When I say ‘essential plugins’, of course that’s a bit of a loose term as not all sites are the same. For instance, not all sites need e-commerce functionality. So this is a list of the major plugins that regular website owners and developers can’t afford to ignore.

Remember: it’s always best to keep your plugins to as few as possible, keep them up to date and delete inactive plugins.

We have some absolutely amazing free plugins here. This will be worth your time.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages plugin
  • Category: AMP
  • Price: Free with premium features
  • Active installations: 100,000+
  • Community rating: 4.5/5
  • Update frequency: Weekly

For a plugin with so many features this kicks out AMP pages that are still very speedy. The developers really haven’t left any stone unturned with integrations built for plugins in the categories of SEO, pagebuilders, Progressive Web Apps, analytics, structured data, push notifications, contact forms, instant articles, e-commerce and others.

The plugin includes four very customisable themes with more available for purchase. Pro extensions to the plugin cover extra functionality like CDN functionality, translations, pagebuilder compatibility, e-commerce, custom post types and much more.

Alternatives to Accelerated Mobile Pages:

Accessibility by UserWay

Accessibility by UserWay plugin
  • Category: Accessibility, compliance
  • Price: Free with premium features
  • Active installations: 20,000+
  • Community rating: 4.5/5
  • Update frequency: Almost monthly

WCAG 2.1 AA is within reach. The plugin adds a floating round icon on your website which when clicked opens a menu allowing users to set accessibility options for the website, applied automatically. Users can then turn on keyboard navigation, read the page aloud, add contrast highlight links, increase text size and spacing, stop animations, switch out fonts with more legible fonts, add a large cursor and reading guide and see a tree view of the page structure.

Pro features include white labelling and custom branding, usage statistics and menu modification.

Akismet Anti-Spam

Akismet Anti-Spam plugin
  • Category: Anti-spam
  • Price: Free for small sites
  • Active installations: 5+ million
  • Community rating: 4.5/5
  • Update frequency: A few times a year

Made by the people behind WordPress, this plugin is installed by default in every new WordPress installation, and for good reason. Akismet has robust spam filtering for comments. Several form plugins can also hook into its spam filtering too, cutting down spam submissions of forms.

Alternatives to Akismet:

Contact Form by WPForms

Contact Form by WPForms plugin
  • Category: Design
  • Price: Free with premium features
  • Active installations: 3+ million
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Almost monthly

This is a very popular and easy to use drag and drop form builder with extensive features. The plugin includes pre-built form templates and the forms it produces are 100% mobile responsive. It can integrate with a bunch of other services including MailChimp, PayPal, Constant Contact and Zapier, to name just a few.

Features include:

  • Payment, donation and booking forms
  • File uploads
  • Conditional logic
  • Email form notification
  • View all submissions in one place
  • Spam protection with Google Recaptcha and honeypot
  • Full CSS customisation
  • Surveys and polls

Alternatives to WPForms:

Divi Theme Builder

Divi Theme Builder plugin
  • Category: Design
  • Price: £69/year or £192 for life
  • Active installations: 1+ million
  • Update frequency: Almost weekly

You’ll never have to buy or choose another theme again. Divi is the most popular theme builder on the market, and for good reason. It’s available either as a plugin that can be used to extend other themes or as a theme of its own. With full WYSYWYG editing you can create your own themes without having to touch code (though you can do that too), freeing you from the limitations of themes.

Standout features include:

  • Create dynamic templates for any post type
  • Pull custom fields into page elements
  • Use Divi blocks within the Gutenberg editor
  • Create your own layout library to reuse elements, which can be set to globally update
  • Build your own templates for WooCommerce
  • Built in split testing
  • Responsive editing – set content and properties according to device type
  • Bulk editing, find and replace styles, extend styles…
  • Effects, 3D transforms and animations for every element

There are a ton of free layout packs available for your own use.

Note: this is an affiiliate link, though I do genuinely highly recommend Divi!

Alternatives to Divi:

Email Encoder

Email Encoder plugin
  • Category: Anti-spam
  • Price: Free
  • Active installations: 30,000+
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Yearly, though development increased recently

Obfuscation is the art of making email addresses appear scrambled to bots but readable to humans. Any email address visible online will receive spam at some point, but obfuscation cuts down on the number of bots that will be able to read the address and send it spam.

This is a very lightweight plugin that scrambles email addresses for bots using protection text, simple HTML character encoding or JavaScript. Phone numbers can be protected using a shortcode too.

Alternatives to Obfuscate Email:

Flying Pages by WP Speed Matters

Flying Pages by WP Speed Matters plugin
  • Category: Speed
  • Price: Free
  • Active installations: 5,000+
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Monthly. Very responsive to support queries.

This plugin waits until the browser becomes idle then detects links within the viewport and preloads them, without executing the code. The plugin can also preload links as soon as they’re hovered, with an optional delay. This makes every page load after the first a little bit snappier for visitors.

Prefetching is best used with page caching to avoid creating unnecessary extra load on the server.

