Recommended WordPress Plugins

January 3, 2016

Categorized: WordPress

This is a big old list of my preferred WordPress plugins, what I use them for, and why I like them. Hope you enjoy and find it useful!


  • All in One SEO Pack, with the following features:
    • XML Sitemaps
    • Social Meta with a default social meta image
    • Robots.txt
    • Bad Bot Blocker

    I tend to prefer AIOSEOP to other alternatives because it has so many features built-in. Other SEO plugins might require separate Google Analytics integration, or separate XML sitemap generation plugins. AIOSEOP does it all for me in one package.

  • Broken Link Checker, although take note: some users in the past have complained of high server resource use. I have not personally experienced issues with it, and prefer an in-site solution to finding broken links. It’s tough to remember to check up on services that scan your site for broken links.
  • Redirection, although again some have complained about heavy server use with this plugin. I have not experienced this. However, I have experienced some incompatibilities with Redirection — namely, with WPMU. WPMU’s documentation warns you about this, though, so not a huge deal.
  • Breadcrumb NavXT is a great plugin for adding breadcrumbs to your site. It’s flexible and I’ve had great success adding it to templates and similar.

Contact Forms

  • Gravity Forms is my go-to plugin for forms. I’ve written a whole post about why Gravity is awesome but to summarize, it’s easy to customize/develop, support is ridiculous (I have personally experienced <2 minute ticket response), and it has great integration with many other WordPress plugins, including WooCommerce, PDFs, post creation, and more.
  • Ninja Forms is a close second, my go-to when I need a free solution rather than paid. I’ve found it’s very clean, easy to use, and I’ve seen their support responding in the wild to topics posted about Ninja Forms — suggesting they’re very responsive with their tickets, as well.

Security and Anti-Spam

  • Anti-Spam Bee (non-commercial) or Akismet — either of these two works fine for me. ASB is my preference when the project is commercial — Akismet when non-commercial. Unfortunately most clients/employers/etc. haven’t wanted to shell out the money for yearly Akismet.
  • WordFence Security for general security. WF has so many awesome features it’s hard to list them all. Among my favorites are its ability to scan for malware, alert for malware, restrict/lock-out users/wrong passwords/similar.

Site Speed

  • WP Fastest Cache or WP Super Cache — WordPress-level cache plugins. Of course whatever work you do for your cache, server-side, will be better than what a plugin can achieve. But if you can’t mess with server-side caches, these plugins can do quite a bit on their own.
  • Better WordPress Minify — Compresses and concatenates JS and CSS files. Powerful, flexible — you can ignore certain scripts if you find BWP’s compression/concatenation is breaking a particular plugin.
  • WP HTML Compression — Compresses the HTML output of your site. Only saves a couple bytes in most cases — but is also fairly compatible with BWP and Fastest Cache, in my experience… so why not include it for those extra couple of bytes?
  • EWWW Image Optimizer — Compresses your images as they’re uploaded (and can run through your old images with a bulk optimizer). As images are often some of our largest on-page assets, EWWW is a must-have.

Front End

  • Easy FancyBox is a neat, easy-to-use modal box script for your images and so forth.
  • Column Shortcodes is my favorite column plugin… but I usually disable its CSS and add my own with some adjustments.
  • WordPress PopUp allows you to create call to action pop-ups, for example urging the user to subscribe or check out a new feature. Powerful options for when to show the pop-up — or not.
  • Theme My Login is probably the easiest way to create a front end login and registration for your site, hiding most of the default WordPress stuff.
  • NextGen Gallery and Photo Gallery work well for me when the client needs a more robust gallery feature than WordPress offers by default. Though I did experience issues with NextGen gallery once, wherein an update pretty severely broke my site — it hasn’t given any problems since, and its ease of use for clients makes it hard to ignore.
  • Advanced Responsive Video Embedder is an easy way to make sure your YouTube videos scale responsively with your page, looking nice on a 24” screen *and* a palm-sized screen.
  • Easing Slider or Revolution Slider both work well. The latter is paid. Easing Slider is restricted in that you can’t put text/captions/etc. over the slides on the free version — but in most cases I find this is okay. You can set a whole link for the slider, which is fine for my purposes.
  • Table of Contents Plus automatically generates a table of contents from your heading tags. On longer pages stuffed with information, these can be really helpful and add significantly to the user’s experience.

User Management

  • BuddyPress for creation/management of users, as well as social networking features. BP is great, but not as robustly documented as core WordPress, with a smaller community.
  • WP User Avatar allows you to select a user’s avatar from the media library. Simple, but a neat addition.
  • Export Users to CSV does exactly what it says it does. I remember testing a lot of CSV export plugins when I needed to move users once upon a time, and this was the best one I found.
  • User Role Editor for altering permissions, adding user roles, and so forth. Very powerful plugin, probably best left to professionals.


  • Jetpack, with:
    • Photon
    • Enhanced Distribution
    • Monitor
    • Sharing
    • Spelling and Grammar
    • Subscriptions

    Jetpack, again, has complains about server use… but again, I haven’t experienced this, personally. I think either way, the couple of plugins it offers — namely, Enhanced Distribution and Sharing — are pretty much must-haves. Subscriptions are a simple way to set up email alerts for your blog subscribers, too.

Specific Functions

  • WP Mail SMTP can solve many mail problems on your WordPress installation, if MailChimp or another email provider isn’t a viable option.
  • Mobile Theme Sniffer – Any Mobile Theme Switcher — Although I prefer responsive design and think it’s the better way to go 99% of the time, sometimes you do need a whole-theme switch (for example, to satisfy client requirements or similar).
  • Mobile Navigation creates a mobile menu for you easily. I’ve found it’s *super* useful when trying to make a site “mobile friendly” without totally revamping the theme — excellent for time crunches, essentially.
  • WordPress HTTPs makes it easy to put an SSL on your WordPress site. It forces all traffic to HTTPs. My only complaint is that this plugin needs to be disabled when moving a site from live to local. I manage to forget that frequently, and frustrate myself wondering why my local site is redirecting to the https:// version of the live site…
  • jonradio Private Site is a great plugin for creating a private site. You can designate certain pages or entire directories as public, while locking down the rest of your site.
  • bbPress is excellent for the creation of forums on WordPress.
  • Events Calendar by or The Events Calendar are both great plugins for creating events calendars.
  • WP All Import PRO is a paid plugin for the importing of data. It’s very powerful, with abilities to work with custom data and extensions to work with many popular WP plugins.
  • Widget Functionality Plugins – Widgets on Pages and Duplicate Widget are my go-tos for widget functionalities. Widgets on Pages allows you to embed a widget on your page (great for widget-only plugins you’d like to use on a page). Duplicate Widget allows you to use a copy of an existing widget, reducing the number of updates you have to make to different widgets.
  • WPML is a paid plugin for creating a multi-language site. While it’s an extremely powerful plugin with tons of options, the learning curve isn’t steep at all.
  • Adwords Tracking Code for tracking AdWords conversions on individual pages.