WordPress has become the content management system (CMS) of choice for many designers. In fact, WordPress is the most widely used CMS in the world. That’s because it is easy to use and easy to customize.

Plug-ins add functionality to your site without having to change the core code of the system. Or they might be designed to make the core application behave differently. Regardless, they are often very useful.

There are now well over 29,000 plug-ins available in the WordPress Plug-in Repository. However, there are a handful of plug-ins I install on virtually every site I develop, just as a matter of course. They are my go-to solutions for a variety of situations. So I thought I’d share that list with you.

  1. Online Backup for WordPress
    Automatically back up your website—the database or the files on the server or both. Simply create a free account online at backup-technology and set your back up schedule—several options and frequencies from hourly to weekly. This plug-in will also allow you to create backups for local storage. It’s like free insurance. [Update June 2015: alas, this plugin is no longer available, as the supplier no longer makes this service available on theirs servers.]
  2. Wordfence Security
    With popularity and success comes the hacker. Highly recommended by web security professionals, this plug-in allows your site to stand up to brute force attacks and helps you keep your core applications and plug-ins up to date (a good defense against attacks). It also allows you to block by IP address or country. It also lets you see where there may be problems with bad links and the like. Paid upgrade option available, but you get a lot of protection just from the free version.
  3. Contact Form 7
    This form generator isn’t the fanciest one, but it is still my go-to plug-in for basic contact forms. The form builder does force you to look at and use code, but it guides you through the process and it’s less complicated than other form generators I’ve tried. It only does form-to-email, but does have the option for attachments and field validation. The plug-in is so popular that people have begun creating plug-ins to enhance the plugin! (My favourite of those is Really Simple CAPTCHA)
  4. Google Analyticator
    If you want, you can simply insert the ga.js script into the header of your site’s theme, but this plug-in gives you so much more. For example, you can exclude logged in users (such as yourself as the administrator) for a more accurate numbers. You also get a quick snapshot of your analytics right on your WordPress dashboard.
  5. WordPress SEO by Yoast
    Granted, WordPress is pretty search engine-friendly out of the box, but this plug-in is considered the standard of SEO helpers. Identify the keyword/phrase you want for the page and this plug-in helps you make sure it is in all the right places. It also helps you get set up for sharing with Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
  6. Query Posts
    Say you want only posts from one category to show on your sidebar or you want to show content from a specific page. Enter Query Posts. It allows you to set up in a widget exactly what you want, through a custom search query. Choose a specific page or post, category, publication status, date range, author or who knows what else. You even have some control over how the content is formatted. Note: This plug-in has not been updated in over two years, so no guarantees it will stick around.
  7. Dynamic Widgets
    For the most part, what you put in your sidebar widget area appears on every page. That can be limiting. Dynamic Widgets comes to the rescue. This plug-in lets you determine which page, post, category or archive a widget appears on. you can specify page by page or simply mark exceptions. Very handy if you want a different call to action on different pages.
  8. Meta Slider
    There are a LOT of slideshow plugins out there, but Meta Slider has quickly become my favourite. It’s simple to use and easy to format. Users with Editor status can add to or update sliders.
  9. Email Javascript Cloaker
    This plugin allows you to have email addresses as clickable links on your site without the fear of having the address harvested by spammers. Just enter the email address as a short code. (A short code is a way of inserting a function or element into a page through the normal page editor.)