WordPress is a very versatile platform for all sorts of online needs, and the variety of plugins that extend its capabilities is one feature that makes WordPress a content management system so popular. With 4,245 plugins to choose from, you can definitely customize your CMS, site or blog functionality way beyond the basics.
We’re always on the lookout for the best WordPress plugins to enhance the features of sites we work on and to respond better to our clients’ needs. Now it’s time to share some of those useful WordPress plugins that you may not have heard about:
We often receive client requests on how to hide pages from appearing in navigation bars. Sometimes there are pages you don’t want the public to see, but you still want those pages to be accessible through other posts or pages. That hidden page could be a thank you page, a product download and confirmation page, or a page you only want to show up after the reader has viewed some other page. The Exclude Pages plugin allows you to check a box that lets you include or hide the box from main menus.
Sidebars have come a long way since WordPress first started being popular. Now, many themes come with multiple sidebars and often not just along the sides of the screen. They could appear in the headers, footers and content areas. The problem is that sometimes, you’re limited in which widgets appear in each sidebar. Wouldn’t it be nice to duplicate a widget instead of only being able to use it once? The Duplicate Widgets plugin lets you do just that. Simply choose which widget you want to duplicate and voila!
Rotating image galleries are popular additions to themes these days, and they really enhance the look of a site. But you don’t have to select a theme that has the rotating images ability built in. If your theme doesn’t come equipped with this feature, you can add a rotating image gallery to any page or post within your theme. Depending on your purpose, here are two Rotating Gallery plugins that might be helpful:
Originally developed for Brian Gardner’s Revolution 2 theme series, the Featured Content Gallery plugin is versatile enough to use on any theme. The Featured Gallery plugin allows you to customize the size of images, number of images, and the headlines and text within each image. This gallery plugin is best for pulling images from featured content using a custom field in the post or page.
If you want a rotating gallery plugin that operates independently from post or page images, then opt for the Smooth Gallery plugin. The Smooth Gallery plugin is more for the advanced user, though, as this plugin requires a little back-end work to get it up and running. The results are worth it if you want a gallery that doesn’t depend on images generated from custom fields in posts or pages.
Many people are a part of the Amazon affiliate program. Generating book cover and banner ads for your posts, pages and sidebars can be a pain. The Amazon Reloaded plugin makes life easy. It gives you the ability to search for books and other items right from your post or page editor. Type in the keywords or book title, and it’ll return a list of options. Select the item to include and the size of the image (Note: Large is LARGE!), and that’s it. The plugin generates the code in your post/page edit field, including the image and your affiliate code.
The Sociables plugin used to be our preferred social networking plugin of choice, but since then we’ve discovered the Tweet This plugin. In fact, you can see it in action at the end of this post. The buttons are much more attractive and easy to recognize, and the dashboard interface is simple to use, limiting selection to the most popular social networking resources available.
Don’t want the hassle of adding Google Analytics code to all the pages of your site? Want to get up and tracking quickly? The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin automatically inserts the code throughout the site and tracks stats for all outbound links, comment author links, downloads and more. It even tags and segments outgoing links, discounts your visits to the site, and tracks AdSense clicks.
Many people want to add links to outside sites to their main navigation. A forum, another blog, a sales site… The Page Links To plugin lets you create that link without having to fuss around with figuring out how to get people over to that other site without hand-coding the link in. Point out all you want!
You can set the order of the pages in your main navigation easily by assigning them a number. That means going into each page and manually assigning order. The Page Mash plugin makes assigning page order even easier, giving you the ability to drag and drop pages right in your dashboard. Now you can see all your pages laid out before you so that you can arrange them exactly to your tastes.
There’s a lot of contact form plugins for WordPress, and the most popular seems to be the CFormsII plugin. That plugin can do a lot of stuff and really let you design your contact page like a pro, but we’ve also found that CFormsII isn’t that user friendly. The Contact Form 7 plugin offers an easier option for most needs.
Now that you’ve got this great list of plugins, you’re going to have to make sure your blog runs at optimal speeds and doesn’t suck too much CPU usage from your host. Too many plugins have the potential to drain a server and bog it down. The WP Super Cache plugin helps alleviate the issue, generating static html files from your blog that make it easier for the server to process, which in turn helps speed up load time.
WordPress now offers the ability to upgrade most plugins automatically from the dashboard, but the One Click plugin provides extra configuration features that help make the process of updating plugins easier. Be sure to read the Installation Notes first, since you have to set your plugins folder and files to writeable on the server.
The OIO Publisher plugin removes you as the middleman from selling ad space on your site. With ad management that lets you approve, reject or renew ads, sell products or set up your own affiliate programs, it’s a hefty little plugin you could put to good use. It’s not free, at $47, but it’s handy.
Your turn. Is there a favorite plugin or a hidden gem that made your blogging life easier? Let us know about it!