With so many plugins available for your self-hosted WordPress site, it can often be really tough to choose the ones that best suit your needs. Currently, there are nearly 40,000 plugins in the official repo, not to mention countless premium plugins available for purchase from a host of different companies.
There are a number of ways you can work out what the best choices are for your website, but we thought we would help you out by providing you a few plugins from the WordPress community that we admire. We admire these plugins only for their usefulness, but also for the way they are built and maintained.
Some of these plugins are freely available, while some carry a price tag. But one thing that they all have in common is the fact they are all incredibly well built and perform their respective tasks in the best way possible. Some of them are also included in our WooBenefits — tailored discounts offered exclusively to WooThemes customers.
So, without further delay… here’s the list!
1. Query Monitor
Query Monitor lets you view debugging and performance information on database queries, hooks, conditionals, HTTP requests, redirects and more.
This is one for the developers, but it is easily one of the most useful development plugins available. The full feature list is huge, but the gist of it is that with Query Monitor installed you are able to read and understand database queries, view all hooks and filters that are being fired, see which theme templates are being used, access all request data, and so much more.
What’s even more incredible is that this plugin is 100% free and is maintained regularly. That makes it some sort of a one stop shop for any WordPress developer, whether you are building themes or plugins.
SearchWP will instantly improve your WordPress search by including content that is usually ignored.
The native search in WordPress is passable, but it’s not great. A few people have tried to improve it with custom indexing plugins that allow content to be found much more easily, but none of them have done it quite as well as SearchWP. Working in the background, SearchWP enables all of your site content to be searched – including custom fields, shortcode content, PDF content and so much more.
Jonathan Christopher, the developer behind SearchWP, had this to say about what makes it such a great plugin:
I built SearchWP so that developers & site owners could build a search designed for their site. The plugin is both turnkey and developer friendly, and can be manipulated to do pretty much anything you want without sacrificing performance. It also aims to work with other plugins like WooCommerce by exposing the immensely valuable data stored as meta in such a way that it directly influences search results in any way you’d like. SearchWP’s goal is to empower site owners to instantly improve WordPress search on their site without having to write a single line of code.
If search is an important feature of your site (and it really should be), then SearchWP is absolutely vital. With its advanced content indexing and rapid queries, your users will always be able to find exactly what they need in no time.
WooThemes customers get 15% off SearchWP by using our WooBenefits coupon.
3. WP Featherlight
WP Featherlight is an ultra lightweight jQuery lightbox for WordPress images and galleries. It is simple, clean and works seamlessly.
Lightbox plugins are many and varied. Some of them try to do far too much, while some of them are simpler and more efficient. In the class of simpler lightbox plugins, WP Featherlight is one that beats them all.
Made by the fine folks at WP Site Care, this plugin is designed with both site administrators and users in mind. It is the very definition of simple, clean and efficient, all the while looking great.
The guy behind WP Featherlight, Rob Neu, had this to say about why the plugin is so valuable:
It’s designed to do one thing and one thing only. It’s lightweight and doesn’t bloat your site with a bunch of options or giant scripts. You just install it and it lightboxes your galleries and images as you would expect – you get everything you need and nothing you don’t, so it’s a good choice for both normal users and developers.
WP Featherlight is free to download, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t install this on every site you manage.
Editus is a front-end editor for WordPress that makes writing simpler, faster and easier.
Front-end content editing has received a lot of attention lately, but no plugins have really nailed the idea yet. That is, no plugins until Editus (recently renamed from “Lasso”):
Editus is an expertly written and incredibly easy to use front-end content editing plugin. With Editus, you will be able to manage all of your site’s content without opening up the dashboard. Not only that, but the content editing process is very smooth and incredibly easy to use, employing a neat drag-and-drop interface to make everything as easy as possible. The further along I got with development of Editus, the more I realized that what we had was a full-fledged front-end editing framework for WordPress, that could easily be extended by other developers – writing and editing in the context of the post is the best way to ensure that what you see, is truly what you get.
I chatted to Editus’ lead developer, Nick Haskins, about why he built the plugin and he had this to say:
Previewing a post doesn’t seem like it takes a lot of time, but it adds up pretty quickly. If you preview a post 10 times, and you write frequently, over the course of a year you actually spend about 12 hours clicking that preview button, and returning to the post editor. By using a front-end editor you’re saving yourself valuable time in the long-run.
WooThemes customers get 30% off Editus by using our WooBenefits coupon.
5. Gravity Forms
Gravity Forms is an advanced form builder for WordPress.
