How to make a good system even better?
WordPress is currently the most popular, free software for creating and managing websites. According to W3Techs data, almost 30% of all websites available on the Internet are built on this CMS. Among the sites that use content management systems, this number is even more impressive and amounts to 60%.
Although WordPress was originally designed as a blog platform, due to the high availability of plug-ins extending its core functionality, it is also used as a foundation for creating more extensive content. For many people, the basis for the usability of this software is its easy expandability. There are an impressive number of proven add-ons that help you manage your system’s content, back up, duplicate, add galleries, contact forms, and even product and store catalogues.
Many users and developers of websites working with this system have their own list of plug-ins necessary for smooth and safe work on a daily basis. It’s no different in my case – I can’t imagine working without a specific set of basic functionalities, which are not available in WordPress. I even have my own local environment with a set of pre-installed add-ons, on the basis of which I start working on all new websites. Below I publish a list of them together with their downloadable source addresses and a short description of their functionality.
Clean Image Filenames
Automatically clear file names from Polish and other unicode characters
Although WordPress has no problem with Polish characters and has full support for UTF-8 standard, efficient backup of all media uploaded to the system can be problematic if the files have Polish characters in their names. This simple plugin will automatically change the name of all transmitted files after switching on, limiting it to: a-z, A-Z, -, _, and digits 0-9. For example, the file named “photo Łukasz duże.jpg” will be saved as “photo-luxasz-duze.jpg”. Any server and compressor can handle such a file, making it easier for us to manage the system. However, the plugin does not work for files already sent to the CMS, so it is worth to install it as soon as possible.
Enable Media Replace
Overwriting media files
For people who have never worked with WordPress before, it may seem strange that a once uploaded file cannot be updated. You can upload a new one or delete an old one and upload the same file again. This imperfection is eliminated by this plug-in, which simply adds the ability to upload a new version of the file and overwrite the old one. The extension integrates with the CMS very smoothly – the button to replace the file is visible on the details screen of the attached file in the Media tab.
Force Regenerate Thumbnails
Repeat thumbnail generation for all files
One of the useful features of WordPress is the built-in, automatic process of dividing large images into thumbnails. After sending a large file (original) to the system, CMS will generate thumbnails for this file – by default these are three sizes, but each plugin or template creator can inform the system about additional parameters of sharing photos. This allows each original to have several smaller copies, which can be displayed e.g. in WooCommerce product galleries, where there is no need to download large images. Sometimes, however, we want to change the size of these thumbnails, but WordPress generates them only once, when they are uploaded to the server. The help comes from this add-on, which forces you to re-generate all the smaller copies of the images, or only selected ones, indicated by us in the Media tab.
Automatically resizes photos when uploaded to a server
Mandatory – the functionality of which should be built into WordPress code. The operation of the plugin is limited to changing the size of the original image sent to the server, so that it is not larger than a specified value. If we do not sell high quality photos on our website, the size of which is expressed in tens of megapixels, there is no need to upload a file that takes several megabytes to the server. An image with a longer side length and a default size of 2048 pixels for this plug is quite sufficient. When the plugin is switched on, any image that is too large will be scaled up before it is saved. It will not be possible, therefore, to accidentally record even large photographs, which are bizarre in nature. As a bonus, the plugin also converts all .bmp files into .jpg files, although it’s hard to imagine someone using this format today.
Allows duplication of posts and pages
This simple add-on allows you to create a duplicate of any entry or page. It is a very useful tool – especially for websites with extensive content layouts. With it, we can quickly create a large number of portfolio or offer subpages, copying existing ones. This also applies to websites using advanced visual editors, such as Visual Composer, Muffin Builder or Fusion Builder.
Post Types Order
Self-sorting, setting the order of entries
If you need to sort your entries or your own types of entries manually (e.g. portfolio in commercial themes), this plugin will allow you to do so. It integrates with the WordPress interface and allows you to sort content using a drag & drop mechanism. It is one of those additives that should be part of the system. If you are looking for similar functionality, but for taxonomies (e.g. categories or tags), you can use the Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order.
No Follow All External Links
Automatic assignment of nofollow attribute for external links
Original plugin removed from WordPress, a replacement with similar functionality
The plugin automatically adds a nofollow attribute to outgoing links, i.e. links that go beyond our domain. The addition of this attribute is optional and usually results from the SEO strategy. In general, this parameter informs indexing robots (e.g. Google) not to follow this link and not to take its presence into account in the context of building the ranking of our website. SEO stakeholders claim that the use of the nofollow attribute for external links means that we do not give ranking power to other websites indicated by the link. In addition, the plugin allows you to add the target=”blank” parameter, and an optional icon before the link, which makes the external address open in a separate tab of your browser, and the users of our site will immediately realize that it is the address directing you outside our site.
Automatic creation of redirections after changing the page address, management of redirections
If we change the address of a destination page (permalink), but have previously sent a link to it or Google has indexed it, the attempt to display it will end in error 404, but this does not mean that we cannot change the address of the entry or the page under any circumstances – it is enough that we create a redirection from the old address to the new one and the CMS will automatically redirect you to the appropriate content. The advantage of WordPress is its central router, which supports all the traffic in the system. Using the Address Redirection we can control this process to a limited extent, allowing, for example, automatic creation of redirections from old addresses to new ones and creation of our own, manually. This is especially useful when you are organizing your blog or optimizing your pages for keywords. With the help of this plugin we can easily edit redirections, without the need of risky editing of the file. htaccess on a web server.
