Essential WordPress Plugins

We like to use WordPress quite a lot here at Usman Group. Its a known fact that it has a huge community of contributors who are very helpful if you have any questions. This makes developing on top of WordPress pretty simple. Sometimes however, not all the functions are there, so I turn to plugins that can help tweak the CMS to do exactly what we need. Here is a list and a basic overview of some plugins that have helped me over the last year of developing custom themes with WordPress.

1. Advanced Custom Fields

Advanced Custom Fields is quite possibly my favorite WordPress plugin. The basic functionality of the plugin is to be able to create “extra”  fields in your pages and posts, thus allowing you to create more meaningful content areas. Before this plugin the themes would require use of HTML in the content content areas. This made it tough to explain to clients that even though they had a content management system powering their website, they would still need some basic knowledge of HTML. We wanted to push the envelope and give the client something that was very intuitive and straight forward. Here are some examples of how you could set up a page using ACF.

For example, a lot of the times there are scenarios where a page will have a Heading and a Sub Heading, Excerpt, and a section of content on the left of the page. Before, all of these would be piled in with the rest of the content and thus made the content area very bloated. With ACF you are now able to create a specific fields for each section, thus making the content much more intuitive.

Advanced Custom Fields

Custom Fields created using ACF

2. Simple Page Ordering

Simple Page Ordering plugin allows you to do just that. It gives you the option to simply “Drag & Drop” pages or posts in the back end of WordPress. The current way of reorganizing pages is very inefficient. You have to open or “quick edit” each individual page and type in the numbers in a chronological order in the “order” field. It becomes a hassle especially if you have a ton of pages and want to reorganize quickly. Simple Page Ordering simplifies everything, and allows you to quickly move things around.

3. Drag & Drop Featured Image

Drag & Drop Featured Image extends the default WordPress function to feature an image in a post or a page. With this plugin you no longer have to click “Insert Featured Image” link, but rather just drag the image straight into the designated area as shown in Figure 3. This just creates some efficiencies when creating new posts or pages.

Figure 3. Drag & Drop Featured Image

4. All in One SEO Pack

All in One SEO Pack is one of the easiest SEO plugins that I’ve come across in terms of usability, intuitiveness and compatibility. All of SEO is handled directly in the page or post that you are editing. This makes keeping to-do date SEO for your site very easy. This plugin also allows you to create titles and descriptions for your blog posts, so you can take advantage of optimizing each post to really help boost traffic to your website.

All In One SEO Pack

5. Google XML Sitemaps

Every website needs a sitemap but building one by hand is a pain and takes a lot of up-keeping. Fortunately Google XML Sitemaps helps you create a sitemap for your website with just a few clicks. Once you’ve deployed your sitemap, the plugin will keep track of changes of your entire site structure and make adjustments to the sitemap when a page permalink has been changed, or when a new post or page has been created. It is a very handy plugin that requires very little effort to configure, but they pay off is tremendous. Now you can submit your sitemap to Google, Yahoo, etc and allow them to crawl your website much more quickly.

Google XML Sitemap

6. Search Everything

Depending on how complex your site is, Search Everything is a plugin that will help you if you have a Search feature built into your website. By default, the search capabilities in WordPress are very limited and don’t quite return what you’d expect. You could potentially lose a user if they can’t find what they are looking for. Search Everything expands the search query to be able to search absolutely everything (if you choose to) on your site. You can search categories, tags, comments, authors, excerpts, and much more.  On the flip side, you could also limit to what a user can search. So if you have a page that contains no content but is needed to create the site architecture, you most likely wouldn’t want that to show up in the search query. It also has a neat feature called “Search Highlighting”. Enabling this feature will highlight the term you searched for on that page or post.

Search Everything

These are just six plugins of thousands that are out there that I haven’t even had a chance to use. I am always interested in what other WordPress developers are using to help them create custom themes, so If you have any that you think will help me, Tweet me and I will be sure to include it in here.

That’s all folks!


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