In our ten+ years as a web development agency, we’ve tried and tested thousands of plugins. Some stand out and become part of our development process and are installed on every one of our websites so we thought we’d share them.
Email management can be tricky at the best of times. More often than not, servers don’t provide helpful logs when something goes wrong such as when emails aren’t received.
Enter Mailgun, a premium service allowing you to send, receive and track your emails effortlessly. The plugin itself doesn’t do much, but it allows you to integrate the service into your pre-existing WordPress site within minutes.
So when clients come to us wondering why a customer hasn’t received an order confirmation email or they are not receiving contact form entries we can provide them with accurate answers and identify the issue.
There are hundreds of free contact form plugins on the market, but to use Gravity Forms is worth the investment thanks to its advanced feature set.
Most of our sites only require it’s basic functionality, but for some sites like Under 17 Driver, it has provided a way to digitise mock theory tests. Using the quiz add-on we’ve allowed their students to take the mock tests online, automatically marking and providing them with certificates which in turn has saved U17D hundreds of hours in marking tests.
It’s intuitive interface also allows our other clients to easily update and tweak which fields they may need without having to worry about understanding shortcodes or clunky user interfaces.
If you want to speed up your site, there is no alternative to WP Rocket in our opinion. For years we’ve used various caching plugins like W3 Total Cache & WP Super Cache but none of them ever deliver the results we’ve seen from WP Rocket.
This is thanks to the number of options provided during the setup process. Allowing you to minifying CSS/JS files, combining them down into one file and then optimising the delivery of those files. If your site makes use of multiple CSS files like ours does for our light mode, you can simply exclude them from the cache to prevent any issues minimises them down may cause. You can also implement lazy loading, preloading, database clean-ups, CDN support and even taking control over the WordPress Heartbeat API.
We like to use Smush alongside WP Rocket as they both act as ways to optimise your website. In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed how to optimise your images correctly and Smush just helps that process when you upload your images to the media library.
When you upload your images, Smush reviews the image and smushes the image down even further. This is especially helpful for clients that might not own any image editing software and need to compress their images down.
Don’t worry if you’ve got a media library full of un-optimised images though, Smush allows you to compress images that you already have uploaded. However, this has to be done in 50 image chunks on the free version.
Last but not least is Elementor Pro, in our opinion the best page builder available for WordPress. Since we got our hands on it a few years ago it’s totally changed the way we build websites and it acts as the backbone to most of our websites now.
Previously we’d avoid page builders at all costs due to the bloat and terrible user experience. But with Elementor providing a lightweight page builder that works with any theme means it has very little impact on load times especially when we use it with our custom made Elementor base theme.
Elementor Pro also handles templating unlike other page builders and that include WooCommerce templates. This means we can create eCommerce templates that stand out from other themes with ease.
It’s also given our customers total control over the layout of their websites they previously didn’t have with previous functions and it’s own revision system making sure they can never totally break their website.