Here at Old Town Media, we have a set of plugins that we use on a regular basis to make our sites the way that we want them to. We love all of these plugins and almost every single one of them ends up on client sites that we build. There are upwards of 20 other plugins that we sporadically but these are the core of extra functionality on our sites.
ARYO is a great lightweight tracking tool that records certain activities that occur in the backend of a WordPress site. This is especially useful if you’re tracking down a bug with a particular user or want to see how many times invalid login attempts are being processed on the site (ie: bots attempting to brute force in). The feature set is not very extensive, but it’s a good catch-all for when you need to know what’s been going on in your site.
Backup Buddy – Premium
Backup Buddy handles automated backups & migrations to another server for us. Their backup & offsiting tools are top-notch and very reliable if you’re on a quality host. It’s a paid plugin, but the developer license is only $150/year which is a steal if your site ever gets corrupted or hacked and you need to restore it.
This simple tool allows us to create sidebars in the admin area of the site and assign them to individual pages or custom post types. It’s a big time saver when you just want to spin off a sidebar for a specific page or purpose and don’t have a lot of time.
This tool disables the extra scripts and parsing that WordPress has loaded since the beginning of 4.3 for Emojis. Since most of our clients are businesses, they rarely need
This fantastic plugin by Yoast (the same guys who build WordPress SEO below) allow very easy, simple integrations with Google Analytics. It will create the proper tracking code on your site, track any events that you want, and if you are connected in with the Analytics API it will display your Analytics on dashboard so you don’t have to hop over to the Analytics site. It’s a heavy plugin but a must=have if you’re looking for a simple Analytics integration.
Gravity Forms – Premium
Gravity Forms is one of your favorite plugins at Old Town Media. It makes editing and publishing forms a cakewalk and is infinitely configurable with the code and add-ons. Want to get email signups into your email client of choice? Got it. Want to process payments based on conditional logic along with event signups? Got it. Want to have email notifications sent to different people based on submitted answers? Got it. Want to have users signup for your site or create their own posts? Got it. If you need to do anything with forms on your site, this is your plugin.
The downside of being this complex and configurable is that the codebase, styles, and scripts are particularly bulky and heavy – which is why we sometimes use Ninja Forms
We use Ninja Forms for simple, easy contact forms. No complex conditional logic, no intense styling overrides, no user input, just plain simple contact forms. It’s very easy to edit, setup, and stylize.
This is our default security plugin. It handles and stops most brute force attacks and tracks most important security related activity. It’s a complex plugin and one that could stop other plugins from working but it’s very effective when setup properly.
If you need to add redirects to your site from old URLs and don’t want to mess with an .htaccess file, this guy’s for you. Two-input redirects and it supports wildcard redirects very easily.
This is a plugin that I developed and open sourced. All it does is display the page template that you are looking at, where the file is located, and what other pages are using the same template. It’s very handy for working on other companies’ sites that use a complex system of templates.
Simple is the name of the game here – add an image to a widget with drag and drop functionality. You can also link, add titles and other pieces of text around the image and it’s very easy to stylize on the frontend. This is a great back-pocket plugin for easy image handling.
Simple as it gets – add a map to any page with a simple shortcode and only an address. It’s lightweight, simple, effective with no options. We use this for 95% of our sites for incredibly easy maps. Anything beyond simple we start using the Google Maps js API because the rest of the WP maps plugins are frankly a mess.
Soliloquy Slider – Premium
Slider (rotating banner, generally on a homepage) plugin of choice. Easy interface, doesn’t load scripts except when necessary, configurable and lots of options. Paid, but cheap and I highly recommend it.
WP Rocket – Premium
This is our favorite caching plugin by a long mile. It’s effective and easy to configure. It offers options that most other plugins can’t touch such as advanced minification and concatenation. While it’s a paid, premium plugin, it’s well worth the money just to not see the insane configuration screens that Wp Super Cache and W3 Total Cache give you.