The real magic to WordPress lies within the plugins.
WordPress is a fantastic content management system for producing a website quickly, but the vanilla install will only take you so far. The real magic to WordPress lies in the plugins; independently produced and maintained software solutions that reliably install and add functionality to WordPress.
At SiteCrafting, we produce about 15-20 WordPress sites per year for businesses, cities, entrepreneurs, and more. Through our experience, we’ve come to favor a distinct collection of plugins that help us produce clear and consistent solutions every time.
Our Top 5 “Can’t-Do-Without” Plugins:
Conifer is a library plugin we wrote ourselves. We did this because we found ourselves solving many of the same problems over and over again across our wide range of WordPress projects. Although the code is still considered “alpha” quality, it’s almost ready for a public beta release, and it’s already saving us time on each new WordPress project.
- Implementing custom post types
- Building advanced post queries
- Handling custom wp_ajax_* actions
- Implementing advanced navigation logic
- Processing forms with complex validation schemes
- Sending user/admin notifications
- Adding custom shortcodes
- Making post meta fields searchable
…and many other common tasks. Check out the docs to learn more about Conifer!
While WordPress (as a framework) is quite clever and gives you a vast collection of functions and objects for “getting the job done,” it has one massive glaring flaw: the architecture isn’t even close to MVC. MVC (Model + View + Controller) is a revered design pattern that enforces a clean system of organization & provides an engine for serving a website from those assets.
We love Timber because it essentially makes WordPress more “MVC-like”. I use this term because while it doesn’t implement full-MVC, it completely satisfies the ‘V’ (Views) by integrating the famous Twig template engine, provides wrapper objects that build a bridge to the ‘M’ (Models), and includes other helpful MVC goodies like URL routing.
Learn more about Timber.
3. Advanced Custom Fields Pro
When clients come to SiteCrafting, they depend on us to have the ability to tailor and customize the software to meet their needs. In WordPress, we achieve this by creating “custom post types” (e.g. Location) and adding “custom fields” to store property data (e.g. Store Hours). However, WordPress only provides very basic controls (e.g. Text, RTE) for managing these properties.
Advanced Custom Fields Pro is awesome because it adds a great range of controls (e.g. Radio, Color Picker, Date Picker, more) that developers can use to make admin management screens rich and user friendly.
Learn more about Advanced Custom Fields.
If you’re looking for a plugin to assist with content editing and planning, PublishPress provides additional website content governance and permission capabilities. This plugin includes features such as:
- A content calendar: to plan and schedule out upcoming content and assign due dates.
- Roles: to assign and customize your content team with appropriate permission levels (ex. administrator, editor, subscriber).
- Statuses: to customize and use while editing to streamline your content workflow (ex. assigned, in progress, compliance review).
- Checklists: to make sure editors follow requirements, like word counts, required fields or SEO elements, before content can be published.
- Commenting: to add editorial comments when editing and reviewing pages.
- Notifications: to alert your team of content changes and updates.
Learn more about PublishPress.
5. Yoast SEO
You may have great content on your website. You may have all the products at the right prices, the answers to the questions, and the best tools to address the community’s needs, but it doesn’t mean a hoot if people aren’t finding them easily! If you want people searching the web to find the pages you’re providing, you must fill your website with technical cues for Google and other search engines to study.
WordPress ships with some respectable and easy-to-use SEO control, but WordPress SEO from Yoast gives you more control to easily add and edit your title tags and meta descriptions, thus improving the quality and amount of traffic coming from web searches.
Learn more about Yoast SEO.
This post was originally published in 2017; it has been updated for 2020.