Plugins can be a great way to extend the functionality of your WordPress site. Although, as a developer, I am firmly in the “code as much as you can yourself” camp in order to keep things quick and clean, there are some plugins that make life so ridiculously easy that not to use them would be equally ridiculous. What’s even better is when these plugins are free to use.
Here’s a quick list of free plugins that I use regularly when building WordPress sites.
File size is a real concern when building a website, especially since mobile use is so ubiquitous these days. Most often, the largest files of a website are image files. In order to mitigate the size issue, it’s important to make sure that your images are optimized for web use (in fact, Google factors in optimized images into it’s speed tests). WP Smush automatically optimized images as you upload them into WordPress. It’s that easy, there is no need for any input on your part other than installing the plugin.
Advanced Custom Fields
For simple page layouts, the default text editor in WordPress works just fine for displaying text on a page. For more demanding layouts, a plugin such as Advanced Custom Fields makes handling these much easier. You can add almost anything you can think of: extra text fields, images, text editors, file uploads, etc. With addons, you can even add galleries or repeater fields. These custom fields can then be easily added to your template files so that they display correctly on your website.
All-new Echo (2nd Gen) has a new speaker, new design, and is available in a range of styles including fabrics and wood veneers. Echo connects to Alexa to play music, make calls, set music alarms and timers, ask questions, control smart home devices, and more—instantly.
Shift Nav – Responsive Mobile Menu
I’m a fan of off-canvas menus for mobile devices. They can be a bit of a pain to code yourself, but Shift Nav makes it really easy to add one to your website. It comes with a wide range of options including at what screen width to trigger the menu, colors, animations, screen position, etc. Shift Nav adds an checkbox in your “Menus” section so that you can apply a menu of your choice to use as your off-canvas menu (most likely your main menu), and the plugin handles the rest.
No doubt you want visitors to find your WordPress site. Yoast SEO is an all-in-one SEO suite that gives you a huge amount of options for your meta titles/descriptions, what you would like to be indexed by search engines, sitemaps, etc. It also scores your individual posts and pages and gives you suggestions on how to make your content more SEO friendly.
There are many free and premium form builders out there, but Ninja Forms is a very robust plugin and it’s easy to setup and use. Input fields such as text fields, dropdowns, checkboxes, radio buttons, textareas, etc. can be added and required fields are easy to configure. In addition, Ninja Forms will handle email notifications and redirects. Like ACF, Ninja forms has a number of add-ons that extend the core functionality such as conditional logic and multi-part forms.
If you want to market your website, (which you probably do), SumoMe makes it super easy to do so. It is a suite of plugins to help you market your website with tools such as popups to increase subscribers, social sharing, analytics, image sharing, etc. There are some options that require purchase, but most users will find that the free stuff will suffice.
What plugins are your favorite or ones that you can’t imagine development life without? Feel free to comment and let me know!