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:
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 architecture & workflow 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
2. Advanced Custom Fields
When clients come to SiteCrafting, they depend on us to have the ability to tailor and customize software to meet their needs. In WordPress, we achieve 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 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
3. WPFront User Role Editor Pro
WordPress has a decent framework for controlling permissions under the hood, but very little of it is exposed or taken advantage of in a plain install. This is, of course, a situation tailored towards website owners with simpler needs – but our clients require a greater level of control over their permissions.
To bring WordPress permission control up to our standards, we use ‘WPFront User Role Editor Pro’. It empowers SiteCrafting with ‘super admin’ control over custom fine-grained permissions for roles (user groups) within our client’s organization. And as a cherry on top, we use it to restrict its own use to SiteCrafting so it won’t clutter the client’s interface (or allow them to make undesired changes to permissions).
Update 8/22/17: Over time this plugin has shown incompatibilities with other plugins and as a result we plan on supplanting it soon. If you require the functionality this plugin delivers, be sure to test extra well to be sure it is compatible with your other plugins.
Learn more about WPFront User Role Editor
4. Manual Image Crop + WP Retina 2X
Did I say five plugins? Well surprise! It’s actually six because this one’s an image-themed twofer.
Manual Image Crop gives our clients the ability to customize the crop on uploaded images, a feature that we’ve provided in every CMS delivered since the bronze age, but is conspicuously missing from WordPress by default.
Learn more about Manual Image Crop
WP Retina 2x keeps WordPress sites looking stunning on Apple retina, 4k, and other ultra-high-resolution screens by always tucking away a version of every image that is twice as sharp and then serving those sharper images when a user with an ultra-high-resolution screen visits the site.
Learn more about WP Retina 2x
5. Yoast SEO
You may have great content on your website. You may have all the products at the right prices, all 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