Finding solid plugins for your WordPress CMS that really add to a user’s experience is tricky. You don’t want to overload your site with extra features, but at the same time you can’t just give them a basic blog with a comments section, as in 2013 that’s not entirely enough. What you can do, however, is use a mix of up-front and behind-the-scenes plugins to give yourself enough of an edge to sit with the “current” and engage your audience visually, mentally and socially.
1. WordPress SEO
If you enjoy creating content more than you do writing code, then you’ll be pleased to know that WordPress SEO is an impressively straightforward workaround for including vital SEO elements in your posts. Never worry again about how your pages will appear in Google SERPs, as with this additional set of text input boxes beneath your main post area, you can simply write them yourself and ensure they are the right length and read well. Among WordPress SEO’s impressive list of features include:
Post Snippet Preview – See how your post would appear on a search result. Check to see if your title is catchy enough, if you are using the right keywords on the title and description, and if your meta-description is spot on.
Add Meta & Link Elements – This plugin gives you complete control over which pages on your WordPress site you would want indexed on search engines (and which ones you’d rather hide). It also automatically ads the necessary link elements on your pages to make sure it is properly optimized for search engines.
Easily Create XML Sitemaps – Sitemaps are a good way to give search engines an idea of how your site and content is organized. A proper sitemap is quite necessary if you want a good ranking website. With a few clicks, WordPress SEO can automatically create one for you in XML format.
2. W3 Total Cache
If you find that your website’s performance (in terms of loading times) is a little lackluster, then it may be worth looking into a plugin that will help cache your website better. W3 Total Cache not only does this, but it also stores a static version of your site, which means that visitors will find that your site is worthy of a “good performance” sticker.
What you will like about W3 Total Cache:
Multiple Caching Options – You have the option to cache your homepage, objects, and your site’s database and be able to make advanced tweaks to boost your site’s overall loading speed.
Content Delivery Network (CDN) Integration – allows for faster website content rendering. If you have a paid CDN subscription you will have no problem configuring W3 Total Cache to use it for your site.
3. Share This
Share This is a default plugin for WordPress.com blogs now, but for .org, it’s worth considering having a social sharing button at the bottom of each piece of content. I’d actually like to go further here and say that it’s not just worth it – it’s vital! Giving people a quick and simple means of being able to share your stuff socially and get in touch with you via the same platforms is crucial to integrating yourself into a society whose social movements are increasingly digitised.
What you will like about Share This:
Hovering Bar – Set a persistent, page-remaining set of sharing buttons that is non-intrusive, but is a good way to remind your users to share your content.
Extra Twitter Options – After sharing your post, the plugin can also automatically prompt the sharer to follow you on Twitter. A good way to promote your Twitter account and increase your followers.
Multiple Social Buttons Options – You can choose how you would like the social buttons to appear. The ‘Vertical Count’ format is especially useful as it allows the viewer to easily see how many people have already shared the post.
Easy Sharing Widget – The plugin allows the user to pick multiple social media sites to share the post or content at once without having to be redirected away from your site.
4. Gravity Forms
If you find that you’re frequently using forms on your site, but you’re not a big fan of default formats as they tend to clash with your nice theme. Gravity Forms alleviates these worries by providing you with forms you can make as complex as you like, and enables you not only to have working forms, but also to survey users quickly and efficiently. Pricing begins at $39 for a Personal license (use on 1 site only), $99 for Business (use up to 3 sites), and $199 for a Developer license (unlimited sites).
Built-in Form Editor – allows you to easily create and configure custom forms and embed it on your WordPress site.
Multi-Page Forms – Breaking down a form into multiple pages is a great way to ensure the task of filling out your forms does not become tedious for your users. Gravity Forms allows you to do just that. The plugin even gives you an option to show a progress bar to update your users about their progress.
5. WordPress Editorial Calendar
If you are running a blog in which you schedule posts frequently, or you have multiple writers using the same CMS and want to ensure content releases are spread out across the week/month/year, then a calendar for WordPress is the ideal solution. The WordPress Editorial Calendar enables you to map out your content schedule with ease, and it’s even drag-and-drop enabled, so you can schedule content without having to fiddle around with times and dates in a more manual way.
What you will like about Editorial Calendar:
Easily See Your Scheduled Posts – View all of your posts in a calendar-style format. Quickly find out what posts are scheduled for which date and from which author.
Drag and Drop Posts – instead of having to open up each post that you want to change the publishing date on, this plugin allows you to just drag the post and drop it on the date you prefer on the calendar.
Spam is a regular annoyance for any webmaster, and one of the best ways to get rid of it is to install a really good spam-defense plugin. Defensio is a good example, if you don’t really want to drop five dollars a month on Askimet. Not only can you filter out spam, but you can block profanity (good for blogs about kids and so on), support OpenID, blocking URLs categorically, and even colour-coding spam comments so you can find and nuke them quickly. It’s a breath of fresh air for people having to repeatedly deal with the same sites or endlessly copy-pasting into their IP blocking field.
This is really neat – got an image you want to attach multiple captions to? Simply install wpStickies, upload your image, and you can attach little “stickies” – hover-over comments that are indicated by small rings on the image. It’s a brilliant way of analysing anything from photography to GUI design, and if you’re one of those webmasters who really goes into depth with their content, there’s no doubt you’ll appreciate the simplicity and effectiveness of this plugin. To see how it works, here is a live preview.
What you will like about wpStickies:
Stickies – the plugin allows you to define two types of stickies, spots and areas. Areas work similar to Facebook’s photo tagging feature (except you can customize the name and size of the area for the sticky). Spot bubbles give additional information whenever you hover your mouse cursor over them.
Support for HTML – The ability to use any kind of HTML element inside spot bubbles means you can customize your content in virtually any manner you see fit. Embed Youtube videos, include links, etc.
Tired of mobile versions of sites where you still need to click away and nothing actually feels mobile-optimised? Well, fear not – WPtouch is a great plugin that allows you to have your site display on mobiles in a format that’s fully touch-optimised. Anything from accessing an About Us page on a mobile-formatted menu to integration of the WordTwit Twitter plugin means that using your site on a mobile device will actually feel like an optimised experience. The best thing about it is yet to come – you don’t have to modify any of your code. It’s all done automatically. Yes, it’s real. Take deep breaths.
Homepage Re-Direction – You can choose to redirect your mobile visitors to see either your latest posts or a pre-defined static page (by default, if follows the ‘Reading Settings’ of your WordPress Site).
Post Listing Options – You can choose to have either a calendar icon, your post thumbnail, or leave your post icon blank for your mobile WordPress site. You can also set the other info you want to be displayed on your post listing (author name, tags, etc.)
Style and Color Options – WPtouch also allows you to customize the look of your mobile site, to a certain extent. Change the mobile theme, background color, title font, header, sub-header, and links.