One of the biggest advantages of WordPress is the wide world of free plugins. There are so many. It’s hard to know what’s worth using and what’s not. It’s also good to keep in mind that using too many plugins can slow down your site and cause theme conflicts and make your site more vulnerable. Eeeek. BUT, I still recommend using them, just judiciously. There are some seriously great ones that I don’t want you to miss out on. Here are my favorite:
Askimet: essential comment spam blocker.
Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode: This is my go-to plugin if I’m making major changes to a site or building it live. You can quickly create a simple and nice “coming soon” page so people aren’t completely thrown off by your site in disarray.
Contact Form 7: This is a simple contact form that has tons of flexibility. It’s completely stripped down, so you have to have styles already set up within your theme for a form or you need to custom style it. It’s the only form I use.
Disqus Comment System: This plugin is just way better than WordPress native comments. It’s a lot prettier and easier for people to use and keeps people updated on replies. It also adds additional content to the footer of your posts if you want, like related posts.
Instagram for WordPress: There are a lot of Instagram plugins and I’ve installed and tested many of them. For some reason, this is the only one I’ve tried that actually works. You can configure it in a grid or in slideshow mode.
Widget Context: For those times when you only want certain widgets displayed on certain pages, this plugin makes it really easy.
Widget Importer & Exporter: I love this plugin. I use it when I’m transferring site contents (like from a test site to a live site). But it’s also handy if you want to change themes. For some reason, when you change themes in WordPress, all of your widget settings go with it. So this is a way to actually save and export your widgets and settings and then re-import them. It’s great to have for a backup.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox: A lot of backup plugins (especially free ones) for WordPress often backup to a folder hosted on your site. So if your site goes down or is hacked, then, oops. With this plugin you schedule a backup that goes straight to Dropbox.