Toolbox of WordPress plugins
I build WordPress sites for my clients and these are my favourite tools – take a peek inside my workshop.
There are literally thousands of plugins available for WordPress – but few of them are outstanding. This page lists plugins that I use regularly if not constantly.
I will update this page as I discover new plugins and find new favourites.
Last update: February 2017.My WordPress plugin toolbox Click To Tweet
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Table of Contents
- WordPress plugins
- Advanced Custom Fields
- Admin Columns Pro
- Gravity Forms
- Contact Form 7
- UberMenu 3
- Menu Management Enhancer for WordPress
- Email Log
- iThemes Security Pro
- Simple History
- Relevanssi Premium
- bbPress & BuddyPress
- WordPress Themes
- Related services and tools
Disclaimer: In this list of plugins and services, some are affiliate links. That means if you click a link here and buy, I will get a referral fee. All products here are personal favourites and I use them regularly. I would not list them here if I could not recommend them.
Advanced Custom Fields
A huge timesaver and the first solution I think about when faced with making more complicated solutions for my clients. It saves time and makes it really easy to create easy interfaces for admins, and comes with tons of developer functionality and great documentation for implementing in the theme files.
Want a settings page for your custom theme? Easy. Build a settings page with many different kinds of input fields in a minute or two.
I have built the rotating testimonials on the front page here on larsik.com with ACF. One simple Repeater field with a few subfields.
Want to add before and after text on categories or custom taxonomies along with a thumbnail for that category? That is easy too and can be implemented in less than 5 minutes with this tool and a bit of PHP knowledge.
Admin Columns Pro
This plugin makes it very easy to edit the information displayed in the admin interface for post, pages, users, anything. You can customise sorting and filtering as well for the columns making the admin page much faster to work with.
A common problem many of my customers have is to add alt= text to images, and in WordPress it can be time-consuming to go back and forth checking images in the media library.
With Admin Columns it is easy to set up a new column that displays the alt text for the image, and with a click of a button you can also make it possible for admins to edit the text right there, you dont need to go in to each image to edit the alt text.
Filtering, sorting and editing right from the administration is a great timesaver.
Not the only form plugin around, but it is very stable, has just the right amount of flexibility in the admin interface, many addons (developer license) to handle a lot of common use cases, and best of all? It’s very extendable with filters and actions all over the place. Gravity Forms plugin has been around for many years and it has a solid following that has produced lots of valuable tips and tricks, easily Googled 🙂
It is regularly updated, stable and with the developer add ons it is easy to create even fairly complex forms and if-then scenarios. Eg. you can easily set up a form where visitors choose the nearest office to contact, and then Gravity Forms has the functionality built-in to send notifications to different email addresses based on which office was chosen.
Contact Form 7
Very solid, stable and a lot of functionality embedded, it is not nearly as user friendly. Personally as a developer I don’t mind the interface and the way to build and customise forms, but for many of my customers it is not user-friendly enough.
Also, to make Contact Form 7 look good, a lot more customisation and styling is often needed, whereas Gravity Forms I described earlier comes with nice styling and built-in CSS classes for further customisation.
Monarch by ElegantThemes I like a lot. Its simple, looks great and works well with their other products that I use also, the Bloom plugin for newsletter subscribers and I am a big fan of their Divi theme.
I have seen, and used many different social sharing plugins on different projects for different clients, but the best and easiest to set up and that just works is Monarch.
However, recently I have started using Super Socializer and I really like the customisation options, flexible yet easy to use. It also comes with a user login / account creation system for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and many more. I like that flexibility and you can turn off the sections you don’t use. Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/super-socializer/
UberMenu 3 is by far the best megamenu plugin for WordPress that I know. It does just about everything you want to do with a menu, and it is rock solid stable. Once you have set it up, it just works. Although the settings are not for the fainthearted, once you get used to how it is structured, it is actually pretty easy to work with if you edit your menus regularly.
