A few favorite WordPress plugins
Okay, everyone has their list and many people have built a lot more WordPress sites than me and know the available plugins better than me (and I keep up more with Drupal anyway). Still, I have a few WordPress sites that are either my own, or that I’ve built for people and I had a project to go through and find those plugins that I really like and that either meet a specific need very well or that I just find myself using repeatedly. And without further ado, here’s the list, categorized for easier scanning.
- Headspace2 — an SEO Swiss Army Knife. This lets you control titles, control what gets indexed and what doesn’t, create meta descriptions (which are used in the Google results if there is not a matching keyword phrase on your page), integrate analytics packages, use distinct page titles (in the title tag) and post title (in the H1 tag), and much, much more.
- Redirection — Another John Godley plugin like Headspace2. This lets you redirect links, which is useful for at least two situations: 1) you can redirect for pages with obsolete URLs not already handled by WordPress and 2) you can send links to an address like http://yoursite.com/outbound/outgoing—link which allows you to track outbound links and their statistics. If the outbound link may change often, you can redirect to a standard location and just change the URL in one spot.
- Google XML sitemaps — for some reason, the Headspace2 plugin wasn’t working for a while on some sites, so I used this.
- Excerpt Editor — just discovered this one — killer plugin for bulk editing Excerpts on legacy site. The name Excerpt is misleading. In point of fact, what we want is summaries or teasers that give the user a sense of what the article is about, rather than an excerpt (usually the first bit of the post) that may or may not describe the actual content. So this makes the category pages and front page a lot more scannable for the user. Furthermore, since the "excerpts" are not excerpts at all, but unique content, this will help with duplicate content issues (which is why I put it under SEO, though it could just as easily be considered a usability plugin). Anyway, this makes it super easy. I needed to create 25 excerpts quickly on a site the other day and this made it super easy (not so easy that I’ve done it on this blog, but I’m raised by turtles, so things take time).
- Widget Logic — show/hide widgets for certain categories, pages, users, tags. For example, let’s say you have a text widget that says "Sign up for our newsletter," you might not want this on your newsletter signup page. This lets you show and hide widgets on specific pages and posts, as well as categories pages.
- WP Greet Box — Based on an idea made famous by Seth Godin, which suggest showing some special content only to new users (users with no cookie for your site). So if Greet Box thinks the user has never been to the site before, you could show a header above the post that says "check out these other popular posts" or something like that to orient new users to your site.
- WP Post Admin Column Filter — filters the post admin screen so that it only shows columns you want — no website as I just wrote the pre-alpha version. Very simple and currently hard-coded column selection only.
- Exclude Pages — lets you keep specific pages out of Page widgets/menus. For example, I might want to have a Terms and Conditions page, but I typically wouldn’t want that to show up in my Recent Pages or my main menu. This lets me exclude those.
- Hashcash — block most spam without making users deal with a CAPTCHA. This can also be used in conjunction with a CAPTCHA or with Akismet (which should be on every WordPress site).
- Ad Injection — inject ad code or any code into posts. A lot of the really major media sites like to put ads in the middle of an article so that the reader has to read over it. This does it automatically for small-timers like us and it could be used for many things besides ads, such as a random image to dress up posts, or whatever.
- Ad rotation — This lets you put a set of ads into rotation for various spots on your site and manage them through a central interface. This is good if you want something simpler than OpenX or Doubleclick for Publishers.
- Lightbox Plus — A lightbox, that is a plugin that displays images in a floating layer above the page, without leaving the page. It’s what I’m using on this site.
- Floatbox Plus — a paid lightbox, but very nice. We’re using this on the photo gallery on the site of our Yosemite Vacation Rental.
- wp pear_debug — sort of like the Drupal devel module. A bit hard to explain and I hope to do a video of this one, but let’s say you need to capture some information about what’s happening inside a plugin. If you have it output all kinds of debug info, that messes up the look and may itself cause things to crash. This lets everything run normally, but outputs the dumped data nicely formatte.
- Debug Bar — this gives you all kinds of information about the setup and system. Not nearly as handy as wp_pear_debug, but still handy.
- cForms II — Awesome contact form plugin that allows you to build complex forms and require specific information. Very good if you’re capturing leads, taking reservation requests, that sort of thing. We use this to create a reservation request form for our vacation rental in Yosemite. Super handy and it has worked really well for us.
- Contact form from Joost de Valk — simple and it’s by Joost, which means it’s done right. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of cForms II, this is a good option.
- Secure and Accessible Contact Form — an old workhorse. This is still in use on this site and most other places and never have had a problem.
- Syntax highlighting evolved — if you post code on your blog, this will give you great syntax highlighting. You can see it in action on this site on my pages on adding noindex and nofollow tags to Drupal category pages and my page on adding custom form labels on Drupal forms (useful if the client just dislikes the standard labels or if you want different labels on the public and admin sides).
- Twitter — display tweets on your site… Since I never actually tweet, I can say this seems to work fine, but it doens’t exactly get a tough workout from me
Automated Backup and Maintainence
- Back up your files — uploads and your custom stuff. Essentially a backup of your wp—content folder (minus base themes I think).
- Database backups emailed to you or just archived.
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