WordPress has grown exponentially from its blogging roots to its current iteration: an open source publishing platform that many web developers use a fairly robust content management system for their clients. We use WordPress for all our client sites, as well as this one, and we regularly blog about it.
However, WordPress as a base publishing platform doesn’t always cover all the bases when it comes to required CMS functionalities. There are a few plugins we use our custom WordPress sites in order to improve functionality. Let’s have a look at eight plugins to improve the WordPress CMS.
Simply the best image gallery plugin out there. Great support, stable, frequently updated – and free. The native WP gallery is alright, but NextGen is a no-brainer improvement.
Shadowbox JS is a smart jQuery plugin that handles images, video and music files very intuitively. It’s free to download, but the commercial license costs $20. That’s a totally reasonable cost for how solid the plugin is.
Everyone knows about it, but it can’t be left off the list. Akismet is the best spam-blocking plugin for WordPress out there, and it is built in to every WordPress install. Keep those aggravating spam bots out of your comments by using this plugin.
Sitemaps provide an SEO benefit, which is a good selling point to your potential clients. This sitemap plugin generates the sitemap for the site and notifies all the major search engines at the click of a button.
Google Analytics are a must-have for any website that wishes to judge its performance. This plugin connects Analytics with your WordPress-powered site and displays a neat summary in a dashboard widget. Simple, useful, and your clients will love it.
It’s silly – alright, stupid – to not back up your website. Especially if the site has frequently updated content. This plugin is a “set-it-and-forget-it” type plugin, backing up the WordPress database at an interval specified by you. You can choose to download it, store it on the server, or have it emailed to you. Keep in mind you still should back up the theme, posts & pages separately through the dashboard. Note: I tried the Backup to Dropbox plugin, which looks promising, but it only worked on one of two sites (the smaller site). If the reliability improves, chances are it will replace the WordPress Database Backup plugin.
WordPress.com Stats (now JetPack)
While you already have Google Analyticator installed, WordPress.com Stats (now JetPack) offers a simple, real-time widget for pageviews, search terms and the like. Another plugin your clients like to see.
If you’re redesigning a site – which happens quite often – chances are your client will want to keep some of the backlinks they’ve garnered over the years. If the site structure is changing dramatically, this plugin is an easy fix to redirect old URLs to the new ones (thus avoiding numerous 404 errors).
What plugins are must-haves for your WordPress builds?