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Plugin Toolbox: A List Of All The WordPress Plugins We Use (And Why)

By James LePage
 on July 4, 2020
Last modified on January 7th, 2022

Plugin Toolbox: A List Of All The WordPress Plugins We Use (And Why)

By James LePage
 on July 4, 2020
Last modified on January 7th, 2022

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!

Our Plugin Toolbox

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 NamePricingPlugin Category Plugin LinkPlugin Use
BreezeFreeCaching & SpeedHereSpeed up Cloudways websites.
WP RocketPaidCaching & SpeedHereSpeed up other websites.
Asset Cleanup ProPaidCaching & SpeedHerePage specific optimization.
EWWWFreeImage OptimizationHereImage optimization.
ShortPixelPaidImage OptimizationHereOffsite image optimization.
Elementor ProPaidPage/Theme BuildersHereTheme builder (good for clients).
Oxygen BuilderPaidPage/Theme BuildersHereTheme builder (good for devs).
CPTUIFreePage/Theme BuildersHereAdd new post types.
ACF ProPaidPage/Theme BuildersHereAdvanced custom fields.
Code SnippetsFreeMiscHereAdd code snippets.
SendInBlueFreeMailingHereFree SMTP transactional email.
Formidable FormsPaidFormsHereDev focused forms.
Gravity FormsPaidFormsHereForms with extensions.
SucuriPaidSecurityHereAgency security.
WordFenceFreeSecurityHereFree security.
All In One WP MigrateFreeMigrationHereMigrate websites.

Caching & Speed

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.

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).

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.

Image Optimization

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).

Page/Theme Builders

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mailing

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.

Forms

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.

Security

Depending on the website, we will end up using one of two security services.

SEO

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.

Migration

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.

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Dmitry
Dmitry
1 year ago

Hello!
This is an awesome list – so many great tools mentioned. I have used many of these…

Thank you for your hard work.

Umek
Umek
1 year ago

why no mention of SEO plugins?

Umek
Umek
1 year ago
Reply to  James LePage

Thanks

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James LePage
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James LePage is the founder of Isotropic Design, a digital agency that builds WordPress websites. I read, write and design constantly!
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