WordPress For the Web Developer: Top 10 Plugins

By David Fiedler

In the introduction to this series on WordPress For the Web Developer, I promised to show you some of the plugins that can help make your WordPress site extremely functional right away. This article will detail the top ten essential free plugins that I've standardized on for virtually all my sites, after plenty of testing and winnowing through similar plugins. They can save you many hours of unproductive, repetitive work.

Akismet

Anyone who's been on the net for more than 30 minutes or so is familiar with spam, but not as familiar as you will be once you have even a moderately successful website that allows comments. Spam is big business now, and fighting it is a professional job. Fortunately, the professionals that wrote WordPress are also behind the Akismet plugin, and it's provided and supported free as well. Akismet effectively and silently removes virtually all spam, period. The only “catch” is that you'll have to register for an API key, which is free for personal use. That's pretty neat, because Akismet is also supported on competing platforms such as Drupal and Joomla and Movable Type.

Bad Behavior

Just in case Akismet isn't enough protection for you, there's Bad Behavior. As the name implies, this plugin doesn't actually look at spam itself, but at the way your site is being accessed. So it knows how to block things like spambots and email address harvesters, stopping them from even getting to your site. Working together with Akismet, it will let you forget spammers and concentrate on writing, designing, and coding. Oh, and Bad Behavior also works on many other systems too; practically anything that runs on PHP.

All In One SEO Pack

Probably the best-named plugin ever, All In One SEO Pack is effectively a mini-dashboard from where you can very easily tweak your site's Search Engine Optimization settings. The download page also contains hints and tips on the rationale behind the settings the author recommends...which just happen to be the defaults!

WP-DBManager

This is the kind of boring-sounding plugin that nobody would want, unless they have some IT experience and know that Murphy's Law is what really runs servers, not Apache. WP-DBManager lets you optimize, query, and repair your MySQL database tables. It also lets you backup and restore them – effectively protecting the entire critical, constantly-changing database at the heart of your WordPress installation (although you should also have a backup of all your static files too). But wait, there's more! It also lets you schedule optimizations and backups, and it will even email zipped-up backup files to you...all automatically. The best part is that if you have multiple WordPress sites hosted on the same server, or even on the same database server, WP-DBManager will back all their tables up simultaneously. You can just set it up once, and forget about it until it saves you.

WP-Cache

Speaking of plugins that can save you, WP-Cache is probably the only thing short of a dedicated server farm that could help you withstand a SlashDotting or Digg Effect. Generally, if you are lucky or clever enough to get your WordPress site noticed by one of these traffic shakers, your site will be very popular for about 10 minutes, until it comes to a crashing halt. The design of WP-Cache is such that it will let your site handle many times its usual capacity. In fact, it's so efficient that it will prevent you from seeing design and text changes while you're making them, so I usually keep it deactivated unless I'm posting a really good article.

Sociable

And how do you get your articles noticed by social media sites, anyway? One easy way is to add the Sociable plugin, which will then show readers the icons of their (or your) favorite sites at the end of each article, easily allowing them to simply click to spread the word. There are literally dozens of social media sites included, so I recommend you take a few minutes to pick the ones that visitors would be likely to actually use, to avoid overwhelming them with too many choices.

WP Auto Tagger

Adding tags to blog posts is easy enough, but someone's found a better way to even do that. Using a Yahoo! API, WP Auto Tagger basically searches your post content on the fly and finds likely tags that people would use to search for it, then offers to put them in for you. It doesn't just save time, but makes your posts more likely to be found as well.

WordTwit

Do you really want to go on Twitter every time you write a new blog post? Why bother, when the WordTwit plugin can do it for you...and it's uber-configurable, so you can set up how the Tweet will look, Tweet scheduled posts (because you'll get better response at certain times of day), and even Tweet posts that have already been published).

Geotagging

Showing a map of the location from where you're posting is cool enough, but doing it automatically by picking up EXIF data from your digital photos is mind-blowing. Since I love to blow people's minds, I was very happy when I found GeoPress, which does all that, even supporting my Eye-Fi card. While GeoPress still seems to work, the code hasn't been updated in awhile, so you might feel more comfortable with the similar, and possibly even better Geotag.

Advertising Manager

This plugin is like a Swiss Army Knife for making money with your site. It automatically works with Google AdSense and Commission Junction, plus about a dozen more ad networks, to manage and rotate ads throughout your site. You can even specify ads by authors, categories, and other criteria.

WPtouch

Last but definitely not least, WPtouch lets you make your WordPress site mobile-ready in moments. It automagically detects the iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, and Blackberry Storm, and displays your site with a custom theme that's optimized for those devices. What all this means is that your site looks and works normally for regular computers, and looks and works like a professionally customized mobile site on supported phones.

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