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 60,000 plugins in the official Plugin Directory, 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 not only for their usefulness, but also for the way they are built and maintained.
Some 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.
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 one is for the developers, but it is easily one of the most useful development plugins available. The full feature list is huge, and 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 maintained regularly. That makes it 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 — custom fields, shortcode content, PDF content, and 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 and 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 vital. With its advanced content indexing and rapid queries, your users will always be able to find exactly what they need in no time.
3. WP Featherlight
WP Featherlight is an ultra lightweight jQuery lightbox for WordPress images and galleries. It is simple and 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 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, told us 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 users and developers.
WP Featherlight is free to download, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t install this on every site you manage.
4. Seriously Simple Podcasting
Seriously Simple Podcasting is exactly what the name suggests — a simple, yet powerful, podcasting solution for WordPress.
Effective podcasting in WordPress can be tricky, and there are a few plugins out there to help streamline this process. None of those solutions are quite as effective as Seriously Simple Podcasting though — it combines ease of use with all the features you need to run a dynamic and growing podcast.
In addition to all the necessary podcasting features, the plugin also has useful add-ons. The most popular of which is the free stats add-on. All of that, coupled with great documentation and support, makes this our favorite podcasting plugin for WordPress by far.
5. Gravity Forms
Gravity Forms is an advanced form builder for WordPress.
Gravity Forms needs no introduction. It’s been around for ages and still stands as the king of WordPress form builders.
With a powerful form creation interface and a number of great 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 need to build a complex form yourself, or want to give your clients a platform to manage their own forms, then Gravity Forms is a superb 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 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 easy UI, moving all of your precious content across WordPress sites is done with absolutely zero room for things to go wrong. With plenty of failsafes built in – including optional request frequency throttling to prevent servers blocking the migration process – using WP Migrate DB Pro is a breeze. It allows 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.
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 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 cannot 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. One 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 activity on your site, ensuring there is nothing malicious going on and quickly notifying you of potential threats. It is a complete security solution that gives you peace of mind and a safer website. All you need to do is not set ‘123’ as your password.
9. MailChimp for WordPress/WooCommerce
MailChimp is the mailing list platform that we would most recommend, and there are two plugins that help you to integrate it with WordPress and WooCommerce.
With so many newsletter solutions out there, it can be tough to choose the one that best suits your needs. That’s where MailChimp comes in. The connected plugins bring tight integration right into your website.
The MailChimp for WordPress plugin allows you create complex and robust MailChimp sign-up forms on your WordPress site. You can have separate forms for all of your lists to make segmentation and user management easy.
If you have a WooCommerce site, you can take things even further by using our MailChimp for WooCommerce extension. It helps you manage users based on their purchase history, send them relevant product recommendations, and makes your newsletter work better for your store.
10: Airplane Mode
Airplane Mode allows you to control loading of external files when developing locally.
As a bonus, we included one of the most useful and helpful tools for WordPress development: Airplane Mode by Andrew Norcross. This is a plugin mostly for developers that work with a slow internet connection.
What the plugin does is prevent WordPress from loading a lot of external files and services, such as fonts and Gravatars. This has a two-fold effect of reducing network usage and improving load times. If you are developing locally and you don’t need those extra items, then Airplane Mode is a plugin that you absolutely need.
Andrew reveals the back story behind 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 what perfectly fits your needs.
Are there any WordPress plugins you can’t live without? Which developers or solutions are on your short list? Leave your own recommendations and reviews in Comments. We’d love to hear from you!