We are frequently asked what plugins we use most often in client websites. in this article, we're going to list every plugin that we frequently use in our client websites. we've been building websites for the past four years, and in that time we've identified a list of plugins that work really well for us. Most premium plugins on this list, we have a unlimited agency license for, and most free plugins are extremely solid and stable.
Of course, you should never copy this list all together. We wrote this to give you a good idea of the plugins that we use, which you may be able to incorporate into your workflow, increasing the efficiency of your design process. At the same time, it's not a good idea to run down the list, head to each website, and simply purchase the plug-in because we use it.
Instead, you should use this as a starting off point to do more research into if this solution is a good one for you. We strongly recommend every plugin on this list, and have only had good experiences with them. Likewise, some of these links are affiliate links (or even partnership links). Some of these links are not affiliate links.
The defining factor of every plugin on this list is the fact that we use it in almost all of our WordPress web design projects. We're going to keep this list updated into the future, so if we begin using a new plugin in the future, we will correspondingly update this article. If we stop using a future plugin (which typically means that we won't renew our agency license), it will be removed from the list.
One more thing before we get into it. We're extremely knowledgeable and familiar with each plugin on this list. If you have any questions, simply head to the comments section of this article , and ask them. We'd be extremely happy to answer!
The following table is a list of all the plugins that we actively use in our WordPress development projects. Clicking on the title of the plugin will bring you to the description entry in this article, while clicking on the website link will direct you to the landing page for the plugin. This list is separated into use categories.
|Plugin Name||Pricing||Plugin Category||Plugin Link||Plugin Use|
|Breeze||Free||Caching & Speed||Here||Speed up Cloudways websites.|
|WP Rocket||Paid||Caching & Speed||Here||Speed up other websites.|
|Asset Cleanup Pro||Paid||Caching & Speed||Here||Page specific optimization.|
|EWWW||Free||Image Optimization||Here||Image optimization.|
|ShortPixel||Paid||Image Optimization||Here||Offsite image optimization.|
|Elementor Pro||Paid||Page/Theme Builders||Here||Theme builder (good for clients).|
|Oxygen Builder||Paid||Page/Theme Builders||Here||Theme builder (good for devs).|
|CPTUI||Free||Page/Theme Builders||Here||Add new post types.|
|ACF Pro||Paid||Page/Theme Builders||Here||Advanced custom fields.|
|Code Snippets||Free||Misc||Here||Add code snippets.|
|SendInBlue||Free||Mailing||Here||Free SMTP transactional email.|
|Formidable Forms||Paid||Forms||Here||Dev focused forms.|
|Gravity Forms||Paid||Forms||Here||Forms with extensions.|
|All In One WP Migrate||Free||Migration||Here||Migrate websites.|
To speed up our WordPress websites, we have two go two plugins that we incorporate in client websites. The usage of each plugin depends on the host that the website is served from. As we've stated before, our recommended host is Cloudways. If we're hosting the website on Cloudways (with the underlying cloud provider being Digital Ocean), then will use the free caching plugin created by them called Breeze.
If we host the website on any other platform, we will use WP Rocket. WP Rocket is a premium plugin, but can be configured in a matter of seconds by uploading a JSON that contains all settings. This caching solution also offers a suite of other performance optimization tools , and we use it to add lazy loading, merge and minify files, and optimize our database.
The reason that we only use Breeze on Cloudways websites, and we use WP Rocket on all other websites is this. Breeze is perfectly optimized and created to work on Cloudways servers. Cloudways servers have varnish caching as well as a host of other performance features. Breeze integrates with these features perfectly (such as a stack path CDN) saving us time when it comes to the set up. We also compared Breeze and WP rocket, and found that Breeze resulted in a faster loading website on Cloudways.
The solution is also free, and beats out the premium WP Rocket when running on a website hosted on Cloudways. It's very simple to set up, all you need to do is check off a couple boxes, and hit the apply changes button.
On the other hand, WP rocket results in a much faster website on Every other host. Typically, if our client is not hosting on Cloudways, they are using budget shared hosting from Bluehost or GoDaddy. WP Rocket works very well on these providers (better than all free solutions out there).
