Saturday, 6 July 2013

8 Great WordPress Plugins

For the past few weeks I've been battling with my new website.  I'm new to WordPress and it's been a steep learning curve.  I have always used SiteSpinner to create websites in the past, but these were relatively simple affairs.  Persuaded that WordPress might be quicker and more versatile and, above all, might look more professional, I decided to give it a try.

I started off with a basic free theme and set up a website for my counselling practice.  Helped by an ebook - The WP Starter Guide - it took me a couple of days and I was really proud of the results.  So then I decided to set up a new website for my company, Sphinx House. 

Now one of the things that everyone seems to be emphasising these days is the importance of having a responsive theme.  In other words, it needs to have been formulated so that it looks good no matter how you're viewing the site - PC, mobile, tablet, whatever.  At first, I thought this meant having to pay for a theme but then discovered that there are loads of free responsive themes on the WordPress site.  (Something else that I'd picked up was that it's unwise to use free themes unless they're from WordPress or a well-established theme provider because as Alex Moss recently pointed out on Search Engine Watch "the code could contain anything, and could be harmful to your site both in terms of performance and security.")

After quite a lot of research and trial and error, I opted for the Suffusion theme which seemed to be very versatile.  Well . . . it may be, but at my level of knowledge, I'm finding it hard to implement a lot of the features which, apparently, are incorporated in the theme.  And I've found myself getting frustrated by not being able to achieve the effect that I want - either because it's not there or I can't work it out.  But - hallelujah - I've discovered that, if I look hard enough,  I can usually find a plugin to do what I want.  So I thought I'd share with you my top eight plugins.  And I'll start with four which, actually, have nothing to do with design but which seemed essential.

1.  Google Sitemap Plugin
Google states that "creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google's normal crawling process".  So it makes sense to have one.  And the plugin makes it easy to construct.  This particular plugin has been downloaded over 200,000 times and has an approval rating of 4.5 out of 5 from those people who have reviewed it.

2.  404 to Start Plugin
I don't know about you, but I'm not too keen on 404 pages that just tell you 'page not found'.  Far nicer are those that offer a little apology or make a suggestion as to how you might find the page you're looking for.  This plugin allows you to divert all 404 errors to a page you have created specially.  It's been downloaded nearly 60,000 times and has an approval rating of 4 out of 5.

3.  Cookie Warning Plugin
 This is absolutely essential if you live in the EU and want to keep track of your site statistics.  Since May 2012 it's been illegal (if you're in the EU) to collect statistics on your website by using cookies - unless you get the site visitor's consent first.  Now, way back in April of last year, I wrote about how I preferred StatCounter to Google Analytics, on the grounds that it was much more accurate.  (Incidentally, it was only last week that I came across a post on Social Media Today which was looking at the inaccuracy of Google Analytics.)  But, whichever analytics system you use, if you're in the EU, you've got to ask permission.  When the Cookie Directive first came out, I wrote about this and mentioned that someone had brought out an 'EU Cookie Directive Plugin'.  However, the one I have chosen to use on my new site (the Cookie Warning Plugin) is a lot more popular (22,000 downloads) and has an approval rating of 4.9 out of 5.

4.  UpdraftPlus Backup Plugin
I'd only being working on my website a short time when a message appeared to say that a new version of WordPress was available to download.  Having read that it's important for site security to have the latest version, I clicked the button and was reminded to back everything up before upgrading.  How was I to do that?  I found instructions and was delighted to read that I could do it via a plugin.  There was one that sounded good but (as I always do) I read the reviews before downloading.  All the reviewers liked the plugin but (fortunately) one commented on the fact that this was just a backup and not a backup and restore facility.  So I looked further and discovered Updraft.  This excellent plugin not only backs up the site very quickly but, if necessary, will also restore it to its previous state.  With 175,000 downloads and an approval rating of 4.8 out of 5, I suspect that it's the best backup plugin around.

To be continued . . .


  1. Also take a look at Duplicator. Its currently in beta but works great for quickly backing up and migrating a website.

    1. Thank you Lorenzo. It's always good to have recommendations.