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5 Essential Plugins for WordPress Websites

DBS Interactive

If you know anything about DBS, WordPress development is kind of our thing. In 16 years of designing and developing websites, we’ve managed to learn a trick or two, and in today’s blog post we’re here to share some of that love. WordPress, like all open-source tools, benefits from the community that supports it. We try and give back where we can (shameless plug to check out our WordPress Reference Guides) and this blog is no different.

Every time we start a WordPress development project, our custom configuration of WordPress includes many plugins from the WordPress community that we consider to be essential to quality development.  Each of these five plugins performs a different task, but all help to augment the user interface, functionality and performance of WordPress. In no particular order, here are five of our favorite plugins.


There are a lot of things in the WordPress admin area that you don’t need to see or use. If you manage a website with a variety of user types, there are even more things that you may not want them to see.

Adminimize addresses this problem by allowing administrators to customize the admin area of WordPress’ backend. Once installed and enabled, admins can assign rights to sections of their websites by activating/deactivating menus and sub-menus. In addition to this core functionality, a handful of UI changes simplify the header by altering the space and structure to make it more logical. The beauty of this plugin is that each user can have his own settings.

In honor of the amazing cleaning that will occur if you install Adminimize, the WordPress community gives this plugin a whopping 4.8 Billy Mayes out of 5.


WP Super Cache

Before we discuss why WP Super Cache is on this list of essential plugins, let’s go over a few basics of web caching.

Every time you load a webpage, you send an HTTP request to a web server. The web server processes that request by sending a response to your web browser that includes all respective files needed to load the web page (HTML, CSS, Images, etc). The issue with this relationship is that it is fairly resource intensive. Web servers can have thousands of HTTP request at any given time and forcing the web server to reply with the same resources time-and-time again seems wasteful. One solution to this problem is for your browser to locally store some of these responses. Any subsequent requests for cached content can then be fulfilled from a cache closer to the user instead of sending the requests all the way back to the web server.


WP Super Cache is a plugin that offers caching at the web server level. WordPress pages are developed using PHP, a web language considerably “heavier” than HTML. WP Super Cache generates static HTML files, in place of the more resource intensive PHP scripts, allowing for improved responsiveness and decreased hosting costs.

A variety of advanced settings help you improve the speed and responsiveness of your website further. For the blazing speed that your website will display after installing this plugin, the WordPress community gives WP Super Cache a rating of 4.2 Usain Bolts out of 5.



WordPress comes out of the box with decent SEO tools, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Yoast SEO is that improvement.

Developed in 2008 by by Joost de Valk, Yoast SEO is a plugin that helps webmasters write better optimized content for their WordPress website. There are a variety of SEO plugins available from the WordPress plugin directory, but Yoast differentiates itself with its ease of use and simple user interface.

One of the most powerful features of the plugin is the focus keyword. The focus keyword allows you to set a keyword for each page and offers recommendations on where else to include that keyword to maximize your SEO efforts. Based on this focus keyword and other types of page analysis, Yoast provides a page rating to help you identify pages that could benefit from additional optimization.


The premium version of this plugin is available for as little as $69 and comes with the ability to set multiple focus keywords per page and a redirect manager for setting custom 301 redirects.

There are some qualities keeping this plugin from being perfect. To be blunt, support for the plugin on the forums is not great as the Yoast team does not always provide active support. This is exemplified by only 54 of 563 support threads in the last two months being resolved. If you happen to purchase the Premium Yoast plugin, you may be able to avoid this problem as the premium version offers one on one email support.

Despite the support issues, Yoast is undoubtedly one of the most powerful SEO plugins available from the WordPress plugin directory. For this reason, the WordPress community gives Yoast a rating of 4.1-5 Matt Cutts out of 5.


Advanced Custom Fields

WordPress was originally a blogging platform, and it performed its duties well for the better part of a decade. But as a growing platform based on open-source technology, it was only natural for the scope of WordPress to grow. In 2008, WordPress introduced a number of features that made WordPress a more complete content management system.

Elliot Condon accelerated this trend when he came out with the plugin Advanced Custom Fields (ACF). ACF allows you to take control of your admin edit screens and custom field data. At the core of the ACF plugin is the simple and intuitive API that offers developers the opportunity to quickly create powerful templates.

Several years ago, we independently reviewed this plugin on its usability and functionality, maintenance and support and documentation. You can find that review here.

It’s no surprise that Advanced Custom Fields has one of the highest ratings For transforming WordPress into a next generation content management system, the WordPress community gives Advanced Custom Fields 4.9 T-800 Terminator Robots out of 5.


Gravity Forms

Have you ever wanted to create a form for your website, but were prevented from doing so because you didn’t have the technical skills to do it yourself?

Even with the technical know-how, many developers prefer to use a form editor plugin because it makes it simple to generate a form without having to obsess over lines of code. Of all the form editor plugins we’ve tested, Gravity Forms happens to be our favorite.

The drag and drop interface allows you to add form fields on the fly. All form entries are databased, which makes it simple to export results into a CSV for further data manipulation.

The downside to this plugin is that it is only available as a paid plugin and from what we hear, the customer support is quite polarizing. Many customers report problems when trying to receive a refund. The plugin is also only available for self-hosted installations of WordPress.

Despite the support issues, the functionality gained from using this plugin is simply too strong to receive a bad rating. Having used the plugin on many of our clients’ websites, we have never encountered an issue we couldn’t fix ourselves.

In honor of the fundamental law of physics that the plugin gets its name, we give Gravity Forms 4.0 Albert Einsteins out of 5.