Some old habits are good, especially when it comes to our WordPress plugins!
At Digital Fuse we work exclusively with WordPress, and have done since the beginning. During our lengthy time building websites for our clients we have found that we use a select few consistently. Once a build goes ahead we use the same skeleton directory of WordPress plugins that have not let us down in over 10 years! We have compiled a list of these plugins that we just cannot seem do without! Listed here are five that we rely on and ensure are used in our projects as they benefit the website and user greatly. These plugins are in no particular order, just our top five!
WP Smush By WPMU DEV
For us, the load times of the websites that we create are crucial. Not only for the benefit of the clients and their customers. But also for the SEO boost that having a fast loading website gives you.
When developing a website we always ensure that images are fully optimised in Photoshop before being uploaded to a website. However, on handover and after training the images file size can often start to increase. As a result this makes the website bloated and slow loading. This is typically due to clients uploading high-resolution images taken straight from a camera! Often skipping the optimisation part we told them about!
Simply put, multiple high-resolution images on a single page can bring your website to it’s knees. We’ve seen some websites with about 50mb of images on one page, a huge no no. Therefore we always recommend compressing your images using software like Photoshop for WP Smush to work its magic.
Something to note is that WP Smush has a free version. The free versions will only ‘smush’ or optimise any images uploaded that are below 1mb. This plugin has some great features allowing for different compression settings to be set. One example is different ‘smush’ rules on certain images and certain dimensions! How cool is that!?
Contact Form 7 By Takayuki Miyoshi
Contact from 7 is a really simple and easy plugin to use. It allows users to send form submissions via your website directly to any email address you want. It does require a bit of know how to set up and tailor the fields. However once it’s all set up – it performs wonderfully.
Contact Form 7 is very well maintained with regular updates and is compatible with the latest version of WordPress. There are some great add-ons too that we’ve used such as Contact Form 7 – Conditional Fields By Jules Colle. This enables the users to add specific fields for specific user entries or selections.
Furthermore – one key benefit of Contact Form 7 is that it allows for the latest V3 Captcha security. This helps reduce the amount of spam submissions you’ll receive through bots and advertising.
For more information on Captcha V3 and why it’s important please check out our other article on this topic.
If you need a simple looking form on your website for contact enquiries, CF7 is for you. Similarly if you require a more complex form for enquires, CF7 is still for you! Of all the contact WordPress plugins it’s a great all rounder!
Slider Revolution By Themepunch
Slider Revolution is a premium slider plugin we’ve been using for a number of years. This plugin is not a free to use plugin, however the cost for this plugin is certainly justified! After experimenting with various free sliders and rotating carousel WordPress plugins (and premium ones), this was the one we settled on. It may take you some time fiddling with layers, effects and settings but you’ll get there.
Once you know how to use Slider Revolution you’ll want to use it for everything. Over the last year or so the developers have really optimised the plugin to be more lightweight. Ensure you optimise your images you’re using in your slider and you’ll be fine. Additionally check out the ‘lazy Load’ features!
The interface has recently had an overhaul, which initially looks more complex. Although this new interface gives the user much more control over transitions and animation styles. The ability to customise the slider for mobile and tablet devices is excellent too!
If you do give it a shot and feel a bit overwhelmed with the interface use Google! There are plenty of videos online with tips and guides on using this plugin. The support by the developers for this plugin is fantastic and the documentation is also very helpful. Use Slider Revolution to really fancy up your WordPress website!
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (formerly GADWP) By ExactMetrics
The benefits of using Google Analytics on your website cannot be understated. Having the insight of your users or customers clicks, searches and interactions is truly invaluable. This not only provides you with data on your existing content but provides you with useful information on how you can continue to grow and highlight areas you should be focusing on.
Back in the day there were several other Google Analytics plugins, but these have fallen by the wayside due to lack of support with the later WordPress versions.
One thing to note with this plugin is that this will only give you a small snapshot of your data. If you wish to see the full data of your customers activity you’ll either need to pay for the premium upgrade or view the details on the official Google Analytics website dashboard.
This plugin is like a snapshot of some important and useful stats but the full data is all collected and stored in the Google Analytics dashboard. Being able to login to your WordPress website and immediately see the bounce rate, sessions, page views and locations is really, really useful!
GDPR Cookie Compliance By Moove Agency
With the new legislation of GDPR in the UK using cookie opt-in WordPress plugins is now something of a compulsory requirement. To collect your user’s or customer’s date you now need explicit consent. This is in the form of a user or customer action like checking a box to confirm they agree to submitting their info. No longer can you dupe the user with annoyingly complex wording into signing them up to your mailing list. For example “Click this checkbox if you agree that by not clicking this checkbox you are happy for us to send you emails”. Not only is this confusing and infuriating it is now against GDPR law.
This plugin also allows control over what cookies are stored from users visiting your website and how. The control panel is easy to navigate and options and settings easy to understand.
We’ve used various cookie opt-in plugins which provided the functionality needed. But… at the cost of a hideous overlay or banner! We found this plugin to cover our needs whilst looking visually appealing / non intrusive. More importantly it fully adheres to the requirements for GDPR and makes it a breeze.
Data protection is a very big thing, people have the right to not be signed up to marketing mail outs and mass advertising campaigns without explicit consent. Even details such as age, gender, name and address can be used to target you with spam advertisements and hacks. In our view, this should have been implemented a long time ago!
We hope our list settles some questions you may have had, some of these WordPress plugins may help you out with your build!