This plugin is super well designed, and allows us to make our websites faster than anything that a free caching plugin could offer (We actually did a statistical study on this!). It's also really well designed, and the development team continuously adds new features. specifically for sites built with Elementor, we’re able to preload icon fonts (if these aren't preloaded, the PageSpeed score is massively impacted).
If we're building a website with Elementor, or if it has a large collection of plugins, we will install a solution called Asset Clean Up. This plugin allows us to go on a page by page basis, and disable specific scripts and CSS files. By doing this, we reduce the number of HTTP requests and size of data loaded, resulting in an overall quicker page speed loading time.
Asset Clean Up Pro also has a built-in plugin management system. In our opinion, this is an extremely powerful feature that isn't talked about enough. This feature allows us to disable plugins sitewide, and only have their scripts run when necessary. An example would be with gravity forms. by default, gravity forms loads its CSS stylesheet throughout the entire website.
Image optimization is an incredibly important aspect of any website development project. We do graphic design in-house, and tried to size the images accordingly. However, it's important to use a plugin to automatically resize, compress, and convert the legacy format to WebP. Depending on the hosting that our client website is on, we will use one of two plugins: EWWW (free) or ShortPixel (paid).
By running the optimization using our own servers resources, we don't need to pay for Any credits or API access to optimize images. We can easily enable lazy loading, and convert JPEG and PNG formats to WebP. This is a great plugin to be used on a website that is less image heavy, like a corporate website that only has a blog for SEO purposes.
We only use this plugin on high powered hosting such as Pressidium or Cloudways. most budget hosting offerings do not have enough resources to use this plugin, and will result in timeouts and website crashes. For that style of hosting, we will use the next option.
This is a great solution if your client is on low powered hosting that can't handle optimizing images. For example, if you install EWWW and frequently have server timeouts, you'll probably want to look for a solution that allows you to optimize images off site.
ShortPixel also does bulk optimization really well, and we can automate our tasks saving us time on the maintenance side of things. We get 5000 images a month for about $5, costs which are passed on to our clients. Of course, this only makes sense if it is a larger website and the client is consistently publishing content that contains images that need optimization.
What's nice is that you can purchase API credits, and they are not limited to one website. If you're a developer or agency, that means you can purchase a bunch of credits, and use them on multiple client websites
We typically build websites with one of the two plugins mentioned below. If our client specifically needs to be able to edit the website structurally, but has no technical knowledge, we will create the website with Elementor. Unfortunately, Elementor isn't super powerful when it comes to customization and development, and it's also very bloated and poor performing.
If we can at all help it, we will use a theme builder called Oxygen Builder. This is much more oriented towards developers, and basically allows you to create the website with HTML elements and CSS styling. It's much more bare bones when compared to Elementor, but because of this it loads much quicker and offers us a lot more flexibility. We also use it to build Gutenberg blocks for our clients, so they can easily “build” pages and posts. We're definitely trying to transition more towards using Oxygen Builder -- and recently converted our agency website to use this solution.
There are definitely some drawbacks when it comes to this page builder, but the usability it offers our client far outweighs them. Elementor is a bit limited if you're a developer, and it is also very slow performing.
As mentioned above, this plugin is extremely fast, and oriented for developers. That means that we can build super responsive, customized websites using this tool.
One of our favorite parts of this solution is the fact that it allows us to build Gutenberg blocks, and create pages that can easily be edited by clients in Gutenberg as well. Like it or not, we believe that Gutenberg is the future of WordPress. This theme builder allows us to incorporate that into the web sites, visually create, and access advanced tools.
If we can help it, we would choose Oxygen over Elementor any day of the week.
When it comes to building websites we typically find ourselves needing to extend the general functionality of WordPress. We do this by creating custom post types with CPTUI and custom fields with ACF Pro.
For example, when building a website we will typically create a custom post type for these services that the company has to offer. This tool allows us to easily do that, as well as add categories and tags (custom taxonomies).
ACF Pro Works super well with both Oxygen Builder and Elementor.
We also use this plugin to create Options Pages. This is great because it allows us to create a central location where clients can Change global settings like the website logo, color scheme, and typography.
