11 of Our Favorite WordPress Plugins

Most of the sites we build at POTG Design utilize WordPress’s robust content management system. This means we also have access to a plethora of great plugins to make the entire experience even better. Here is a roundup of some of our favorite plugins for WordPress.

1. W3 Total Cache

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This is the most complete WordPress performance framework. Default WordPress installations now come with WP Super Cache, which is pretty great at performance optimization, but W3 Total Cache really takes the cake for its excellent interface and customization options. The plugin is free and greatly enhances your site’s user experience by improving serve performance, cache every aspect of your site, reducing download times, and providing transparent content delivery (CDN) integration. All features are customizable, so you can select only those options you want to utilize. A must-have for all websites.

2. Editorial Calendar

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Editorial Calendar is a super plugin that makes it possible to see all your scheduled posts in a nice calendar format. The real selling point is that you can drag and drop posts in the calendar and the posts will automatically be rescheduled to the correct day. Plus you can edit posts right in the calendar and manage posts from multiple authors. A must-have for any blog or magazine publishing regular content.

3. Ajax Event Calendar

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Ajax Event Calendar is a super easy-to-use community calendar and event list that allows authorized users to manage events. This is an awesome plugin, and to date, I haven’t see any other calendar plugin that has the features this one does. This is ideal for a website running any sort of community event calendar that needs to be updated by multiple users. With this plugin, you can create authorized users (ie. Calendar Contributors – so they don’t have access to editing anything else in the dashboard except the calendar), and events can be added, edited, moved, etc. into custom categories. The calendar itself can be added to any page, post, or text widget on the site with a simple shortcode. Seriously awesome. (See one example of it running here: http://lalitscene.com)

4. Custom Contact Forms

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Custom Contact Forms is a really robust plugin that offers a lot more functionality and options than the popular Contact Form 7 plugin. There are a ton of customization options for the forms and fields, you can rearrange fields using a nice drag-and-drop interface, you can view form submissions in a dashboard widget (really great), you can create custom HTML forms, and a ton more features. Best of all, it’s free!

5. Gravity Forms

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Though we recommended the Custom Contact Forms above, you’re right, no other¬† form system really compare to Gravity Forms. The only thing is that Gravity Forms is not free. (For a single license it’s $39). But especially if you’re working on a project where the forms are an integral part of the site or contribute greatly to user experience, Gravity Forms is well worth the money. The form builder interface is really easy to use and you can customize every aspect of it. You can even create multi-page forms. Plus, you can employ conditional logic on form fields, you can easily create order forms with custom field options, shipping methods, and total calculators, and you can view all your entries in the WordPress dashboard. The list of features really goes on and on. If you’re working with forms and you need anything beyond the basics, you want Gravity Forms.

6. Jetpack

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Jetpack is a plugin that basically supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with awesome features previously only available to WordPress.com users. Features include site statistics, email subscriptions for your blog’s posts, easily embedded media, a widget for displaying recent tweets, a spelling & grammar checker, and integrated social share buttons.

7. Disqus Commenting

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The Disqus for WordPress plugin seamless integrates using the Disqus API and by syncing with WordPress comments. The system basically replaces the default WordPress commenting system and offers a large range of options, share buttons, and increased spam protection.

8. Google XML Sitemaps

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This handy plugin automatically generates your site’s XML sitemap to submit to search engines like Google, plus updates automatically when you post new content. Super convenient and great for SEO.

9. Google Analyticator

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Google Analyticator is a simple plugin that adds the necessary Javascript code to enable Google Analytics tracking on your WordPress site. The plugin also includes dashboard widgets for Analytics data display.

10. Cart66

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Cart66 is a premium e-commerce shopping cart plugin for selling both digital and physical products and services. From all the other shopping cart options out there that integrate with WordPress, we found Cart66 to be the most customizable and robust. It comes with all the basic e-commerce functionality, including product configurations, custom field options, live shipping, sales tax options, and inventory tracking. In addition, it allows for premium membership subscriptions and the ability to sell both digital and physical products. The fully functional premium plugin can be licensed for $89 for a single website, though there is also a limited “lite” version available as a free download.

11. Slick Social Share Buttons

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Slick Social Share is a nice little plugin that adds social media share buttons (ie. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Digg, & others) in a slick looking floating or sliding panel. The plugin also allows you to see all of your social metrics on the admin page. Works with all of the major social networks and offers some customization options for displaying the buttons.

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