Finding WordPress plugins is easy. Finding great plugins is not. The following list is my recommendation of plugins based on years of working in the WordPress community building sites for clients and themes for customers at UpThemes.
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. Don’t like it? Don’t click ’em. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am friends with some of the folks who own these products but I would still promote them even if we were enemies because they’re all freaking amazing plugins.
One of the best plugins I’ve come across in recent memory, Beaver Builder makes it extremely easy to turn WordPress into a full-blown CMS. We’ve integrated Beaver Builder into a number of themes at UpThemes and have future plans to use it in a hosted website platform as well.
Gravity Forms is one of the first user-friendly form builder plugins for WordPress. The only competition it had at first was the free Contact Form 7 and a slew of iframe drop-ins from hosted products. Now, even with competition from Ninja Forms and other good-looking free options, you won’t find a form plugin more synonymous with “WordPress” than Gravity Forms. Not to mention Carl, a founder at Rocketgenius (the company behind Gravity Forms) is a huge Cardinals fan, and that’s a good enough reason for me to help support ’em.
If you’re looking for plugins built by WordPress heavy hitters, look no further than OptinMonster by Syed Balkhi and Thomas Griffin, two of the smartest minds in the WordPress community today. They joined forces to build OptinMonster, an easy-to-use, useful plugin that helps grow subscriber lists by leaps and bounds. While marketing is never easy, this plugin makes it about as easy as it can be to grow an audience.
If you’ve never heard of WP Rocket, it is one of the fastest rising stars in a small subset of WordPress caching solutions. With bulkier, more configuration-sensitive plugins on the market, WP Rocket is a breath of fresh air, making it easy for even the least technical users to get set up with an advanced cache management system for WordPress. For advanced users, it offers just the features you’d likely need without any bloat, making configuration easier than any of the other solutions I’ve tried.
Advanced Custom Fields 5
OK, so some folks are going to rake me over the coals on this one, but hear me out. As a new user of ACF, my team has used it to build a custom project management system for Frito-Lay and a large multisite network for a health supplement company with 300 clinic subsites so I’ve put it through the wringer.
A lot of folks got burned when ACF 5 came out and there was a shift in business model, so I understand there may be some sour grapes within the userbase, but I came in on the tail end of ACF 4 and used ACF 5 (Pro) most recently. I have been extremely impressed with both the simplicity and flexibility of the plugin, as well as the recent addition of the code export, allowing developers to take the configuration out of the database and instead place it within their code, reducing the possibility of users breaking things and also making WordPress faster by not needing to retrieve config values from the database.
Some developers have started using Custom Field Suite, which was a fork of ACF 4, but I found it to be less robust and much fewer resources on the web, which ultimately led me to explore ACF 5 a bit more heavily.
MemberPress has been around quite some time now and is built and maintained by a great developer, Blair Williams, who absolutely knows his stuff when it comes to WordPress. At Lift, he helped us build one of the first second screen apps called WE tv SYNC, which lead to other second-screen apps, The Walking Dead Story Sync and Breaking Bad Story Sync, one of which was nominated for an Emmy. So, yeah, he definitely knows what he’s doing.
MemberPress makes it easy to build and manage a membership site and has even been featured by Chris Lema as one of the best membership plugins on the market due to its ability to drip content to users, enticing them to subscribe to the membership. Which is what you want, yeah?
WP SpamShield Anti-Spam
Previously, I had been using a plugin called WordPress Zero Spam but I was turned on to a new plugin based on the same method, but with a guarantee of zero false positives and works for registrations as well. One of the big bonuses is you never need to bother users with Captchas or silly math questions. They simply complete the login or registration forms as they would normally.
The method it uses is to offer a second chance to users who get caught in the spam trap, allowing them to eventually pass the spam check. I haven’t been using this plugin long, but it is nice to finally have a working, free alternatives to Akismet and other third-party spam plugins.
What are your favorite plugins?
Got some great recommendations? Tweet them at me and yours may even make the list!