We all know that WordPress comes with an abundance of plugins to tackle just about every form of functionality you can imagine, however that does not necessarily mean you should use them all. WordPress is considered to be quite demanding on your server as it is and the more plugins you add the more demand is placed on the server. I have said before that most plugins add additional scripts and stylesheets to your site increasing the total number of requests and in turn slowing your site down.
The following list are the plugins that I currently use for my site and I will explain why:
W3 Total Cache
This one is pretty obvious as you already know this plugin aids in caching and improving performance for your site. I have a dedicated server so I do not use this for the purpose of enabling Gzip Compression or Database Caching because those are configured on the server directly. However I do use it solely for caching and integrating my content delivery network (CDN) provided by Max CDN.
WP Gravatar Mini Cache
This plugin caches Gravatars, Gravatars provide you with a profile which is linked to an email address so when you comment on a site people will see your profile picture. The problem with Gravatars is that they look like this…
…and that’s only half of it.
This means they cannot be cached and for posts with lots of comments on them, this can be a problem as it takes longer to load.
Another reason for this plugin is because it caches the new Gravatar on your server so it looks like this.
It still looks long, however its a perfectly valid request that can be cached and behaves like a normal image and can be served by my CDN.
Of course the cache for this plugin can be cleared if you need to.
Google XML Sitemaps v3 for qTranslate
This plugin generates sitemaps for me, so each time I make a post it automatically updates and informs search engines.
This is the plugin that I have found to be the most effective and just does what it needs to do.
It can generate both .xml and .xml.gz which is the compressed version.
There are a whole bunch of options available but the defaults seem to do just fine.
Pretty Link Lite
Most of you will know what this plugin is and what it does, it helps masks affiliate links and no, it is not to be deceiving. There are several reasons for it and the main reason would be that there is software around that can change your affiliate links from yours to theirs and thus steal any income produced by your site.
So it is not to trick you, its for security but also it looks nicer and pretty link lite gives you some stats so you can see how many people viewed or clicked on your links. We all know we like to see how our site is performing don’t we.
This plugin prevents about 99.9% of spam and the best thing about it is it is super light and FREE. Most people use the pre-installed Akismet, but I find that plugin to be somewhat overkill. There is no need to store information in the database in order to prevent spam. The fact is, the vast majority of spam comes from bots, so the solution is to simply deny those bots access to comments.php and that is exactly what this plugin does.
Simple solution to a relatively simple problem.
Here is the link to the correct Anti-spam plugin.
I use gravity forms for all my contact forms and other various forms like questionnaires etc. Simply put, gravity forms allows you to build a large number of different forms for pretty much any purpose and configure them all to your needs. All data is stored so that you can view how many people have used it. This information backed with Google Analytics data for that page can give you some insight in to how well your page is converting.
So there you have it, the above plugins are the only ones I use on this site.
Remember less is better.
Sometime I modify plugins in order to make them more efficient where possible, these practices include preventing the style sheets and scripts loading and with Thesis 2 I can add the scripts back only on the templates I need and if required create a specific template just for that purpose. I can also add the necessary CSS to the single stylesheet and thus maintain that single request. Something I need to do with Gravity form.
You should always be able to justify the need for a plugin in WordPress as it is very easy to get carried away, each plugin is potentially a new entry point for bots and other malicious things that roam the web. They are also just another point of failure, you become too dependent on these plugins being updated on a regular basis as WordPress itself updates. All of the plugins I use above are well maintained and are respected products in their free or premium forms.
You can find all these plugins available via searching for them in the plugin directory of wp-admin.
Tell me which plugins you find essential and tell me why?