WordPress Plugins: Greatest Hits

Phillip PeetUX/UI/Web Designer

Being a WordPress theme development teacher, I am often asked, what are my favourite plugins and why? As a result, I thought I would take the opportunity to write and share this article with you noting some of my ‘greatest hits’. I have also included links to some of the websites where I have integrated each of these.

Gravity Forms

By default, WordPress does not come with an inbuilt feature to support the creation of HTML forms. This is where Gravity Forms comes in. Whilst it is not the only form builder plugin, I am completely sold on it being the most intuitive and robust option. It is flexible enough to easily embed a basic contact form yet scalable enough to create a sophisticated multi-functional/purpose application.

Gravity Forms seamlessly integrates with email marketing applications such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. Among other things, it also has conditional field support, calculation options, and routable notifications. Furthermore, there is a suite of extensions like Gravity Perks and Gravity Slider which adds enhanced UI/UX features such as range slider fields. The possibilities and options are endless !!

The EC Controls website uses the Gravity Forms plugin to capture general enquiries. Likewise an App I developed for John Paul Village called MyChoice also uses Gravity Forms albeit in a much more sophisticated way encompassing multiple sections, conditional fields, calculations, and sliders.

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Duplicate Posts

This plugin adds the capacity for users to be able to clone posts of any type. When I design/build websites for my clients I typically assist them with the setup of all of their pages, posts, products etc. Once the initial setup is complete I hand over the reins (so to speak) so that my clients can add, edit, update and/or remove pages, posts, products etc. I have always found this plugin to be a very useful one as it copies the formatting/style of a post that has been previously created/published. Once cloned, clients can use the post as a guide helping them identify what content needs to be updated and which assets need to be replaced.

The duplicate posts plugin is active on all WordPress sites found in my design portfolio.

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Whilst there are a number of eCommerce plugins available on the WordPress marketplace, my preference is WooCommerce. WordPress core does not have the capacity to sell products or services hence some form of eCommerce plugin is necessary should you want to process online orders. WooCommerce is the most popular plugin which provides a platform to do this. The plugin itself is super flexible and has a number of extensions which offer a variety of options including payment gateways and shipping services to name a few.

The Lip Lab website features the WooCommerce plugin which enables customers to order products and gift vouchers. The VA Hire website also features this plugin albeit in conjunction with both Request a Quote and Gravity Forms. Jointly these plugins turn the traditional cart/checkout order process into a form submission.

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Advanced Custom Fields

When discussing my favourite plugins this one is sure to get a mention. Amongst other things, Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), allows you as a developer to add additional fields to a WordPress post, page, product etc. Think of it as like adding the capacity to have multiple content sections/areas on a single post/page. I have found this to be the ideal solution when trying to maintain formatting between pages/posts without having blocks of HTML content embedded within the text editor.

The Gary Johns website features the ACF plugin on the song list page. This helps my client keep the formatting of the song title and artist consistent throughout. It also utilises the repeater field, which is part of the ACF Pro version, so that my client can easily add/remove songs from his list.

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Yoast SEO

WordPress alone is not ‘Search Engine Optimised’. Having said that, however, it is ‘Search Engine Friendly’ and provides a solid foundation to be able to apply SEO techniques to improve a website’s overall ranking. Yoast SEO is one of the most popular SEO plugins which seamlessly integrates with WordPress. It enables the user to add custom post titles, descriptions and meta information. It provides feedback in the sense it gives your content a ranking and also suggests keywords etc. Personally, I like the breadcrumb feature the most which can be seen on a number of the websites I have launched.

The Yoast breadcrumb widget can be found on the VA Hire category and product pages.

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