Gravity Forms needs no introduction. It’s been around for ages, and in all that time still stands as the king of WordPress form builders.
With a powerful form creation interface and a number of incredibly helpful add-ons, Gravity Forms is a solid go-to plugin for building any type of form you can imagine. It can handle content creation, user registration, mailing list integration and a host of other things. If you’re needing to build a complex form yourself, or you want to give your clients a platform to manage their own forms, then Gravity Forms is a superb solution.
Pro-tip: Use Gravity Forms along with Lasso to have a full-featured content submission and editing solution!
6. WP Migrate DB Pro
WP Migrate DB Pro is a premium solution for moving your WordPress database from one server to another.
Moving your site can be a tedious operation, whether you are changing your URL or just keeping it the same it is almost always a pain with a high potential for error. With WP Migrate DB Pro, however, it is more than just a smooth experience – I would even go so far as to say that it is an enjoyable one too.
With an incredibly easy UI, moving all of your precious content across WordPress sites is easy to do with absolute zero room for things to go wrong. With plenty of failsafes built right in (including optional request frequency throttling to prevent servers blocking the migration process), using WP Migrate DB Pro is an absolute breeze. It will allow you to take care things and get back to focusing on doing what you do best: publishing great content.
When I asked Brad Touesnard, the developer of WP Migrate DB Pro, what makes this plugin great, he said:
It’s our unwillingness to settle for “good enough.” We foster a culture of valuing the little details and will implement the tough solution if it means the best experience for the user.
WooThemes customers get 20% off WP Migrate DB Pro by going through our WooBenefits.
7. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO boosts your site’s search engine optimization, making it easier for your potential customers to find you.
This is another plugin that really needs no introduction. Formerly known as “WordPress SEO by Yoast,” Yoast SEO is a one-stop-shop for all your SEO needs.
With everything that Yoast SEO offers (and there is a lot) you’ll find yourself in total control of your site’s visibility in search engines, from managing page titles to adding meta descriptions, sitemaps and everything in between. This is one of those plugins that you just can’t do without.
8. Sucuri Security
Sucuri Security is a security toolset for security integrity monitoring, malware detection and security hardening.
The importance of your site’s security can never be underestimated, especially if you are running an online store or site that stores sensitive information. Once of the best ways to make sure your site is as secure is possible is by installing this security plugin from Sucuri.
Sucuri Security works tirelessly in the background to monitor all of the activity on your site, make sure there is nothing malicious going on and quickly notifying you of any potential threats. It is a complete security solution that will leave with you great peace of mind and a safer website. All you need to do is not set ‘123’ as your password…
MailPoet brings newsletters, post notifications and autoresponders to your WordPress dashboard.
With so many newsletter solutions out there, it can be tough to choose the one that best suits your needs. That’s where MailPoet comes in by bringing newsletter management right into your dashboard.
The plugin lets you manage your mailing lists and send newsletters from the familiar WordPress dashboard interface. It also gives you control over the look and feel of your newsletters, including a number of pre-built themes (with some modeled on our own WordPress themes) so you can make sure your corporate branding is as consistent in your newsletters as it is on your site.
MailPoet newsletters look great on all email platforms (including mobile devices) and come with advanced user-tracking, so you can find out exactly how many people are opening your newsletters, how many are ignoring them, and just about everything else you need to know in order to effectively manage a mailing list.
WooThemes customers get 20% off MailPoet by using our WooBenefits coupon.
10: Airplane Mode
Airplane Mode allows you to control loading of external files when developing locally.
As a bonus, we’ve included one of the most useful tools for WordPress development: Airplane Mode by Andrew Norcross. This is a plugin mostly for developers that is incredibly helpful for local development as well as when you are working with a slow internet connection.
What the plugin does is prevent WordPress from loading a whole lot of external files and services, such as fonts and Gravatars. This has a two-fold effect of reducing network usage as well as improving load times. If you are developing locally and you don’t need all of those extra items, then Airplane Mode is one of those plugins that you really just can’t do without.
Andrew had this to say about why he built the plugin:
Airplane Mode was built based on a need: a vacation house with bad wifi and a long plane ride. Airplane Mode allows you to focus on development in less than ideal situations without excessive lags or errors you know won’t resolve.
Which plugins do you admire?
That’s our short list, but there are, of course, plenty of other incredible WordPress plugins out there. I encourage you to explore your options and find the ideal plugin that really fits your needs perfectly.
Are there any WordPress plugins you can’t live without? Which developers or solutions are on your short list? Leave some of your own recommendations and reviews in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.