Essential WordPress Plugin Guide

Essential WordPress Plugin Guide

We build and work with a lot of WordPress websites, and knowing which plugins to use–and which to avoid–is always an important consideration for our clients and for ourselves as developers.

WordPress plugins enable a wide range of functionality, from turning WordPress into a viable e-commerce platform to integrating WordPress with outside services. If you can think of something you want your website to do, there is probably a plugin to make it happen.

Too Many WordPress Plugins Can Lead to Web Page Performance Issues

However, if you have too many plugins installed, it’s both a security risk and can slow down your website’s page load times. Unless you have custom functions in your active theme to load plugins conditionally, WordPress will load elements of every active plugin on every page of your site, potentially causing poor page performance. Also plugins–even deactivated ones–can open up security vulnerabilities on your site. 

Four Steps to Maintaining Your WordPress Plugins

Plugins are useful but require periodic management to stay current. Here are four important steps for effective plugin management.  

  • Periodically perform a plugin audit. Review your site’s plugins and determine if functionality provided by each plugin is still useful. Sometimes, updates to the WordPress core may make certain plugins unnecessary, or plugins may have been loaded for business needs and projects in the past that are no longer relevant.
  • Keep active plugins up-to-date and delete deactivated plugins. Even deactivated plugins could be a security risk, especially if you do not update them for the latest vulnerability patches. Keep all plugins that you use updated to the latest version, and delete plugins you no longer use.
  • Limit the number of website users who can install new plugins. WordPress has built-in roles, like Admin, Editor, and Author, with different permissions and capabilities. Only grant the Admin role with the ability to install plugins to a small number of users, while most content managers can be in the Author or Editor role.
  • Only install trusted plugins with a proven track record. If you find a plugin you’re interested in, look for it on plugins. There, you will find information regarding how many active installations a plugin has, when it was last updated, what versions of WordPress it is compatible with, and reviews. Look for more than just five stars–also look for a high number of reviews, a large number of active installations, and a plugin that has been updated within the last six months.

Five Trusted and Effective Plugins 

Clients often ask us which WordPress plugins we use on a regular basis. Plugins can vary substantially based on different client needs, but here is a list of plugins we use time and again that are easy-to-use, well-maintained, and effective.

  • Advanced Custom Fields (ACF). ACF allows you to quickly and easily add custom content and options for content managers. This can be used inside custom Gutenberg blocks (the building blocks of WordPress) to build layouts with repeating content like carousels, grids, cards, and more.
  • Migrate DB. Migrate DB enables database backups and seamless full-site transfers from one installation of WordPress to another, i.e., to sync a staging site or development site to the production site and vice versa.
  • Gravity Forms. Gravity Forms is an easy-to-use, powerful form builder with a range of add-ons connecting your forms to outside marketing and CRM services like Constant Contact and Hubspot. 
  • Yoast SEO. This plugin helps our clients easily manage meta tags, canonical URLs, breadcrumbs, sitemaps and more using Yoast SEO.
  • Imagify. Imagify can optimize images in your WordPress media library, including new files as they are uploaded, and has the option to convert to and display all image resources in .webp format, which is recommended for fastest page load times.

If your website experiences performance issues or conflicts, a good first step is to review your plugins. Any solid website maintenance program should include plugin updates and periodic review. If you don’t have the in house team to maintain and update your plugins, a WordPress expert, including our team at Bond Digital can help. 

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