WordPress is a powerful blogging platform and CMS that can be used for simple blogs as well as advanced websites. One of the things that makes WordPress my chosen platform for all my projects – from personal blogs to massive business websites – is the seemingly endless expandability through free 3rd party plug-ins. Over time I’ve tried many and discarded most, but some have stood the test of time and become compulsory installs in all the WordPress projects I work on.
Here is the list of Pink & Yellow approved must-have WordPress Plug-ins:
Since this blog was launched in February 2008, Akismet has caught an incredible 20,800 spam comments. At present it filters out about 100 – 200 spam comments per day. With such a high number you would think a lot of the comments are “false positives” – real comments mistaken for spam – but that’s just not the case. So far Akismet has been right 98% of the time and has saved me countless hours of sifting through garbage comments.
Akismet comes standard with WordPress. To activate it you need a WordPress.com account to generate an API key so your spam results can be tracked.
WordPress’ SEO is mindboggling to begin with. I’ve launched blogs that were listed on Google less than 30 minutes later without me lifting a finger! But unless you add an SEO plug-in, you have little control of how the meta data for your blog appears. Well, look no further than the All In One SEO Pack. Just like the name says this plug-in is an all-in-one solution to your problems. It allows you to define meta data such as title, description and keywords for any and all pages and posts in your blog or site independently of the actual page content. In addition it lets you set a default title, description and keywords for your blog or home page so you don’t get a pile of different stuff from all the different posts featured there. The true power of this plug-in can be seen in many of the posts on this blog where the page title (seen at the top of the browser window or browser tabs) and description is different from the title and body of the post itself. This is ideal if you want to push or customize only the most interesting or most important info to search engines for more hits.
A quick way to get some attention for your blog or website is by getting people to list it in social networks. However, this only happens if people either have browser applications installed or take the time to manually post your links to these sites. To make this step easier and increase the chance of getting posted you should add bookmarking buttons directly on your pages and posts. And that’s what Sociable does. This plug-in serves up a huge and expanding list of social networks with icons that can be placed at the end of every post or only on certain posts as defined by you. It is easy to manage and quite effective when implemented. Unfortunately it also clashes with OIO Publisher, a popular advertising plug-in that I use on this blog. For this reason Sociable is currently offline here at Design is Philosophy. Hopefully this will be solved shortly and I can get the tags back on my posts for some increased attention.
One of the great things about WordPress is that it is constantly updated and improved. Just this year alone we have seen what… 5 or 6 new releases? But while updates are great, actually performing the task of updating your blog can be a bit of a pain, especially if it is highly customized like this one is. Well fret not my fried: WordPress Automatic Upgrade is here to help. This plug-in guides you through a complete upgrade of your WordPress powered site from right inside the WordPress admin panel. Through a series of steps it lets you run backups of important files and your database, deactivates plug-ins, takes the site offline while the update is happening, downloads the latest version of WordPress, updates the application, reactivates the plug-ins and puts the site back online. The whole process takes two minutes tops. Which is far less than the manual upgrade procedure. And it keeps all your custom settings and themes intact.
There are hundreds of excellent site stats services like Google Analytics out there for you to use. But they all require you to go to a separate service to track your visitor activity. WordPress.com Stats runs stats from within your blog and lets you access them right from your dashboard. Your blog is tracked via the same API Akismet uses and by applying the same API to numerous blogs you can get stats from all of them from within any of the other ones. Very convenient.
WordPress.com Stats tracks visits as well as page views and gives you stats on the most popular pages, search engine search words, incoming links, clicked links and a lot of other info that gives you a better idea of how your visitors are using the site. It is by no means the perfect solution, but neither is most of the other options out there. So for pure convenience it is great.
When you write coding tutorials it is important to not only make the code stand out visually from the rest of the text but also to help the reader understand what kind of code it is they are looking at. WP-Syntax does just that. This plug-in styles a huge list of code languages with colours, tabs and markers to make it easier to read and easier to display. I use it heavily in my tutorials and it works great once you figure out how to use it properly. WP-Syntax runs an independent style sheet so you can also customize the styles for your own site if you want. The only catch is that you have to write your posts in HTML view to avoid massive coding conflicts. But that’s a small price to pay for a professional look and better user interaction.
These are the plug-ins I always install on blogs and sites I create. If you haven’t been there before I recommend you take a look at the plug-ins page in WordPress Extend where thousands upon thousands of plug-ins for pretty much every purpose is served up free of charge.
My list is by no means a complete and I’m sure there are many other plug-ins out there that deserve some attention. If you know of any or think I’ve missed some, post them in the comments below and I’ll take a closer look.