Here is a list of WordPress plugins that I personally make sure to install on every WordPress site I create. After choosing and installing your chosen WordPress theme the next step is usually to add the plugins that provide the functionality you need on your website.
Essential WordPress Plugins to Install
W3 Total Cache – As I indicated on my post about how to make your WordPress blog faster, This caching plugin is a must for every WP site big or small. It can save you a lot of both processing and bandwidth resources. This plugin is very effective. You can check your site’s speed improvement with a site called Pingdom. Though the plugin normally doesn’t require any configuring upon first install, if you go to the plugin’s options page it might look intimidating and complicated. This part of W3 Total Cache could use a little makeover.
Widget Logic – This plugin will add additional control over your website. With widget logic you can specify where your widgets will show up. If you want certain widgets to only appear on the homepage then no problem just add is_home() on the widget logic area below each widgets. Or you might want specific widgets to show only on some specific pages or posts. You only need to know some basic php arguments to accomplish these. As an example, observe that on my right sidebar the “Most Recent Post” widget only appears on posts and pages and not on the homepage.
PHP Code Widget – This plugin is in the same vein as Widget Logic. It enables you to execute your own custom php code. You just add your code to a php widget just like you add text on a text widget. You can use this widget to accomplish custom functions. For example, some type of plugins like slider plugins may require you to add their shortcode on the theme files. If your theme supports many widget areas and you chose one of those areas for your slider to appear on then you can just add the shortcode on the php widget. You can even wrap the shortcode on some php arguments to have more control on where the slider would appear.
Lightbox Plus Colorbox – This used to be named “Lightbox Plus”. I hate the fact that it was renamed to a longer “Lightbox Plus Colorbox” but I guess the author has his reasons. Anyway this is a good plugin to handle images. This will allow a smaller thumbnail of an image to display in its original size when clicked. This could save you bandwidth by not directly calling the file in its original size. You can use this on single images or on galleries. Here is an example, as you can see I also frequently add a “Click the image to expand” text on most of my post containing lightbox images.
Akismet – This plugin by default is included on every fresh install of WordPress. Akismet helps fight those nasty spam left by spam bots and those soulless SEO Villains. You do need to have your own key for the plugin to work. The key is free for personal, non-commercial blogs.
Optional Plugins that I also Install
You don’t necessarily need these but it’s a little convenient to have them.
WordPress SEO By Yoast – I mainly use this plugin for a few of its functionality and not necessarily because of it’s supposed SEO magic. I use Yoast to generate xml sitemaps that are recommended to be used on Google Webmaster’s Tool. I also use this plugin to modify the titles of posts and pages.
WP-PageNavi – This plugin transforms the navigational links on blogs into numbers instead of “Older Posts & Newer Posts”. It makes the blog a little more navigable and accessible. It’s also visually appealing to have those numbered buttons on your blogs. Some WordPress themes like “Easel” have even made this plugin part of the theme’s function. Check my homepage to see this plugin in action. I styled it to appear with a dark gradient background.