Really Simple SSL
Automatic forwarding of traffic to encrypted, mixed content filter
If you do not have an SSL certificate for your domain and your website is not available via HTTPS, it is high time you took an interest in the subject and switched to encrypted connection if possible. Google and other web browsers and security companies have been recommending the use of HTTPS for some time. The advantages of HTTPS are a topic for a separate article, but this plugin can help you to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. In addition to forcing encrypted traffic, it is able to “translate” addresses on the fly to site elements (e.g. background graphics), which after switching on the SSL would still be sent through the connection unencrypted, leading to the so-called mixed content. Using this plugin is one of the “turn on and forget” solutions. Remember that switching to encrypted traffic is only possible if you have an SSL certificate issued and configured on the server for your domain. The plugin will not generate a certificate for you, but will make its use much easier.
A basic set of tools to protect your website
A brief description of this plugin: Antivirus, firewall and malware scanner. In fact, it is a set of useful tools for basic protection of our website against automated hacking activities (e.g. using known gaps in WordPress, plug-ins or templates), protection against brute-force attacks, enforcing the use of strong passwords and a great file scanner able to compare their content with the source code. In addition to basic security features, we can also configure a firewall, and more advanced users will appreciate the scanner, which allows you to locate files infected with malicious code. This is a good solution for providing basic protection – especially if you are using hosting without built-in solutions of this type.
WP Mailto Links – Manage E-mail Links
Automatic hiding of e-mail addresses, protection against spam
Management of page titles and descriptions, SEO optimisation
Probably the best free plug-in to add to WordPress a number of enhancements that optimize the cooperation of this CMS with web search engines. Below the standard content editor, he adds his own title and description tag meta editing, management of basic Open Graph metadata used by social media, automatic title rewriting, management of archive pages and many, many more. Mandatory for those who want to control how their website is displayed in search results.
Markup (JSON-LD) structured in schema.org
Automatic generation of schema.org metadata
This add-on allows you to generate different types of schema metadata in the header of our web pages. This is a very useful tool to complement the Yoast SEO plugin. The metadata is designed to describe the content of our websites – they answer the question who we are, what we do (what kind of activity we do), what the website is about, what its location is like, etc. They are used by search engines and social media. It is worth to use them – the more so that once configured, the plugin generates them automatically for our subpages.
Adding tracking code and external scripts to subpages
Additional code, e.g. related to external services such as Google Analytics, can be placed in the header of the page in different ways. But what happens if, in addition to the general code for all addresses, we have to display the script only on the selected page? Head & Footer Code solves this problem because in addition to the ability to add general scripts to the header or footer (just before the end of < /body>), it allows you to overwrite or add code only for selected subpages.
Backup, system migration
This tool is absolutely essential for the development work and for making temporary backups of the entire website with a database and a PHP script that enables its quick restoration or migration. This add-on allows you to copy the entire WordPress, system files, user files, all plug-ins and templates, as well as the contents of the database. The resultant file is a ZIP archive containing all the data, and optionally an installer that allows the archive to be “unfolded” on the target server. According to the saying that people can be divided into those who make backup copies and those who will make them, it is worth to belong to the first group. The more so, that with a duplicator it is neither problematic nor time-consuming.
WP Super Cache
Optimization of page loading speed, cache memory
WordPress’s cache-generating plugin. Excellent CMS compatibility, easy to use, runs on most servers. It is not as extensive as other solutions of this type, but its configuration is very simple. The need to use cache memory increases the more traffic you have on our site. Depending on several factors, the charging time can be reduced by up to 80%. If you are not using a LiteSpeed server, try it out.
Advanced module for cache operation and page optimization
Requires LiteSpeed Server
A competitive plug for the above mentioned, but only working in a LiteSpeed environment (will not work on Apache or nginx). It differs from WP Super Cache in many aspects, it is actively developed, it has built-in algorithms reducing code, delayed loading functionality and remote image optimization. If you have access to a LiteSpeed server, then using this solution will give much better results than competing combative solutions. Why you should use cache memory you can find out in a separate entry about this plugin.
Contact Form 7
Allows you to create contact forms
Basic plugin for creating contact forms. Its interface is not the simplest and most modern – building forms is based on shortcodes. However, it has been developed for a long time, many motifs have their own styles for it, it is free and… it just works.
The most powerful slider and interactive content creation tool for WordPress.
Commercial add-on, included as standard with many commercial templates. Although there is the word slider in the name, in fact the key word is the second – revolution. An extremely versatile plugin which, although it offers basic functions for presenting and moving photos, can do much more. Essentially, Slider Revolution is a powerful tool for building interactive areas rich in multimedia content, animations and relational objects. With this plugin, you can build multi-layer animations managed by a time line, product presentations, and even simple click games and go further. The slider is fully responsive both automatically (percentage scaling) and with four points of transition. A phenomenal tool for building a “wow” effect, extremely versatile.
Quite a big list! However, if we consider that a large part of the plug-ins discussed above is limited to adding only one functionality, i.e. the possibility of sorting entries or exchanging images in the system gallery, then their number should not be overwhelming. The compilation of this list is the result of my several years of experience with WordPress, a long learning process, the formation of working techniques and the resolution of a variety of problems.
This does not mean that everybody needs such a set of functionalities. I am convinced, however, that a large proportion of these add-ons solve the typical problems faced by a large group of WordPress users.
Let us know if you find the article useful. I’ll also be happy to find out which other plugins you use in your daily work with WordPress CMS.