16 hand-picked WordPress plugins
During our more than 14 years making WordPress websites we have tried and used a fair share of plugins, both free and premium ones. And believe me, there are things I wish I had known before using some of them, because ultimately if we recommend a plugin to a client or install it on his website we will be held accountable for it in the long run, believe me.
Your clients won’t really care if the website broke or is not running as it should because a plugin that you have no control of is having issues so we now have a very short list of plugins we recommend, and a long list of plugins we don’t recommend.
What to consider when using a WordPress plugin:
- Plugins can cause serious performance issues. Avoid the use of the known resource-intensive plugins, some to watch out for are caching plugins, translation plugins and related posts plugins.
- Outdated plugins can have serious security issues, and many plugins are not even being supported by the developers. Check the plugins last update date and also the frequency of these updates to make sure the project is alive and supported.
- Look at the number of installs the plugin has.
- Read the reviews.
- Visit the support forum to see if the developer is answering questions and also what issues people are having with it.
Believe me when I say if anything seems suspicious it’s probably not worth the risk to use it. But here is a list of plugins we have been successfully using some for years while others are new additions.
The best SEO plugins
Probably the most used plugin in the WordPress space and for good reason. It’s a must-have plugin and there is just no way around it. We wish this was part of the WordPress Core especially since Guttenberg because the way it’s now integrated into the editor could use some improvement.
Free/premium version in the works
This is a new addition to the list. We have been trying it out for some time and we now feel confident to recommend it as another option for SEO. For us feature list apart it comes down to the client’s preference of UX between the two SEO plugins. For beginners, I see that Rank Math is just a little easier to learn, but in the end it just personal preference.
The best forms plugins
Contact form 7
Another one of those plugins we have been relying for a very long time on. We love that the project offers a lot of integrations and is easy to use. Because we use it for a long time we already include a base style for it and all the JS needed on our in house WordPress UI kits but even without it, it’s a fantastic option considering it’s free.
The one thing to remember is that although the plugin itself is free you should consider some kind of spam protection on forms and that may or may not come at a cost.
One of the most used premium options for forms. It’s highly regarded as a great option and if paying for the ease of use and spam protection is something you’re ok with this is surely one to consider. I would say this is more user friendly with its drag and drop interface than contact form 7.
The best WordPress integration plugins
Free / Premium
For a very long time, this was one of the most hated plugins in the WordPress developer community, myself included, mostly because of its ability to make any website it was installed on the slowest on the web. It has evolved though and is now much better. It offers a long list of features including some nice integrations. It’s not an option for all our clients, as it still can drag performance adding stylesheets and JS, but we are happy to recommend it on certain use cases.
MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress
Free (one form)/premium
One of the most used services by our clients is MailChimp and we often have to integrate it into their website’s. One of the best options out there is MC4WP. We like that the clients can easily understand and manage the integration by themselves. It’s also not everyone and we mostly reserve this for larger clients that need to create/edit Mailchimp forms frequently.
The best WordPress caching plugins
This is the plugin we recommend in almost 80% of the cases and it’s what we have used for our own projects. We still think that you should have your WordPress website as performant as needed and not use a caching plugin if possible but that’s not always possible and the ability to reliably minify and combine CSS and JS or clean entries on the database is a great thing to have. If you’re looking for one of the best WordPress plugins for caching look no more.
W3 Total Cache + Autoptimize
We have also used a combination of these two plugins to get a free option that rivals WPRocket if we absolutely need to. We personally feel that Autoptimize is a great tool and it generally works well enough, W3 Total Cache, on the other hand, can sometimes make things even worse depending on your server so definitely make some tests before going this route.
The best good to have WordPress plugins
Free / Premium
The use of SVG’s is becoming more and more popular, unfortunately, WordPress does not allow SVG’s to be uploaded. Although uploading SVG’s can present some security issues in many cases we simply don’t have a choice and need to allow it so either allow it using the theme or install this.
Using this plugin you can opt to not only sanitize the SVG’s but also if you get the pro version to only allow certain members to upload them.
This one is just a lifesaver, you won’t need it very often and it’s safe to say that for the most part, it’s only present on the website during a development, but during that time it’s just a must-have. It’s basically like the name implies, it regenerates all of your thumbnail images, meaning the different size thumbnails WordPress creates based on your theme’s configuration. It’s one of those must-have WordPress plugins for a theme developer or for someone that just recently changed it’s website’s theme.
If you are looking to improve your google page speed score this is just one of the simplest ways to achieve some results. It will generate WebP versions of your images and it just works, it’s the best way to put it. Your server does need to use one of the listed conversions methods, but other than that it’s as simple as it can be.
For most of our clients, the ability to duplicate a post or a page to use as a base is very helpful. We often will create either specific page templates together with custom Gutenberg blocks, and even though we create website guidelines, manuals and video tutorials for them it’s just easier to duplicate an existing page and change some of the elements rather than having to remember somewhat does what. This one is especially useful for clients that don’t often update the website or for new team members just starting to use it.
The best translation plugins
Free / Premium
In the past and for many years we have been recommending and using WPML as our trusted translations plugin, the fact that it had a large community of user’s and an active team behind it made us trust the plugin. However, we have always been less than impressed by its performance.
Polylang came along and promised to change that, we gave it a try on a couple of personal projects and confirmed the promises and have since been using it as our main recommended translation plugin for the past couple of years.
It’s certainly one of if not the biggest name if you’re looking for a translation plugin option for WordPress. We still consider it as a valid option and we will maybe give it another go as they now promise improved performance as well. Unfortunately, as there are no free plans to even test these claims out we are yet to give it another go.
What WPML offers though is not only a translation plugin but a suite of translation tools ranging from collaboration to translation management. It really is a robust plugin for websites that have different people in charge of translating.
It’s an active project that has been making this for more time than anyone so they know their thing and the community forum behind the plugin is much better than Polylang for example.
The best Plugin for developers
Free / Premium
I thought about including ACF Pro on this list because well if your are developing theme’s for WordPress surely you know and used ACF Pro before, but well this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning it.