With cold winter weather in full swing and Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d write about the WordPress plugins that make web developer nerds like us feel warm and fuzzy inside!
In our opinion (and we’ve been doing this for 20+ years now), WordFence is the single best method to keep your WordPress site protected. It offers an amazing suite of features for free including regular and fully configurable security/malware scanning, firewall protection, two factor authentication sign in, ip blocking, and much more. There is simply nothing that compares and their free offering is far and away more robust that any competitors. They also offer a paid version for sites that require additional protection, but in our experience the free option is more than enough for the vast majority of websites. You can check out the details here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/
LiteSpeed is another plugin that provides an astounding amount of features completely free of charge, and along with WordFence is a standard plugin for all the websites we build and maintain. It is the leading performance plugin for WordPress with over 3 million installations and does a superb job of improving site speed through various fully configurable caching methods, image optimization, content delivery implementation, and much much more. Many of the performance features can be used with any web hosting, but when used in conjunction with a LiteSpeed optimized web server like we do, you really unlock the power of this plugin with page and server level caching. When used in this way, page load benefits are measurable in improvements of hundreds of percents (often resulting in shaving 5+ seconds off page load time). This is definitely a plugin that requires lots of special handling and expertise (which we have) as conflicts can occur if not implemented correctly, but this tool has been a life saver for many of our clients coming from previous hosts and expressing frustration with sluggish loading websites. Check out the myriad of features and five star reviews here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/litespeed-cache/
This is a premium plugin that we provide free of charge to all of our customers on a monthly Security and Performance Plan, as it is far superior to any of the free form plugins available, especially if you intend to do anything more than a simple contact form. Gravity Forms has an easy to use drag and drop form builder with tons of custom configuration options, easily takes payments through the form, matches the styling of your website out the box, is fully responsive, and has a whole host of plugins to provide additional functionality and integration with third party tools. There is simply nothing better, and we’ve used them all. You can read all about the features and watch an introductory video here: https://www.gravityforms.com/
Of course there are many other plugins we regularly use and love, that we should send a big heart shaped box of chocolates to the development teams that created them, but the ones highlighted above serve as the bedrock for every website we build.