Colleagues sometimes ask for advice on WordPress plugins. I have three guidelines when considering a plug-in:
- Only use plugins with lots of active installations. You can get this information when you search for plugins within WordPress.
- Only use plugins that have been updated in the past few months. Again, the WordPress plugin installation page will show you this information.
- Only use a plug-in if it fulfills an important purpose for you. Plug-ins can slow a page down, plug-ins can break, plug-ins can be hacked. Plugins can add valuable functionality, but not without trade-offs.
That being said, here is my list of favorites.
In alphabetical order.
A word of warning: using your own custom code via this or similar plugins may negate the wonderful cross-platform responsive design that good WordPress themes give you for free. Expertise level: moderate.
You may not need this if you use the block (Gutenberg) editor that became standard with WordPress 5.0. Add responsive columns to any page or page segment. Example: [1/2][1/2] for two equal columns. Columns stack vertically on small screens. You may not need this if you use the block (Gutenberg) editor that became standard with WordPress 5.0. Expertise level: easy.
Conditionally display featured image on singular posts and pages
Sharing of posts or pages to social media get much more engagement if the page or post has a Featured Image. These featured images are displayed on Facebook, Twitter, etc. as part of the post. The problem? I do not always want the featured image displayed on the page itself. This plugin gives you the choice of whether to display the image on the page or post itself.
Flexible display of recent posts. I like to use this for a 3 column wide grid of snippets of recent posts. Much more attractive than a linear list of recent posts. Can filter by category. Less important if you use the block (Gutenberg) editor that became standard with WordPress 5.0. Expertise level: moderate.
Extremely handy for finding what CSS elements control a feature. Lets you tweak appearance with easy tools, and then generates the CSS for you. Used as intended, it will make all the needed changes for you.
However, let me share my idiosyncratic use of CSS Hero. I do not like to rely upon CSS Hero to control my site’s appearance, just to help me determine the CSS I need. So instead of letting CSS Hero control the layout permanently, I copy the code it generates into a child theme styles.css file or into the theme’s “Additional css” under “Customize. Then I exit CSS Hero without saving changes (or rather, not saving changes within CSS Hero.) This may seem paranoid, but I sleep better depending on one less plugin for my site to function. Expertise level: advanced.
Display Posts Shortcode
Place a list of recent posts (by category if you like) on any page. See also Content Views plugin above, which is more flexible and I think more attractive. Expertise level: moderate.
GA Google Analytics
Adds your Google Analytics tracking code to every page. Low overhead. Google Analytics provides valuable information on why people come to your site and how they use it. Expertise level: easy if you already have a Google Analytics account, moderate otherwise.
Google Photos & Picasa Viewer Pro
Add a photo album anywhere. Create your photo album on Google Photos, and this plugin will insert the album anywhere. Several choices of layout. (Yes, I know Picassa is dead; it only lives on in the name of this plugin.)
Tips on using this plugin. Expertise level: moderate. It is a bit picky to configure.
Google XML Sitemaps
Creates a good XML sitemap for your site to aid in indexing by search engines. Low overhead. (If you use The SEO Framework below, you do not need this plugin.) Expertise level: moderate.
Downsizes and recompresses images automatically upon uploading. Do not let huge images slow down your site! Expertise level: easy.
Find 404 errors and redirect them to the page of your choosing. Supports regex wildcards. Essential! Check it regularly to find broken links to your site and remediate them. Expertise level: easy to moderate.
Responsive Image Maps
Makes images responsive in places (such as Tablepress tables) where they would otherwise not be. Expertise level: easy.
Add the contents of a Google Calendar anywhere. Expertise level: easy.
Simple Image Sizes
Add more options in media setting page for image sizes. Expertise level: easy.
Provides rich support for tables. However, table content is not necessarily WYSIWYG for adding images to tables. Less critical if you use the block (Gutenberg) editor that became standard with WordPress 5.0. Expertise level: moderate.
The SEO Framework
Automatic search engine optimization. Yoast is the most popular such plugin, but, I think this generates less server overhead and bloat that slows down pages. Expertise level: easy if you accept defaults, moderate if you wish to tweak.
WP Google Search
Adds Google Search to your website. Expertise level: easy.
WP Super Cache
Speeds up your website, lessens load on your server. Expertise level: easy if you accept defaults.