Editors Note: In her first article for Think Vitamin WordPress specialist Amber Weinberg looks at the plugins she can’t do without.
I’ve reviewed several plugins before, but since I started using WordPress as the CMS for almost every site I do now, I’ve amassed some great and very essential plugins.
Some of these make the user experience better, but a lot of these work in the backend to help the actual functionality of the site out. While it’s best to have as few plugins as possible to speed up the site, I’ve had no problems running all 20 of these plugins on a regular shared server.
Akismet is such an awesome plugin, that WordPress decided to package it with every new install. It’s great for stopping spam and works really well without having to annoy your commentors with unreadable CAPTCHAs.
All-in-one SEO pack is a must have plugin for any website or blog. While it works perfectly out of the box, you can also fine-tune any of its settings if you wish. It works by giving you a unique title and meta tags for each page and post. You can even give it your own meta info from each post page.
I use Contact Form 7 on almost every site I develop with. Completely configurable and easy to set up, you can make any amount of forms you wish and send it to multiple users as well.
5. Dean’s Permalink Migration
If you’re redesign an existing site, Dean’s Permalink Migration is a great plugin to use to ensure your visitors who use old links won’t be directed to 404 pages. It also ensures that any site or search engine won’t also be linked to a dead page (and lose SEO in the process). Simply tell the plugin the old directory and the new one and it redirects all the pages inside the folder for you.
I don’t like FeedBurner because the server goes down too often and the stats are always off. I love Feed Statistics because I can check my subscriber info from my admin area, see the exact feeds they’re subscribed to, which reader they use and what links they click on. Also comes with a widget for displaying the stats on your sidebar.
Google XML Sitemaps automatically creates a new sitemap and submits it to major search engines every time you add a new page or post to your site. Install it, set it up and forget about it!
Lightbox Gallery takes your WordPress galleries and appends a lightbox to them. You can select from a regular lightbox or the Highslide lightbox. Lightbox Gallery has some helpful settings that allow you to decide what pages, categories or posts to load lightbox on, as well as where to put the js files.
One page thing about using WordPress’s built in navigation function, or wp_list_pages(), is that you can’t add extra links in (unless you want to add them before or after the function). Page Links To solves this problem by allowing you to create a WordPress page and then telling it where to actually link to. It works with any link on or off the server.
10. Socialize This
Socialize This is almost 3 plugins in 1. The main function of this plugin is to put share links on the bottom of your post. It allows you to choose the icon set, which sites to use and what order to put them in. However, you can also set this plugin to send a tweet to your account when a new post is published and it provides short URLs for all your posts.
Subscribe to Comments is a popular plugin for users that gives them a simple checkbox next to “submit comment” that allows them to receive an email for each new comment after their’s.
I’m biased on this plugin because I helped to code the admin area. SNV Facebook Like Button puts a pretty button on the bottom of posts that allows the user to “Like”, which sends the article to their Facebook page, and displays which friends of the user have already liked the post. You can choose whether to auto place it at the bottom of the post, or to manually place it wherever you want (that’s what I coded!).
If you like to code your themes while being able to mold it around the content, but don’t want the users to see the half-coded theme, Theme Switch and Preview is the perfect plugin. It allows you to see the new theme while everyone else sees the old one. I was able to completely code my new website using this plugin directly on the live site. I was also able to show several people the new theme while it was still off – thanks to their special preview URL option.
Twitter for WordPress is a plugin that simply displays your latest tweets anywhere on the site. You can use their widget or you can place it anywhere in your theme with their function call.
What person wants to wake up one day and find that their server crashed and took all of your site content with it? WordPress Database Backups is a must–have plugin. You can use it download copies of your database manually, or set it to automatically email you a copy at whatever interval you’d like.
One of the best ways to increase SEO and readership is to increase the linkage between your posts. WordPress Related Posts places a set number of related articles at the bottom of each post. It’s also great for readers who wish to read more of what you’ve written on a particular topic.
17. WP PageNavi
If you’ve got a lot of articles on your site, it can be a pain to continue to hit the “Next” and “Previous” buttons to get to the first or last article on your site. WP PageNavi simply adds helpful pagination to your site to make navigation much easier.
18. WP Minify
WP Minify is one of several plugins designed to speed up the loading of your site. It basically takes all of your CSS and JS files and removes all of the extra space and combines them into one file, basically making it both smaller to download and requires less HTTP requests.
19. WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache is another plugin meant to speed up your site. It reduces load time by caching your pages and posts and giving your visitors the static file, instead of making several calls to the database.
20. WP Syntax
If you have a development blog, WP Syntax is a very helpful plugin. It colors and formats the code you use in posts for tutorials or samples. It also allows you to display PHP and other code that WordPress’s WYSIWYG normally removes.