Alternatives to Flying Pages:

GDPR Cookie Compliance

GDPR Cookie Compliance plugin
  • Category: Compliance
  • Price: Free with premium features
  • Active installations: 100,000+
  • Community rating: 4.5/5
  • Update frequency: Weekly

More than just a cookie notice, this is an extensive and fully editable plugin to help ensure GDPR compliance. The plugin also helps compliance with various other cookie laws including PIPEDA, CCPA, AAP, LGPD, DSGVO, CNIL, PECR, DPA.

It allows you to choose how to handle cookies, with four options:

  • No cookies are stored on users’ computers until the user accepts cookies
  • The ‘Full-Screen Cookie Wall’ option is used, cookies are accepted by default but the user has the option to turn them off
  • Cookies are accepted by default but the user has the option to turn them off
  • Cookie Consent Banner is displayed. Cookies are also accepted automatically just by scrolling down the page.

Cookies can be categorised as essential or optional, allowing users to approve only the essentials. This all gives you the freedom to choose your approach to cookies according to your interpretation of GDPR.

Alternatives to GDPR Cookie Compliance:

LiteSpeed Cache

LiteSpeed Cache plugin
  • Category: Speed
  • Price: Free
  • Active installations: 800,000+
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Monthly

For websites running on LiteSpeed Web Server (as opposed to Apache, nginx or something else) this is a must. LiteSpeed really does kick ass in terms of speed (see LiteSpeed vs Apache vs nginx) so if you’re looking for hosting consider picking one running it. LiteSpeed is designed to use identical configuration to Apache even though under the hood it works more like nginx. Thus I’ve never had any issues migrating from Apache to LiteSpeed.

Anyway, about this plugin. As well as page caching this free plugin provides CSS and JS minification and deferring, DNS prefetching, lazy loading, WebP image conversion, CDN integration, browser caching, link preloading and more.

In my experience LiteSpeed Cache on LiteSpeed servers beats every other caching plugin running on Apache.

Alternatives to LiteSpeed Cache:

Rank Math

Rank Math plugin
  • Category: SEO
  • Price: Free for now
  • Active installations: 100,000+
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Weekly

A relative newbie in the market, Rank Math has taken the WordPress world by storm with aggressive development. This great SEO tool rolls the features of several plugins into one, providing schema markup, internal linking suggestions, 404 monitoring and redirections to boot. All this is built in a modular fashion so you can deactivate any modules you don’t need.

The plugin has a handy setup wizard and advanced sitewide and page/post SEO analysis tools. If you use Elementor this plugin has deep integration, allowing configuration within the Elementor editor.

Really Simple SSL

Really Simple SSL plugin
  • Category: Security
  • Price: Free with premium features
  • Active installations: 3+ million
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Almost monthly

After issuing a security certificate with your host enable SSL with this plugin with one click. Content can be set to redirect from http to https via internal WordPress 301 (for e.g nginx servers) or .htaccess.

Alternatives to Really Simple SSL:

UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus plugin
  • Category: Backup
  • Price: Free with premium features
  • Active installations: 2+ million
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Monthly

With this plugin you can back up your database, plugins, themes, uploads and other directories inside wp-content. This can be done manually or automatically from as regular as every two hours to monthly, and you can set how many backups are retained before deletion.

Backups can be sent to remote cloud storage (e.g Dropbox, Azure, OpenStack, Amazon S3, Google Drive and others) or your own host via FTP.

Pro addons include site cloning and migration, incremental backups, pre-update backups, multisite compatibility and backup to UpdraftPlus servers.

Alternatives to UpdraftPlus:

WooCommerce

WooCommerce plugin
  • Category: E-commerce
  • Price: Free with premium addon plugins
  • Active installations: 5+ million
  • Community rating: 4.5/5
  • Update frequency: Roughly every other month

Considering how much is included in this tool it’s amazing it’s free. It has become the standard for WordPress e-commerce, providing secure payments though many payment gateways, product variations, automatic tax and shipping calculations, integration with Google Analytics, MailChimp and Facebook and more. The plugin benefits from a strong community of developers creating open source and pro plugins and themes for WooCommerce providing plenty of additional functionality.

Alternatives to WooCommerce:

Wordfence Security

Wordfence Security plugin
  • Category: Security
  • Price: Free with premium features
  • Active installations: 3+ million
  • Community rating: 5/5
  • Update frequency: Monthly

This is the most popular security plugin of the WordPress security world. WordFence are at the forefront of security efforts, researching attacks like sleuths and issuing timely patches for vulnerabilities within WordPress.

Free features include an advanced firewall, custom blocking, brute force protection, live traffic view (can negatively impact site speed so keep turned off when not in use) and a vulnerability scanner.

Author: Aidan Ashby

Aidan is a web and branding designer living in Northampton, UK. He’s a cautious optimist and is loathe to discuss himself in the third person. He loves pancakes and has a perpetual desire to just be sat in the woods with his feet up in front of a bonfire.

Connect with Aidan on LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

  1. James Smith

    Thanks for sharing this information about WordPress plugins it’s very amazing and very helpful for me. keep it up. thank you very much:)

    Reply

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