I’ve been developing WordPress plugins and themes for about five years now, and over the last few years there have been a few plugins that really stood the test of time. In this two-part series, I’ll be explaining which plugins that I consider to be absolute essentials for any WordPress developer’s toolbox.
1. Gravity Forms
First on this list is none other than Gravity Forms! I’m not kidding when I say everybody loves this plugin, their website claims over 1 million users. I’ve worked for two startups developing SaaS that used GravityForms at the core of their plugin, and for good reason. If you don’t know already, or couldn’t guess from the name, GravityForms is an HTML form builder plugin that is hands down the best of it’s kind. Some of it’s features include:
- Excellent documentation found on their website that covers hooks, filters, integrations and so much more
- Built in “Web API” that allows developers to create, read, edit and delete forms and entries using HTTP requests.
- Awesome add-ons for easy integrations with popular services like PayPal, Zoho, Freshbooks, Aweber, Mailchimp, Authorize.net and many more
- Intuitive and easy to use interface, and also a lot of useful settings for forms like conditional logic, calculations, and submission settings
- CSS “helper classes” to assist you in creating the perfect layout, and a way for you to add CSS classes to form fields
- Dynamically populate fields with data from your database or GET variables!
2. YOAST SEO
SEO can be difficult for web developers, especially if you don’t really know what you’re doing. YOAST does an excellent job of holding your hand during plugin setup after you activation. YOAST features a ton of different options, but many are disabled by default, which I really like because sometimes it’s easier to have fewer options, or maybe I don’t want a lot of “sweeping” rules and want to maintain SEO titles/descriptions on a post by post basis. Some of my favorite features of YOAST are:
- IT’S FREE!
- The latest version includes a “no hassle” installation of sorts. Once you activate, you are walked through a serious of steps that make SEO for WordPress easier than ever before
- Easily manage titles and meta descriptions for individual posts/pages
- Set a focus keyword, and get on page analysis to help you in optimizing all of your WordPress posts and pages.
- XML Sitemap generator (this is awesome! and I used the Google XML Sitemaps plugin by Arne Brachhold for a long time, but not anymore.. now I just use the one that comes with YOAST in an effort to keep the number of plugins on any WordPress site I build to a minimum.
3. bbPress / BuddyPress
Some people are under the impression that WordPress is a “blogging tool”, but boy are they wrong. I’ve had a hand in developing a number of web applications that use WordPress as a front-end framework and content management system. WordPress is capable of so much more than just simple blog sites. If you want to add a forums to your site, or create your own social network, then bbPress and BuddyPress are the plugins you’ve been wishing for. BuddyPress and bbPress are free, open source plugins developed by the creators of WordPress. The documentation is volunteer led, so it’s a bit scarce compared to GravityForms, but they encourage everyone to contribute and I think that’s really cool! Here are a few features that I love about bbPress and BuddyPress
- bbPress makes creating Forums for your site as easy as 1, 2, 3… LITERALLY
- BuddyPress looks kind of unappealing out of the box, but with a little bit of patience and some knowledge of PHP/HTML/CSS you can create your own layouts while still using all of the useful BuddyPress components like messaging, friends, a “wall” and activity.
- FREE and OPEN SOURCE!
- Easy themeing for both plugins, just include template files in a folder called “buddypress” or “bbpress” within your theme
- Friendly and helpful forums community
Adding to this list very soon:
WP Types / Views
Advanced Custom Fields
That’s it for now, Next week I’ll be talking about which plugins I use for site security and performance. Thanks for reading, I hope you found it both enjoyable and informing. Don’t forget to share it with all of your friends on social media! 😉
Thanks for reading <3