At teclan we use WordPress every day, but the ways in which we use it have changed quite a lot over the years.
Way back in 2014 we wrote about our favourite plugins. As it is Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun to take a look and see if our expert web design team still love them in 2020, along with some tips on getting the best from them.
It turns out things have changed a bit.
Please Note: All the plugins listed below are free, although some do have premium versions with advanced features.
A distant memory
Responsive Image Widget Black Studio TinyMCE Widget
Due to the big changes in the main WordPress interface in recent years (known as Gutenberg) and updates to the software itself, some of these plugins are no longer needed.
Now that WordPress offers more control over visual layouts, we’re actually not using as many widgets as before. The WordPress Customiser (Appearance > Customise) allows for tight control over a lot of aspects of the header and footer, and page builder plugins have taken over where something more complex is needed. If you gave up on WordPress because you couldn’t put things where you wanted, now could be the time to give it another look.
It’s not you, it’s me
There are a couple of plugins on the list that we’ve replaced with something more advanced.
Force Regenerate Thumbnails
Handling images within WordPress is much improved these days and we’d recommend you now use a plugin like Smush which will optimise your images on upload — it can also rebuild your thumbnails but it does so much more than the plugin we’ve replaced. Website performance has become so important and you really need to keep on top of it. Taming image sizes is a big first step.
Tip: limit the maximum size of image you store so WordPress doesn’t store anything bigger than it needs.
All in One SEO
Yoast WordPress SEO
All in One SEO is still an active plugin but we switched to using Yoast SEO — now just called WordPress SEO — some time ago as it offers a better feature set for our customers. It’s great to help you work on the search rankings of your website, and gives you feedback on your writing and content quality which has overtaken things like meta tags in importance as Search Engines get cleverer.
Tip: use the SEO scoring system to help you improve the text content on your pages.
Yoast/WordPress SEO: link
Our love will never die
Every time you update a post in WordPress, it saves a new copy in the database that powers the site. This plugin puts a limit on how many times it does that, to avoid your database getting bloated. It’s great, you can install it at the start of your build and forget about it while you enjoy streamlined performance.
Tip: use this plugin alongside a clean-up plugin (for removing unused posts) to keep your database size compact.
Revision Control: link
Contact Form 7
& BWP ReCaptcha
This is probably the plugin we use most, as letting your customers get in touch is vital for every business. We don’t need to use the ReCaptcha add-on any more as that feature is now built in to make sure your form is protected. It’s not the most user friendly interface to edit your actual form if you need something advanced, but it just works, and works well.
Tip: an add-on plugin like CF7 Smart Grid Design Extension can really help liven up your Contact Form layouts if you don’t know HTML. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure your form is GDPR compliant!
Contact Form 7: link
Advanced Custom Fields
Advanced Custom Fields is our favourite plugin. It adds so much versatility to WordPress and allows you to extend the features of a website without making things difficult for your users to keep up to date. Since we last put it on our list, they’ve added great new field types like datepicker fields and open ended ‘repeater’ fields to really improve the types of data you can add to your posts or pages without making it hard on the end user.
Tip: repeater fields can be a secret weapon in making a flexible and open-ended admin interface for your customers — you can create a gallery or open-ended list of items, each with their own set of custom fields. For example a list of testimonials with a name, and image, or a brand list with logos and web links.
Advanced Custom Fields: link
Love’s Young Dream
With some of our former loves dropping out, there is room in our hearts for a few new entries into the list.
Although WordPress’s Gutenberg editing system is great, when we need really tight control of a layout we use Elementor, a page builder plugin. It allows you to drag and drop content, and adjust almost all the styles of each element. The range of content types can be extended with a range of plugins.
Tip: set Elementor to inherit the Fonts and Colours from your theme settings — that way you avoid a mish-mash of colours and typefaces. Sometimes you can have too much control!
Since 2014 a lot more emphasis is placed on site performance and pagespeed. The problem with all these plugins is they each come with files for style or function that need to be loaded separately. This nifty plugin is a big help in that regard, with options to combine these files together as well as remove files you don’t need, load your fonts more quickly and a lot more!
Tip: use this along with a caching plugin to make your site fly. Just make sure they don’t overlap and both try to do the same thing!
If you’d like to talk to teclan about setting up a WordPress website for your business, please get in touch. If you do have plugins on your site, you must keep them up to date for performance and security reasons. If you don’t feel able to take that on, why not take a look at our Website Support & Maintenance solutions to take the hassle away from you so you can focus on your business. Prices start from the equivalent of just £50/mth +VAT.