In a couple of years, WordPress has grown from a blogging platform towards a more complex CMS orientated platform. Today more than 25 million people use WordPress. What makes the diversity of this platform and what enables the CMS to easily adapt to many situations is the huge quantity and diversity of plugins available. Nearly 16,000 plugins can be freely downloaded from the WordPress plugin directory, and even more can be found on the internet.
Image credit: teamstickergiant
In this article, we will focus on a selection of 10 plugins that make the developer’s life easier by enhancing some WordPress functionalities and thus create a more useful and easier administration area that make clients happy.
1. Gecka Submenu
Gecka submenu is a useful plugin to enhance WordPress navigation. Repository says: "When you have a website based on WordPress with a lot of pages, but you need a custom menu, it can be tedious to have to add a menu entry for each page created. Submenu just does it automatically."
That’s one part of the plugin: it will add to the WordPress menu administration page a checkbox called "automatically populate with child pages". Using this checkbox makes both the developer's and client’s life easier: they only need to put the top parent pages of the hierarchy in the menu, and Gecka will do the rest of the job.
The other and, in my opinion, most interesting part of this plugin is its widget which creates a secondary navigation that can be used in sidebars. The plus point of this plugin is that it comes with an option to chose which WordPress menu will be used. Developers can then choose the level they want to start the menu with, and the depth.
This is very useful when menus are for example composed of pages and categories (and even custom post types), it becomes easy to create a secondary menu in the sidebar based on a complex primary menu, in just a few quick clicks.
2. Simple Page Ordering
With this plugin, changing the page order has never been so easy: all you have to do is drag and drop the page whose order you want to change, and the new page order is save. Page order can be quickly rearranged, without the need to quick edit (or edit) each page, or to play with the page order attribute. There is no new administration menu, no clutter on the page. The pages just become draggable, as simple as that.
WordPress is a great CMS, but sometimes clients need more editable content blocks than the “normal” text area provided. I was facing this issue when dealing with a homepage that needed to display two blocks. Of course it is either possible to create custom fields, but no tinymce editor will be provided, or to create two pages, and use some queries to display their content on the homepage, but it makes the job harder and might get the client confused.
Would it not be nice to be able to simply add new editable text areas to specific pages when needed? The three following plugins (3,4 & 5) provide solutions for this issue in two different ways.
3. Pagely MultiEdit Plugin
This plugin tackles the multiple content blocks in a very graceful way: it adds new tabs in the admin area for each new block of content the developer will want to create. The creation of those tabs is pretty easy for developers too. All they have to do is create a new page template, assigning the name of blocks they want to create, and then assign this custom template to the page where they want to have more content blocks.
Pretty simple and elegant for the end-user, who will just have to switch tabs to fill the new content areas, using the tinymce editor provided by WordPress in each block.
4. Just Custom Fields
This plugin tackles the problem of multiple blocks in another way. With Just Custom Fields, it is possible to add text areas with wysiwyg editors to pages, custom post types or posts. The UI for creating those boxes is pretty intuitive for developers. A huge variety of field types can be added: text boxes, wysiwyg boxes, but also checkboxes, date pickers and media uploaders, etc.
5. Custom Field Template
The Custom Field Template does the same thing as Just Custom Fields, but with more options: it provides a simple way to add blocks of content to articles, pages and even custom post types. The UI to create the custom fields is less user-friendly than the one of the previous plugin, but the options of this plugin are larger.
The developer can for example restrain the custom fields to only certain post IDs, certain categories, etc. The field options are also wider; with this plugin it is possible for instance to create an easy Jquery date picker, wysiwyg blocks of content with image uploader, etc. The large list of options makes this plugin one of the most flexible to add and manage nicer custom fields than the one provided with the default WordPress UI.
6. Smart WYSIWYG Blocks of Content
This plugin adds a custom post type that the user can re-use anywhere on a website. It is pretty useful for adding information in the sidebar or footer that the end-user might need to edit, but are not real “pages”. The plugin comes with short codes, to add the custom post types content directly in articles or pages, but also with a widget that can be used in any sidebar area.
As an example, I use the plugin on my blog for the list “Keep in touch”. This could be achieved by copy- pasting the code in a simple text widget, but most end-users have no idea how to write HTML. Since the SMWBC uses custom post type, the user benefits from the WordPress wysiwyg, can easily add pictures, etc.
There are plenty of image slideshow plugins out there, but most of them require lots of configuration and are not that user friendly. Sometimes there are just too many options when clients might just need a simple plugin that would do the job. The next two plugins (7 & 8) are user-friendly, easy to set up and light image sliders.
7. Easing Slider
This plugin creates a simple, but elegant image slideshow. The slideshow can be created from category thumbnails, custom fields within posts from a chosen category, but users can also upload images one by one. It is possible to add a link on each image, to enable / disable the next – previous buttons, to change slideshow size, etc. The list of options are pretty basic, but sufficient for most users. This slider is added using a simple short code on a page or article.
The “free” version is limited to 10 pictures and one slideshow, but the commercial one grants access to more images and unlimited number of slideshows. In most cases if the client just needs one slider on the homepage to gracefully display pictures, this plugin will do the job in an easy and elegant way. It is also perfect to showcase portfolio thumbnails for example.
8. Meteor Slide
This plugin is currently my favorite when I need a simple slideshow. It is based on custom post types, so it is perfectly integrated in the WordPress UI and works like posts do. The user adds new slide images as he would add a post; he adds an image, a title and can add a link to the image. Then he assigns this image to a slideshow, the same way he would assign a post to a category.
The slideshows can be added to posts-pages using a short code, a PHP snippet, or can be dragged and dropped in the sidebar by using the widget. The transitions are based on the jQuery cycle plugin. The big limitation is that the options are the same for all slideshows, so it is not possible to create a different size for each slideshow.
9. Totally Remove Comments
When using WordPress as a CMS, some clients won’t need comments. This plugin removes any mention of the comments in the administration area, so that developers will avoid the “why are there comments I don’t want comments on my site” phone call. Developers must nevertheless be careful and not forget to remove the comment mention and loop from templates
10. Bonus point: Custom post type UI
This is not a plugin that will make the client’s life easier, per se. As a matter of fact he won’t even notice it, but this plugin will save some time (and copy pasting from codex) for developers. Custom post type UI, as you might have guessed, provides a simple wysiwyg way to create custom post types, and custom taxonomies.
The great part, is that the developer can get the code of the CPT he/she just created. I usually have this plugin installed on a test WordPress, just to generate the code for the custom post types and taxonomies, and then copy-paste this code to the functions.php of the website I’m working on.
WordPress plugins are not only here to enhance WordPress core functionalities, but also to make the WordPress administration area easier to understand for clients. And a happy client is a client that might recommend you to his friends, or come back with another project. What makes clients happier than being able to win time and to easily update their website with a user friendlier interface?
In this article I really tried to showcase some useful plugins that are not always mentioned on other XX top lists of plugins, but if you need a more exhaustive list of plugins you might want to take a look at this top 1000 WordPress plugin list.
So now it's your turn. Do you have other useful plugins that make your life easier that you would like to share with us ? Which is the WordPress plugin that makes your life easier that you could not live without anymore?