPress myself, I find it very simple to use and because there’s such a large community of users and contributors you can usually find a plugin that will help you achieve a goal on your website with the minimum of cost or fuss. With that being said, you also need to be careful about which plugins you use.

Security is a very important issue that has affected WordPress based websites lately and in my honest opinion, I’m not surprised. Working with clients, predominantly using WordPress systems, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen websites using over 50 plugins, all sorts of free plugins that are written and not maintained. When your WordPress website is bloated with plugins, you not only open yourself up to trouble in future when some bored hacker finds a hole in the coding, but you are relying on free, poorly coded plugins that can slow down your website.

For your website to run properly and for you to have confidence in it, you need to ensure that you use the right plugins to get the job done.  My aim as a web designer is to use as least amount of plugins as possible to ensure the website runs as fast as possible and to also ensure the website’s security.

The top ten WordPress plugins I’ve used for the past few years (there are a couple of new ones on the list) are below:

1. Advanced Custom Fields Pro

Amazing custom fields plugin designed by Elliot Condon. A simple, attractive user interface and plenty of documentation. The plugin is updated regularly and is available for $100 AUD from the ACF website. This plugin helps you achive custom CMS functionality in your WordPress website from custom fields, repeater fields, galleries and much more. I can’t go through all the positives of ACF on here because I wouldn’t know where to stop. Download ACF Pro now

2. Yoast SEO

By far the best SEO plugin for WordPress. It works with both your meta tags and sitemaps, providing you with a one stop solution for SEO on WordPress. Updated regularly and always keeping up to date with the latest SEO trends, kudos to the team at Yoast for maintaining such a great plugin loved by millions. Download Yoast SEO

3. Gravity Forms

Robust, well thought out, well coded plugin. This is one of the best, if not the best plugin for forms on WordPress. Gravity forms allows you to set up complex forms for your website within minutes. I’ve used Gravity Forms on almost every website I’ve created. The only negative of Gravity Forms is it’s customisation, it can be quite difficult to customise to exactly how you want it to look. Gravity Forms is also a premium plugin that you pay for, but heck – if you want a good plugin you usually need to pay for quality. A free alternative to Gravity Forms is Contact Form 7, though it is fundamentally different to Gravity Forms, it can still be useful if you’re looking for a free alternative. Download Gravity Forms

4. WP Rocket

Simply amazing product. WP Rocket was first found by me when I was looking for something better than W3 Total Cache. Not saying W3 Total Cache was good, but it was the only caching plugin I could find for WordPress that would work properly. W3 Total Cache failed in the back end with it’s bloated settings and annoying banners and alerts to buy a premium version.

WP Rocket has addressed caching in WordPress with simplicity and has helped thousands of web designers make their website faster with minimal fuss. It is a paid plugin of course, but once you try it, you’ll be happy with your investment. Download WP Rocket now

5. 5sec Google Maps Pro

A simple, effective Google Maps plugin allowing you to embed Google Maps directly into your pages. It has many options and comes with fantastic documentation. For only $18. I found this one on ThemeForest about 3 years ago and have been using it ever since. Grab a copy of 5Sec Google Maps Pro

6. Force Regenerate Thumbnails

If you’re using multiple image sizes on your WordPress website or you’ve added a new image size and want your existing images to then be created to that size as well, this plugin works perfectly. Free. Fast and extremely useful. Download Force Regenerate Thumbnails

7. WP-Mail-SMTP

I’ve stopped using PHP to send my e-mails. Why? Because many shared hosts can have bad reputations and you could be missing e-mails, they might go to junk or you may not receive them at all! I recently had an issue where my Google Apps account was not receiving submissions from Gravity Forms – this made me go on a mission to find out why and ultimately fix the problem. My WordPress now uses SMTP and routes it through SendGrid. I’ve had a 99.9% delivery rate since implementing it. WP-Mail-SMTP makes this possible. Download WP Mail SMTP

8. WooCommerce for E-Commerce

It’s a love/hate relationship with WooCommerce. But I still think WooCommerce is the best available online shopping software for WordPress. It’s a love/hate relationship because I feel as if though WooCommerce is a free software, to get anything truly useful out of it you will need to purchase plugins. Once you’re done with it, you could end up with 5-10 extra plugins purely for WooCommerce which can not only bloat your WordPress plugin count, contribute to speed issues but also hit the pocket hard.

For a FREE shopping cart system, you have now gone to spending up to $199 US for a plugin. There also are some fundamental flaws of the system and limitations as to what you can do. There are many positives as well, including it’s user friendliness and many options for integration into other services and payments gateways.

Overall if you are going to run a WordPress based online store, WooCommerce is the one. Download WooCommerce

9. iThemes Security

With all the WordPress website hacking going around today, I choose iThemes to protect my websites. There are alternatives such as Sucuri and Wordfence but I have found that iThemes has helped stop repeat hacks on websites. WordFence has failed too many times to protect some of my websites from JS injections and PHP uploads that I looked for a new solution. iThemes has many useful options to protect your website from brute force and injections of code. It’s still early days, but it’s still on my essentials list.
Download iThemes Security for WordPress

10. CPT UI

The best simple to use custom post types plugin on WordPress. Easy to set up Custom Posts and Taxonomies. Tired of using Posts and Pages? Why not set up your own post types? It CPT UI helps you do this quite fast and helps you customise your WordPress for yourself or your clients. Download CPT UI

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