When just starting with your first WordPress website, all the choices you have to make can be overwhelming. Even if you've had a WordPress site for a while, adding new plugins on a whim for some neato features is tempting. But you want to resist that desire.
Once you decide on which Premium WordPress theme you would like to use for your site, next comes plugins. Depending on your theme, there may be recommended plugins that the theme is build to use and theme-specific plugins.
There are generally three types of plugins:
The allure of free is understandable. However, no one built a successful online business for free. So while we want to weigh the plugin options and fees very carefully, there are certain things you need to succeed. So the bottom line is, what is going to help you build your bottom line?
Map Out Desired Functionality in Advance
Depending on your project and what type of features and functionality you want to have will determine which plugins you need. It is not uncommon to test and tune, install, try and delete plugins until you find the ones that work for you.
But if you don't know how you want your site to operate, how do you know for sure which plugins you'll need? You won't. Create a list of features and functionality you need, with a secondary list of the features and functionality you want but may not need.
This effort will help to prioritize your choices. After all, plugins are the #1 culprits for performance degradation and conflicts. That's why we need to investigate and choose wisely.
Today, we'll start with the essential plugins you will want to consider for your new WordPress website, including if you are doing eCom with WooCommerce. These are must-haves vs. want-to-haves.
Start with the Must-Have Plugins
There are a ton of great free plugins in the WordPress Plugin Repository. When reviewing plugins, look at their support ratings and make sure they have been tested up to the most recent version of WordPress. Of course, there are exceptions where not being tested to the latest and greatest will still work, but that should be the exception, not the rule.
While free is always lovely, many plugins offer a “Pro” or Premium version that offers enhanced features and, more importantly, support. In addition, premium plugins * can be relied on to address bugs and keep up with WordPress updates promptly.
I use a combination of both and do not hesitate to upgrade to the Pro or Premium version. Not only for the added support but to help support the developers.
Free Plugins for Your New WordPress Site
Each of these plugin's free versions is adequate for a starter site. However, as your site grows or you need additional functionality, the Premium version is worth upgrading.
- Ninja Forms: Ala Cart Add-ons ($29-129/year) and Membership levels available ($49-249/year based on number of websites) to upgrade to.
- Yoast SEO: Premium is $89/year and worth every penny.
- NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster: Pro version is $49/year.
- Responsive WordPress Slider – Soliloquy Lite: Not a fan of sliders in general, but there are times where they come in handy. Premium is $19-249/year based on features and number of websites.
- Gravity Forms for More Robust Applications. $59-159/year based on Add-ons and number of websites.
- Testimonials Showcase $19 – Display testimonials, reviews or quotes in multiple ways.
- Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress $22 – Feature packed social media plugin *.
WPMU Dev Premium Plugins
WPMU Membership provides access to their collection of 11 Pro Plugins. WPMU also now offers Managed WordPress * hosting — which I use for this website and can highly recommend. Membership is based on hosting resources and the number of websites: $15.83-82.50/month. Get two months free with annual pay.
What a deal getting 11 plugins along with your hosting:
- Smush Pro Image optimizer
- Hummingbird Pro Page Speed optimizer
- Defender Pro Security
- Smartcrawl Pro SEO optimization
- Snapshot Pro Schedule backups
- Forminator Pro Forms builder
- Hustle Pro Opt-ins & Popups
- Branda Pro White label WordPress
- WPMU DEV Dashboard Instant access to support and installation
- Shipper Pro Move WP websites with one-click
- Beehive Pro Customizable Google Analytics
Free versions are also available in the WordPress plugin repository.
Like WordPress, WooCommerce is a free plugin that you then build upon with plugins and extensions. Because of that, Woo has too many extensions and plugins to mention here.
Here are the basics to look at for your new eCom site. Fees noted are annual except for WooCommerce payment, which has no annual fee but charges per transaction.
- WooCommerce PDF Invoices & Packing Slips $79 – Print Invoices, Packing Lists, and Pick Lists for WooCommerce Orders
- WooCommerce Points and Rewards $129 – Reward Customer Purchases With Points Redeemable For Discounts
- WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping $99 – Advanced Shipping Options
- WooCommerce Product Add-ons $49 – Add options via text boxes, dropdowns, text areas, checkboxes, custom price inputs, even sample images.
- WooCommerce Product Faq Manager $39 – Create Custom FAQs that display on each product page.
- WooCommerce Shipment Tracking $49 – Add shipment tracking information to your orders.
- WooCommerce Order Status Manager $49 – create, edit, and delete custom order statuses and integrate them seamlessly into your WooCommerce order management flow.
- WooCommerce Payment 2.9% + $0.30 USD per transaction for U.S. issued credit or debit card
Don't Go Overboard
Be sure to be very selective with the plugins you add, as plugins can be resource-intensive and slow down your site. Being selective also means you have chosen proven and supported plugins that bode well for future updates and support.
While there are tons of plugins to choose from, this article covers the basics, and as always, I only recommend what I use for my sites. Once you get the basics in place, you can determine if other plugins are needed or required.
At your service,