13 WordPress Plugins to improve your Website

To manage this website, I changed from Blogger to WordPress because I wanted to convert my Blog into a Website. I liked the idea to have structured pages where people could navigate through, and at the same time, maintain the Blog in a subfolder.

In this post, I want to share some WordPress plugins I installed for the website, and that helped me obtain the look and feel that I wanted. For example, a plugin for security aspects, like attempts to enter to your admin site, or a plugin for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which gives you some tips that improve how search engines see your content.

Keep your website Secure

One of the first things you should care about is security. Is anybody trying to access to your WP Admin interface? How can you block them? Is there someone making automated requests to your site?

To manage these issues, you can use a security plugin like iThemes Security, which among other things:ithemes_security

  • it obscures some WordPress security vulnerabilities by changing the default admin url, the default admin id (usually id 1), and allows for an away mode (blocks any admin login during some periods of time).
  • it protects your site from hacker attacks by banning troublesome user agents, or detecting and blocking attacks to your filesystem and database.

Create another environment to develop your site

When developing a site, it’s very useful to have a copy in a local environment, e.g. in your computer. This way, you can modify all the files and see the changes automatically, without having to upload them into the server.

Moreover, once you are satisfied with the changes you’ve made, you should upload them into a pre-production environment. This environment should be as similar as possible to the production environment (same server, same kind of database, etc). This way, you can catch some unexpected error before going to production.duplicator_plugin

One way to move all the WordPress site between your local, pre-production and production environments is to use a plugin like Duplicator. It allows you to duplicate, clone, backup, move and transfer an entire site from one location to another.

If you want to see a detailed description in how you can create a local environment and use Duplicator to move the local WordPress installation into your production environment, check this post.

Coming Soon and Maintenance Pages

At some point during the development process, and before the website goes live, you have to work in the production environment (or at least having it active). In these cases, you don’t want that users see the current content of your site, because it’s probably unfinished and with some style issues. However, at the same time you want to inform them that the page is still in working process, using a page with the message Coming Soon or Page under construction.

A similar argument applies when your site is running through some technical issues and you need to stop the user from visiting your site. In this case, you can show him a Maintenance Page to inform about the specific issue, and predict when the site will be active again.Coming Soon Plugin

To manage these cases, you can use the plugin Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode, which is very easy to implement. Basically, it prevents unregistered users to see the contents of your site by showing them a Coming Soon or a Maintenance page (depending on which you have defined).

At the same time, it allows registered users (like admin, writers, etc) to see both the contents and the admin interface. This way you can still work, develop, and add new content in your site.

Don’t forget about Search Engines

Have you heard about SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization, and basically it means that you should optimize your posts so that search engines like Google or Bing know what your post talks about. This way, when someone searches for the topic of your post, it will appear amongst the first entries.Wordpress SEO

This is very, very important. Studies have shown that people clicks on one of the first three results of Google around 60% of the time. And less than 10% of the users clic on a result in the second page of results! So placing your website among the first results can make a difference regarding the amount of traffic to your website!

The WordPress SEO plugin helps you improve the optimization of your posts. It have many functionalities, in particular:

  • It provides you with useful tips about how to write your posts focusing in one specific keyword (the one that your post will rank for on search engines).
  • It allows you to write the meta description of your posts (this is the text that will appear on search engines when listing your page).
  • It takes care of your website Sitemap and alows you to edit the robots.txt file (to prevent search engines to index specific pages, such the admin interface).

This plugin is a must-have, don’t wait to install it!

Customize the WordPress Editor

The default WordPress Editor lacks from several functionalities that we are used to have in our day-to-day text editor.

The TinyMCE Advanced plugin allows you to add buttons in your editor to control some extra functionalities, like the font family, font size or background color, and at the same time it provides you with buttons to use as a shortcuts of the usual functionalities, like the Formats menu or the horizontal line.

TinyMCE    Shortcodes Ultimate

Another useful plugin for your text editor is the Shortcodes Ultimate plugin, which adds a button in your editor to insert a variety of WordPress shortcodes, like spoiler lists, carousel images, audio, etc.Crayon Sintax Highlighter

And finally, for those of you who write technical posts like me, I recommend the Crayon Syntax Highlighter plugin.

It adds a small button in your text editor that opens a nice code editor. There, you can select the language of your code (Python, Java, etc) so it will highlight it accordingly. Moreover, there are many options to customize the style of the code snippets, colors, numbered lines, interactivity, etc.

Social Media Plugins

For every post and page of your site, you probably want to add buttons for sharing your content in social media. The Share Buttons plugin lets you do exactly that.

You can choose which social media buttons you want to include, like Google+, Facebook, Twitter or Reddit, and in some cases, even add a share counter.

Moreover, apart from the usual place of the sharing buttons, just after the post title, or at the end of the post, you can have a floating right menu with your buttons. The good thing about this method is that these buttons are visible anytime by the user. To you see them right now on the right of your screen? Sorry for the mobile users, they are hidden for you 🙂

Share buttons    Social Comments

Next on the list is the Social Comments plugin. Basically, it allows users to comment and share your posts on any of these social media: Google+, Facebook and Disqus.

For example, if you want to migrate a Blogger Blog into WordPress, I’m sure you would like to maintain your Google+ comments. Yeah, this website is an example for this case too 🙂

Plugins to enhance the Widget functionality

Finally, in this last section I will talk about the Widget functionality. Widgets are small pieces that customize the look and usability of your site.

Usually, you can place widgets in your sidebar or your footer, but depending on your specific Theme, you may have extra spaces.

WordPress comes with some default widgets to add, like a list of Categories of your posts, a Calendar, or a list of the recent comments. However, you may want to include much more things there! 🙂

One plugin I really like is Widget Logic, which as the name suggests, it allows to add some logic into your plugins. For example, you may want to show one widget or another depending on if you’re in a page or in post, or only show a specific widget for a particular post.

Widget Logic    Enhanced Text

Another important widget is the Enhanced Text Widget, which allows you to write HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, Shortcodes or PHP content inside your widget. This might be useful when you want to insert some piece of code in your website, like for example, a MailChimp form.

Two useful Widget plugins

Next, you can use the Custom Meta Widget to customize the default WordPress Meta Widget. This is the one responsible for showing the login, admin, entry and comment feed. The problem is that in the default Meta Widget you can’t control which links to show, but with this widget you can 🙂

Custom Meta Widget    BE Subpages Widget

And finally, the last widget I will mention here is the BE Subpages Widget. Basically, it allows you to display another menu as a widget. For example, if your theme don’t implement a menu in your sidebar, you can create one and add it using this widget it your sidebar 🙂

That’s all!

Do you have other useful widgets that you want to share? Write your comments above! 😉

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Please, add +Marina Mele in your comments. This way I will get a notification email and I will answer you as soon as possible! :-)