One of the major strengths of WordPress as a blog and website building platform is the amazing array of functionality that the plugin system allows.

Without getting technical, plugins are written to extend the functionality of WordPress in almost any direction.  Want your website to do something? There will very likely be a plugin that does it!

Free, Premium or Freemium

As with everything WordPress, there are two types of plugin, free (on the WordPress repository) and premium (ones that need to be paid for and available on sites such as Code Canyon or developers individual websites).  Actually, there is a third category of “freemium” – plugins that are free but which have a premium (paid) version to upgrade to, to enable the full feature set.

Generally speaking, as with many things in life, the paid ones get better support and better development than free ones but this is by no means a rule.  Don’t be afraid to use the free ones on the repository but equally don’t shy away from paying a developer for his valuable time and effort!

Our Must-Have Plugins

Much like when you get a new phone and there are a million apps to choose from, when you first install WordPress which plugins should you install first?

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This is my top 5 list:

1. Yoast SEO

Once you’ve got your website looking good and telling the world what you do and how you do it the next job is to let Google and the other search engines know about it too.  The Yoast SEO plugin makes it very easy, even for comparative newbies, to cover off most of the technical “onsite” points of Search Engine Optimisation without breaking much of a sweat.

This plugin is freely downloadable from the WordPress Plugin Repository here

2. Contact Form 7

Your customers aren’t all the same.  Some like picking up the phone, some prefer an email via an email address, others much prefer to fill in an online form.  The pick of the simple contact form plugins, in my opinion, is Contact Form 7.  I say simple because it really is very easy to get started but don’t be fooled, there is an awful lot you can do with it too if you delve into it in detail.

For more complex form applications I always use Gravity Forms. It is a plugin that you have to pay for but in my opinion it’s worth every penny as soon as your form requirements become more complex than a few static fields.

Contact Form 7 available here and Gravity Forms here.

3. Revolution Slider

Images are incredible important on a website and sliders (multiple repeating images often with a written message included) are a feature of many.  Often only used on a homepage the slider offers an easy way of getting multiple messages “above the fold”.  Revolution Slider is a fantastic, easy to use, plugin which offers an incredible array of possibilities for letting your customers know they are in the right place very quickly.

It is a paid plugin but again, worth every penny.  If you are using a premium WordPress theme you may even find it is already included – check first before you buy.

Revolution Slider is available for purchase here

4. WP Smush

While we’re on the subject of images the next plugin in the list is an invaluable addition to every website.  WP Smush is an image optimisation plugin which reduces the filesize of every image you upload to the WordPress media library without losing quality

One thing that will turn people away from your website is slow page loading. Anything more than a couple of seconds starts to test people’s patience these days!  Downloading pictures to display on the page is one of the biggest causes of a long load time and WP Smush helps by compressing images as they are uploaded.  It is still good practice to reduce the dimensions of the image before uploading but WP Smush will take the file size down even further.

It is a free plugin on the repository but again has a paid version which unlocks extra features.  Available here.

5. Limit Login Attempts

With WordPress accounting for nearly a quarter of all websites in the world today it’s no surprise that the unsavoury elements of the society that we live in try to hack in to our sites to either steal from us or just to cause us head (and heart) aches.

Look out on our blog for an article about improving WordPress security but to start with I highly recommend installing this plugin.  Essentially it locks the admin login form after a number if unsuccessful attempts.  The most common form of hacking attempt is known as a “brute force” attack where an automated system just keeps trying infinite username and password combinations.  If it is locked they can’t do it – simple as that.

Limit login attempts is freely available on the repository here.  At the time of writing this plugin hasn’t been updated or supported for a long time – but it still works.

Alternatives

Each of the plugins above has very many alternatives to choose from, they just happen to be the ones that we at Orange Pixel have used successfully for many years.

My final words would be do not be afraid of, or begrudge, paying money for a plugin, most aren’t that expensive and you do get top developers making quality products.

If you need any help choosing, installing or configuring plugins to your WordPress website please do not hesitate to contact us at Orange Pixel.