WordPress is an amazing tool on its own. However, When you add Plugins it becomes a whole new beast. In a few clicks, you can turn a simple blog site into a fully-fledged E-Commerce website. There are plugins for sliders, payment gateways, photo galleries, support ticket systems. If you can think of it, there is most probably a plugin available.
Because WordPress is Open Source under a GPL license, it also means there are lots of free plugins too. Well actually, all the plugins are free. However, most premium companies charge you for support and updates, which to be honest is fair. You can’t expect developers to work on something for many years for free. We have to pay our bills right. Saying that most plugin developers offer an unsupported version of their plugin for free, in the hope you will upgrade to the premium version later down the line.
One of the main reasons WordPress has done so well over the years is because of it’s huge community and plugin developers. Who would have thought, that this simple blogging platform would end up powering about a third of the websites on the internet?
In this post, we will reveal some of the plugins we love and use on a daily basis and we will also show you how to install them, so you can get up and running with them on your own WordPress sites.
Installing WordPress Plugins
First things first. You need to know where to get WordPress plugins before you can install them. The most popular place to find them is on the WordPress.org website.
Most developers will list their plugins on there. However, there are a few companies that only list their plugins on their company websites. A Google search will be your best bet in this instance. Another good resource for plugins and themes is Envato Marketplace which is otherwise known as Theme Forest. Before downloading or purchasing any plugin, be sure to check the user reviews and update frequency for compatibility with your installed version. It is always wise to update your WordPress software and plugins to avoid vulnerabilities and compatibility issues. Some developers are better than others at supporting and updating their plugins. So be warned!
Once you have WordPress installed on your server, whilst logged in there is a plugin tab on the left-hand side and from there you can search for new plugins by clicking the add new button.
From there you can search for plugins and install them with a couple of clicks.
It is always wise to make a backup of your site before adding any new code or plugins, as sometimes plugins can break your site, but for the most part have fun and install as many as you’d like. However, the more plugins you add, the slower your site could become. We like to keep our sites for clients using a minimal amount of plugins.
Some developers starting out tend to use a plugin for everything. However, learning a bit of HTML, CSS and PHP could minimise the amount of plugins you have to install. Especially for small simple tasks.
Plugins We Love In 2021
At 247 Digital there are a few plugins we use on the regular to build sites for our clients.
They can save you time, add functionality that would take days to code and they can even speed you site up and add security to keep your site safe.
Advanced Custom Fields or ACF as its also known, is an amazing plugin for building complex WordPress website templates. Also, if you are familiar with the WordPress Gutenberg editor, you can also create your own blocks using this plugin.
There is a learning curve to ACF, so I wouldn’t call this a beginners plugin. Having some knowledge of PHP will go a long way when creating templates using ACF.
However, there is a company called Hookturn.io that do a sweet little plugin that can take the coding pain away. We will do another post about this company, but for now, let’s move on. ACF basically lets you create custom fields which you can then use for dynamic data in your website templates. For example, you can create a gallery with custom fields. You can also, create simple text fields, dates, colour pickers and more.
Even though there is a bit of a learning curve with ACF, it is one of the most powerful plugins to have in your WordPress development arsenal.
This is why we have put this as the number one tool for building advanced WordPress templates.
Toolset is another plugin that offers similar functionality to ACF. Toolset is a newer plugin, but it is quickly becoming a go to for building dynamic page templates.
The bonus of using Toolset over ACF, it that you don’t really need to know code to get up and running with it. You can use shortcodes or blocks to build pages quickly.
Toolset also takes care of the templating side of things. For more info head over to their website for more info.
03. Presto Player
Presto Player by Adam Preiser, a new plugin for 2021. Adam is also the man behind Cart Flows and a few other plugins. You can find out more about Adam here.
He is a great resource for all things WordPress.
His latest plugin Presto Player is amazing for those of you who want to add videos to your WordPress website. With this plugin, you can create private plugins for courses, get analytics on your video content, create video chapters and much more.
More features are on the way, so watch this space.
04. iThemes Security
iThemes Security is another plugin that is starting to make waves in the WordPress community. Previously, at 247 Digital, we used to use All in One Security and WordFence.
However, for us iThemes has less bloat, easier to set up and has some great features not found in other security plugins. If you want to keep your site secure, we recommend this, as a one stop shop, to keep your WordPress site safe.
Kadence Blocks Pro is another great plugin that works with any Gutenberg enabled theme. It is better paired with the Kadence Theme, which is free on the WordPress theme store. Kadence Blocks Pro, also comes as a free version which on its own can be used as a great alternative to Elementor or WP Bakery.
Kadence Blocks is a set a prebuilt blocks for rapidly building pages in the Gutenberg Editor in WordPress. At 247 Digital we use it all the time for building brochure websites and sites that don’t need to much client interaction. However, Kadence Block in conjunction with Toolset can be a powerful partnership to make more complex sites.
There are so many amazing plugins available for WordPress and the list is growing day by day. WordPress isn’t perfect, but no CMS is. There are many other options for building websites and there are tools better suited for different applications.
We went from an agency that built bespoke PHP applications, which cost more, take more time to update and maintain. With WordPress and the abundance of plugins, we can still build complex and amazing websites, but using WordPress, saves time, leaving you as a developer or client, money left over for SEO, design and marketing.
2021 is an amazing time to be involved in the WordPress community and we are sure by the end of 2021, there will be more tools making our lives easier to develop and create than ever before.