13 WordPress plugins you should know if you have a WordPress website
In 2019 we wrote about Top 5 WordPress plugins that we use on a daily basis. Of course, our clients’ expectations are always growing and their requirements changing. Considering the fact that the plugin manufacturers constantly improve their products, we decided to make a brand new list.
What plugins do we use the most in our projects?
Obviously, it depends on the client’s requirements. There are some plugins we always use - like those for content management and security. The others may or may not be needed in the current context. It all depends on the website’s purpose.
What plugins do you really need? What should you keep in mind when making the choice?
First of all, the plugin needs to be compatible with the newest WordPress version. Make sure it is being regularly updated and issues reported by the community are being addressed.
The fewer plugins, the better
Remember that having too many plugins can slow down your website. If you’d like to keep the loading time low, limit the number of plugins you use to a bare minimum.
In the WordPress plugin directory, you can find basic information. That will help you decide whether a plugin is worth your attention.
A high number of active installations and high ratings indicate that this is a good-quality plugin. Still, check if it receives regular updates and if it has been tested on the newest WordPress version.
In “advanced options”, you can find more details about fixes and developer extensions.
Let’s move on to the WordPress plugins we use the most! I divided them into 5 categories.
WordPress content editors
Advanced Custom Fields
This is the plugin we use virtually in all our WordPress projects. It allows users to easily and quickly add custom sections. It has many customization options. So it’s very easy to adjust the settings to the client’s needs. Any custom fields you create can be added at any place on your site.
ACF is developer-friendly, too. Many custom themes use it as a foundation.
There is also a PRO version of the plugin that gives you even more freedom in editing fields.
Classic Editor is a plugin released by the WordPress theme. It allows you to revert back to the pre-Gutenberg editor in the panel. The old editor is much simpler than Gutenberg but that’s exactly what many users are looking for. It’s often chosen by people who used to work with the classic editor in the past. Many users are still used to the old editor and find it much easier to work with.
The WP Admin can either pick the default editor for all users. Or give them the possibility to choose their preferred editor every time.
The newest content editor in WordPress was introduced along with the 5.0 version. The editor allows for block content management.
The Gutenberg editor is something you will either love or hate. It’s being critiqued for being unintuitive and for efficiency issues. On the other hand, it’s being praised for the visual editor that lets you preview the result as you enter your content.
We used this plugin to create our WP Framework Gutenberg that achieves 90+ Google Speed results on desktop. We have used it to build our new website and we are very happy with it.
Contact form plugins
Contact Form 7
If you ever wanted to add a contact form to a WordPress site, you probably heard about Contact Form 7. Apart from sending the messages sent by a form user, this plugin allows adding special mail-tags
Contact Form 7 can be enhanced further by installing additional extensions. E.g.: Flamingo or Drag and Drop Multiple File Upload.
Gravity Forms allows you to integrate your website with more than 1500 external services like PayPal, MailChimp, Slack or Agile CRM. The form data can then be exported to Google Sheets.
Gravity Forms is more advanced than Contact Form 7. It gives you more features required to create e-commerce specific forms. What is more, the block structure of the form is way easier to manage for the end-users.
Best website optimization plugins
Perfect Images + Retina (formerly WP Retina 2x)
Originally, this plugin was made to handle creating image file versions for High-DPI devices. Along with WordPress development, it received a number of additional functionalities. Currently, Perfect Images + Retina lets you generate thumbnails and control thresholding.
The PRO version of this plugin supports Retina for full size and adds lazy loading support.
EWWW Image Optimizer
Optimizing images is something every website needs, especially if it uses many large graphics. This plugin offers uploading images at high speeds. It also lets you optimize images existing outside the media library. The optimization processes can either be run via the web interface or the command line.
The full version of this plugin offers up to 80% image compression.
The most popular SEO plugin and the favorite plugin of every web marketer. SEO and readability analysis help you improve the quality of your website content. Yoast makes it easier to add meta tags and canonical URLs. You can also set separate thumbnails for your blog posts depending on the social media platform you share them on.
The premium version provides statistics and optimizing articles by secondary keywords.
Yet another optimization plugin. It has a number of features that improve your website loading speed. Autoptimize aggregates, minimizes and buffers scripts, styles, HTML, Google fonts, and much much more. You can configure the plugin freely according to your needs thanks to the advanced setup panel.
The plugin manufacturers are known in the community for being very responsive to issue reports.
Last but not least, there’s another plugin that can help you optimize your WordPress site. It is easy to set up and requires no coding experience. WP Rocket minimizes and merges CSS and JS files. It can even optimize e-commerce websites without interfering in the shopping process.
WP Rocket only has a paid version and it isn’t available on the official WordPress website. But we know that it gives the best optimization results.
Other image-related plugins
The plugins I mentioned above will help you optimize images and increase the loading speed. Let’s see what other image manipulating plugins could be useful.
As its name suggests, this plugin allows regenerating thumbnails for images in the media library. There is no size limit to the source images. It’s very useful when you need to make blog post thumbnails or would like to adjust previously uploaded images to new dimensions.
Regenerate Thumbnails will help you save time doing it all manually.
It lets you upload vector images to WordPress. Additionally, it will let you preview those files in the media library. It’s not something you get out of the box in WordPress!
The PRO version lets you use files existing on the SVGO server and restrict certain user roles from uploading SVG files.
Protection against hacker attacks
You should never forget about protecting your WordPress website. Wordfence provides two-factor authentication (2FA) on login and prevents from using simple, easy to breach passwords. It also scans files, themes, and plugins for malware, spam, and unwanted redirects. It lets you monitor the site visits and attack attempts in real-time.
The premium version offers additional protection and alerts.
This wraps up the list of plugins we recommend to most of our clients. Some of them can be used interchangeably (like Contact form and Gravity Forms) but some other plugins are always our first choice. We only install as many plugins as it’s necessary to ensure full website functionality. The most important thing is to keep their number reasonably low.