You can add shortcodes to the menu, you want a Google Map with your business location in a dropdown menu? Easy. Would you like a contact form (embedded via shortcode) right next to it? No problem.
Speaking of menus in WordPress and menu editing:
Menu Management Enhancer for WordPress
This plugin is not only for UberMenu – it is made by the same developer behind Uber Menu, but it can be used with vanilla WordPress menu interface.
If you have a big menu with a lot of levels, this plugin makes it easier for you to edit. Have you worked with clients with many menu’s and many sub levels? I have, this plugin helps a lot. You can collapse individual levels or all the way up to the top menu to make it easier to navigate and drill down to the are you want to work with.
It only exists as a premium plugin, but for $10 it is a no-brainer. Buy it before you loose your sanity when editing big and complex menus.
I have found no better plugin for handling redirects of any kind. There are quite a few plugins out there for controlling redirects on your WordPress website, but this is very stable, has just the right amount of features and not a lot of bloat. Not the most user-friendly redirect plugin which is fine, because it does not add a lot of unnecessary features slowing down the admin or frontend.
This ecommerce plugin is by far the best, most well documented and supported shop solution available for WordPress. There are several good alternatives available, but I have not found any other WordPress plugin that could beat WooCommerce as a self-hosted shop platform.
Note – for digital only shops, I love and use Easy Digital Downloads, but for shops with physical products or a mix of physical and digital products, WooCommerce is the best.
This plugin does exactly what the title says, it logs all outgoing emails. There is a paid version as well, and I have bought a license simply because I like the free version so much. The free version has all the features and ease of use that you would expect and need, but I want to support other WordPress developers 🙂
iThemes Security Pro
There are a few security related plugins available that are good, but the one I have found work best all-around and with the fewest problems configuring / maintaining is the security plugin by iThemes. The price is worth it for keeping your websites safer from hack attempts. This plugin alone will not protect you from being from hacked, but it will help you against most.
Great features such as Brute Force Protection, malware scanning, file scanning and much more.
This plugin tracks changes on your website, and is an easy way to see when things changed, who changed what and so forth. There are som extension plugins available as well, so it is possible to extend the plugin to also log and view PHP notifications, etc. This helps me keep track of what is going on with many people making changes constantly.
The default search in WordPress is not very good. If you have a big website with lots of content it can be difficult for your visitors to search and locate what they need. This plugin allows you to decide what parts should be indexed and searchable. Choose between different post types, custom meta files and even comments.
bbPress & BuddyPress
Although a bit more tricky/difficult to work with, when it comes to setting up a forum or social community, nothing beats these two free plugins. If you want to go advanced, there are many plugins supporting both these plugins and many premium themes as well.
I build most websites from scratch, normally using Bootstrap as platform. There are a few themes that I like to use and that are easy to work with.
Note – Bootstrap was the first framework I encountered and started using and I have not found anything else to compete. Sorry Foundation, I just like Bootstrap better 🙂
Divi is a very versatile theme, solidly built and very easy to use. This theme has been the base of many websites I have built.
Related services and tools
These are services and tools that I use while developing websites. Read more about the tools I use to develop WordPress websites.
http://www.siteground.com/ (aff link)
Siteground is a very stable webhost that have gathered thousands of WordPress website customers because of their stability, good support and reasonable price options. I have several customers and own websites that are hosted on siteground.
Although there are many CDN’s around (Content Distribution Network), I have been a happy customer with MaxCDN for many years.
SendGrid have a very reasonable pricing structure, and I like the interface. SendGrid allows you to send transactional emails (you can also send newsletters if you use a local newsletter system, like MailPoet) and they have a high deliverability rate.
The very talented people behind WPMU has a range of excellent plugins and themes, and they are very skilled in the world of WordPress and development. The yearly membership price is more than worth it.
Read also - Freelancer Applications and Services I use
There are many tools and services for freelancers, here are the ones that I like the best.
Do you need a WordPress developer who knows how to use all these tools, then contact me here:
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