Another functionality that we use often is the Gallery field. The Gallery field allows clients to upload multiple photos and create (you guessed it) Galleries. because we typically work with service companies, this is an extremely important functionality to include . Typically, we use CPT UI to create a custom portfolio post type, and this Gallery field to display that portfolio entry visually.
On the topic of developer plugins, we also wanted to mention a free plug in that is used in 100% of our websites. That plugin is Code Snippets, and it allows us to quickly add PHP code snippets to WordPress without having to go in and edit the themes Functions.PHP. In the case of Oxygen Builder, that file is disabled, so Code Snippets becomes even more necessary.
Probably the most popular use case for this plugin is installing Google Analytics to our websites, but we also use it to add specific PHP snippets that extend the functionality of each client website.
Another plugin that we're going to mention here (but it's not going to get its own entry panel simply because we don't use it in the majority of our websites) is called Custom Fonts. This allows us to easily upload font files to WordPress and generates a font face in the background, meaning we can use CSS to easily add custom fonts to our WordPress website. It works well with Elementor.
PHP Mail has low deliverability rates and can typically end up in spam depending on the type of host. on the other hand, Cloudways doesn't come with a built-in Mailing feature, so we usually need to add SMTP capabilities to our WordPress website. For this, we use SendInBlue. For most websites, this is a free installation as you get 300 transactional emails per day. This is more than enough for most form/wordfence/admin notifications. 4 hour agency websites, we pay for a plan and split the quota across each site.
We also recently begin Using this service to connect email subscriptions from our website, as they offer email campaigns and list building capabilities as well. We can definitely grow with this company, as we use barely any of the services that they have to offer. For example, you can set up SMS (like Twillo), run super customized campaigns, and more. Most of these features are paid, but they actually end up being cheaper than MailChimp when used at scale.
We go back and forth between these two form providers (both paid). Gravity Forms comes with a ton of integrations and third party add-ons that seriously extend the functionality of it. However, the back-end design is fairly dated, and if we're not purchasing integrations, then we'd prefer to use Formidable Forms. Formidable Forms is more developer friendly, has a much more modern back end interface, and plays nice with Oxygen Builder.
Our top addons are the:
Yes, this is a forms plugin, but the extensions that you can access for this platform seriously add tons of additional functionality. Honestly, you could probably build an entire web application with WordPress, Gravity Forms, and some CSS styling.
The three main things that set this forum plugin apart from others is:
We can easily display entries on the front end. for example, customers can view payments made through the form. This removes the need for WooCommerce in some situations.
We can build global style sets visually, without the need for CSS. This is helpful because there is poor documentation for many form plugins when it comes to CSS styling, and it saves us a lot of time period we can also export these style sets an import them into other installations of the form plugin.
There are tons of advanced developer tools/features. For example, right next to the shortcode, there's a PHP snippet that you can use to embed the form in your website.
Depending on the website, we will end up using one of two security services.
We use it to consistently scan web sites, protect them with a web application firewall, and integrate two factor Authentication Into the login for WordPress. There's not much else to say here, the plugin does its job very well, is free, and offers us pretty much everything we need Related to security in an individual package.
Keep in mind that you'll need to pay for this service, but it's very valuable as it saves you a lot of time. If you're an agency, you can simply include these costs in your maintenance plan. If the client doesn't want to pay for security, we’ll simply add Wordfence to the website and call it a day.
For basic sites, we stick with hardcoding meta tags, removing the need for a SEO plugin, but for larger content sites, these tools can really speed things up.
Read our review on the pro version here: https://isotropic.co/rankmath-pro-is-here-is-it-worth-it/
This tool is included in our Lean and Lightweight Plugins post.
We typically develop the website on Local (offline) or Pantheon Dev hosting (online), Which means that we need to migrate the website to the live host upon completion of development. We've used every plugin under the sun, but find that All In One WP Migrate is the best, and simplest option out there.
We can also schedule consistent exports of the website (read; backup) with hourly, daily, and weekly options. Because we purchased the Amazon S3 extension, we also have access to the Unlimited Extension which is used in all of our migrations as well.