My 6 essential WordPress plugins for every new site

I have developed a few WordPress sites for myself and others and with every new project, I find that there are certain WordPress plugins that I must install immediately. These are plugins that have formed a crucial part of each project and have saved me time in the long run. In this article, I want to walk you through some of my essential plugins that I include in every new WordPress project.

Disqus Comment System (by Disqus)

Disqus is a great way of replacing the default comment system offered by WordPress out of the box. The WordPress comment system is great and all, but who wants to sit and create extra style sheets for a comment system when there is an awesome looking, feature-rich, socially integrated powerhouse waiting for you to install for free!

The positives:

Disqus lets you remove the hassle of handling a comment system and it will put even more functionality into every site that you build. It comes integrated with social media sites so that your users can login to their preferred social account and comment on your site using these credentials. This is great because it becomes quicker for your users to contribute to your site.

The negatives:

With Disqus, you are decentralising your comment area and shipping this section of your site to another system. Although there are options to import/export comments to your WordPress site and make it feel more native to WordPress, this is an extra element that you should be aware of. Your comments are ultimately stored with Disqus and potentially used on their service. If you don’t mind this… you are good to go!

Custom Post Type UI (by webdevstudios)

Does your website need more than just pages and posts? Webdevstudios have you covered with Custom Post Type UI – a really simple plugin that makes it incredibly easy to extend your WordPress site beyond its initial scope.

The positives:

This plugin does it all for you. You can add new post types in an instant without having to think about a line of code. This can be really beneficial when creating themes. This plugin also offers the ability to create custom taxonomies too and works seamlessly with other essential plugins such as Advanced Custom Fields (see below).

The negatives:

I can’t really think of too many negatives from my own experience on this one (which is why it’s so great!). There is one negative that can be given to this and all other plugins that allow you to create custom post types however. The code that is required to register a new post type is minimal. If you are only needing a few very simple new post types for your WordPress theme, downloading a plugin to handle this for you could be bloating your project unnecessarily. Try registering your own post types first and if this is too difficult, turn to a plugin like this.

Advanced Custom Fields (by Elliot Condon)

This is ultimately my favourite plugin when developing new web projects. Advanced Custom Fields – or ACF, gives you endless possibilities when creating a site that needs to be content-managed. If the default WordPress fields are not enough for you (and as you begin to develop more feature-filled sites, you will realise they are not), this plugin is the easiest and quickest way to start adding new content fields that can be pulled straight into the front-end of your site.

The positives:

Custom fields have never been easier to add and you can apply them to post types (both native and custom), attachment pages, taxonomy terms, user levels and more. This plugin gives you some serious potential to create a better content-managed site by extending the back-end to give you the fields that you want.

The negatives:

Like Custom Post Type UI, this plugin is awesome, but it may be worth investigating how to add custom fields in your codebase first. The process of creating custom fields is more complex than for custom post types but it is still achievable and it could save you a lot of unnecessary code in your project.

Bootstrap 3 Shortcodes (by Human Made Limited)

This is perhaps an odd one to include in this list, but it is certainly a plugin that I use in every WordPress site build that relies on Bootstrap. If you develop themes using Bootstrap, this will be a great addition to your project. This plugin allows you to use Bootstrap 3 shortcodes in your content-managed areas (in pages, posts and any other post types). This gives you the ability to break the boundaries of static, rigid and templated pages.

The positives:

This plugin removes the need to create a new page template that is marginally different to your default template just so that you can have an accordion area. This can help to keep your code base minimal and reduce unnecessary work.

You can use all the great Bootstrap features from your backend with ease. Just remember to style these elements or ensure that the default style will match your current site’s theme palette and templates.

The negatives:

First and foremost, this plugin only works if you have built your site using Bootstrap. It requires you to have the Bootstrap CSS and JS referenced in your theme already.

Contact Form 7 (by Takayuki Miyoshi)

This is a great solution to creating contact forms on your sites. They are very flexible and allow you to create simple or advanced forms that can be styled to your preference.

The positives:

With Contact Form 7, forms are easy to set up and can be customised to suit your needs. You can integrate spam filtering with Akismet, track with Google Analytics and save messages with Flamingo. Adding a contact form to your theme or to your page via the backend could not be simpler either, it’s just a quick shortcode.

The negatives:

Creating a form and trying to style it at first can seem a little tricky. However once you begin to get your head around this, the plugin can become a really powerful tool for something that is laid out so simply.

Yoast SEO (by Team Yoast)

The only SEO plugin that you need. Ok, I haven’t tried many others if I’m being honest… but this should certainly be considered. If you care about your site performing to the best of its ability in search engine result pages – and you should, this plugin makes understanding SEO simple.

The positives:

Yoast takes care of the following: meta titles and descriptions, multiple webmaster tools, open graph meta data, twitter card meta data, Google+ specific meta data, XML sitemaps, theme breadcrumbs, permalink optimisation, robots.txt file, .htaccess file and integrates with Google search console. All this for free! A plugin as powerful as this should be preinstalled on all WordPress sites!

The negatives:

It handles a lot of the technical aspects of SEO very well, however it is still up to the user to ensure that the on-page SEO elements are to a good standard. The plugin does give you an SEO score which helps to evaluate how well your on-page efforts are doing. However, the plugin is not magic, it can not do this for you. That is down to the site editor.

Other WordPress plugins – honourable mentions

There are so many great plugins out there and I should reiterate at this point that these are merely the top 6 that I have used in every project to date. There are honourable mentions in so many categories that can be included in this list such as NextGEN Gallery, bbPress and WooCommerce, but I feel that these fall under a more specific project category.

“Saddle your horse. Shoulder your load. Burst at the seams. Be what you dream and then take to the road.” – Frank Turner