WordPress is an extremely versatile platform from which to build a functioning websites, and one of the key features of its versatility is its permission of the use of dozens of plugins to alter and enhance many of its core functionalities.
Some of these take a form which add interesting or useful (but non-essential) new features, such as linking in to other social media hubs like Twitter and Facebook. Others have the power to radically transform or augment the underlying functions of the WordPress system.
While WordPress as a blank slate is a perfectly usable model for site building, by adding some of the following plugins, you can achieve results far in advance of what you could achieve with a “bare build”.
An essential plugin if ever there was one! WP-DBManager makes handling your site’s database a breeze. It allows you to optimise and repair your data, while also boasting a backup and restore facility for those nightmare moments when something goes really horribly wrong.
It also supports automatic backup scheduling, giving you a set and forget functionality that you’ll be thankful for when you accidentally drop your laptop in the bath mid-update. This plugin is currently supported for multiple versions of WordPress, and if you don’t already have it, you should get it immediately. Stop reading this post and go. Now.
Now that you’ve fully backed up your database, let’s talk business. Gravity Forms is a customisation utility for the serious and discerning blogger.
This plugin, developed by RocketGenius, can be used to bring a whole new level of functionality to your site, allowing you to easily and quickly create forms for a whole range of uses. From contact forms to authorisation pages through to purchase order forms, Gravity Forms handles them all professionally and without hassle, and sports an extremely intuitive visual editor to allow you to edit and optimise your site’s interactive fields.
This plugin is something of an investment, but is vital if you plan to sell anything through your WordPress site.
3. W3 Total Cache
If you’re the type who can’t stand inefficiency, you’ll love this plugin. It comes recommended by a host of respectable sources and companies, and is designed solely to improve your users’ experience.
It does this by optimising server performance to increase functionality, reduce download times, reduces page loading times (and caches previously viewed pages for instant retrieval), and helps boost conversion rates to help bolster your Google ranking. All in all, it claims to be able to boost your site’s overall performance by as much as ten times when properly configured.
A great tool for theme development nerds, Theme-Check provides an easy way for you to put your latest theme to the test against WordPress’s latest theme review standards.
A free plugin, it provides you with access to the same series of tests and checks which WordPress itself uses in its theme submissions process. It runs these tests through an extremely easy to use admin panel. This is an essential plugin for any developer using a customised theme with his or her site, as it will allow you to make sure that any changes you make not only meet with WordPress’s own standards of quality, but will ensure that any visitors are not put off by radical departures from the technical norms of WordPress as a whole.
HotFix is a relatively new introduction to the WordPress plugin scene, but an eminently useful one for those of you who need fast solutions to recurring bugs.
HotFix will regularly provide you with unofficial patches for documented WordPress bugs, so that you can maintain full functionality while awaiting the official fix for the bug to arrive from WordPress itself in updates. This doesn’t serve as an alternative to regular WP updates, but rather as a stopgap measure. Although it is relatively new, it’s definitely worth installing HotFix, as it will likely save your site’s bacon somewhere down the line.