Essential WordPress plugins list

Posted: February 6, 2017 by Neil Sayers

I like to keep third-party plugins to a minimum on sites that I build. I guess this all started when I first began using WordPress and believed that lots of plugins would slow my sites down. I then read that this is actually not such an issue and badly coded plugins are the problem.

From personal experience, I would suggest using as few third-party plugins as possible for the simple reason that they may become outdated – one WordPress core update might kill a critical plugin, and before you know it, half your site is unusable (especially if the original plugin author is no longer actively working on it).

My general rules now tend to be:

  • Keep third party plugins to a minimum, but don’t disregard them as slowing a site down
  • Stick to reputable ones with high ratings and/or high download numbers
  • Be wary of premium plugins: sometimes they try to do too much (no need to crack a nut with a sledgehammer)

The list…

So, without further ado, here is a list of go-to plugins that I always look to for certain functionality on a site:

Advanced Custom Fields

Quite simply: one of, if not the most useful plugin available! This plugin started life as a way to allow you to add meta-boxes to your posts/pages/custom posts. But it didn’t stop there: create over-arching option pages, add meta to users, create complex relational links between site content, build site pages entirely from pre-set content components, take over the world… This plugin lets you do it all.

Nice and simple for site admins to use, great API for devs, and excellent documentation. I would highly recommend that you pay for the Pro version, because this plugin author (Elliot Condon) deserves to be stinking rich (ACF Twitter).

All-in-One WP Migration

This is another useful plugin. Literally a few clicks and you have duplicated a WordPress site to a new server. I can’t really say much more about this because, like all great/useful tools, it is simple and does exactly what you’d expect (ServMask Twitter).

Advanced Responsive Video Editor (ARVE)

I’ve built many a site which integrates video from YouTube or Vimeo. For me, this plugin turned out to be my favourite: It has plenty of options built into the shortcode; The shortcodes themselves are easy to use (for site admins); There’s a whole bunch of other features you can read about elsewhere; And of course, it’s fully responsive using simple CSS, which was my key reason for picking it out of the crowd some years ago.

Simple Share Buttons Adder

There may be better share buttons out there, but I haven’t found it yet! I like this one because it’s actually very customisable (just by adding your own icons and CSS), while at the same time offering a clean, simple set of share icons right out of the box. It also has some advanced features which are easy for even the dumbest site admins to tweaks for themselves. Full Simple Share Buttons website here.

Yoast SEO

Not going to spend much time on this one because much has been written elsewhere about it, and much more eloquently than I can. Suffice to say, it’s great, and you need it for your SEO. I have never paid for the premium version, but the free version is a cracker.


How’s this for annoying: Your site’s admins insist on uploading HUGE images that are about 3000 pixels by 3000 pixels, and then wonder why said site runs like the internet circa 1996. This plugin automatically resizes original images as they are uploaded and also adjusts for quality so they don’t take up huge amounts of space on the server. It can also be run retroactively as well. It does all this before WordPress creates it’s own custom thumbnail sizes, so there’s no interference with that process. I have absolutely no idea why they use that creepy Ring-esque picture on their plugin’s main page though.

So that’s my list of some of the big hitters that I find myself using most frequently. I’ll post a part 2 list of my favourite plugins soon.

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