Six WordPress plugins I can’t live without

I’ve been a freelance web designer for a little over a year now and in that time I’ve built a fair amount of websites, about 90% of which are built on WordPress with the other 10% split between static sites and Perch CMS. Using WordPress so often, it made sense that I created a framework that I could roll out for each project which includes six awesome, and in my opinion, totally required plugins.

Advanced Custom Fields

This is a complete no-brainer, and in my humble opinion, one of the greatest WordPress plugins ever created. As the name suggests it allows you to quickly and easily add custom fields and meta boxes to pretty much anything, and greatly extends the functionality of WordPress. It makes it painfully easy to add anything you’d like to a page template, from simple text fields, advanced conditional forms, to Google Maps and image galleries.

Gravity Forms

This was slightly more difficult as I had to choose between Gravity Forms and Contact Form 7, which is another brilliant (and free) contact form plugin. The reason I chose GF was that while CF7 is great, GF forms is just an all-around better plugin. It handles your most basic forms all the way up to colossal multi-pagers without ever breaking a sweat, an added bonus is that GF saves all submissions directly to the site as well as emailing you, something that is missing from CF7 (but can be added with an extra plugin). Not to mention there are a bunch of powerful extensions available for it, making it well worth paying out for the licence.

All in one migration

This one is new to my list as in the past I would always export/import my databases in PHPMyAdmin and then run ERIS/DS Migrate script to update the URL’s. However this plugin makes migrating from the dev/staging environment to production a complete breeze and once you pay for the premium version, increases the file size limitation up to 5GB! (512mb is the limit on the free version).  It’s pretty much one click and you’re done which is why it’s now my go-to tool for migration.

Imsanity & WP Smush

These two are used in conjunction and are very handy for managing a clients ability to upload images. Imsanity is used to automatically resize images, so if the client insists on uploading that 20MB hi-res photo of a lamp post then it won’t eat up too much of our server space. It can also be used to block images of that size even being uploaded in the first place, which is helpful. WP Smush is a free plugin with a premium version that is used to compress any images uploaded to the Media Library. As the free version only lets you compress images that are under 1MB I use Imsanity to make sure no images of that size can be uploaded meaning every image is compressed and ready to roll.

WP Super Cache

I couldn’t really make this list without mentioning this plugin and it’s one of the most downloaded plugins in the directory. WP Super Cache is used to serve up static HTML files to visitors instead of PHP which improves site load time and performance, and seeing as Google rankings are now effected however much by site speed, making sure that your client’s sites are optimised and load as quickly as possible is pretty damn important.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few plugins that while I still use on most projects didn’t quite make the final list.

Wordfence Security – Great for keeping your clients WordPress install as protected and locked down as possible, it also comes with caching features which could see it replacing WP Super Cache on my list of must-use plugins in the future.

Yoast SEO – Again this goes on pretty much every client site I make, but it’s always down to the client to populate it with their content.

Regenerate Thumbnails – This one is more for the development stage when I’m testing various images sizes, it’s usually hidden or removed by the time the site has gone to production.

So there you have it, my must use list of WordPress plugins, I’m interested to know what plugins other developers can’t live without so let me know with a comment below!