WordPress performance and customization is found through the theme and plugins. Each of these compliments the other while both having their own unique benefit to the website. While the theme focuses more on site design, plugins give you control on how information functions on the site. It doesn’t matter if you use a commercial or custom built theme, your site will utilize the versatility of plugins. Although each website will have plugins that are unique to that site, there are four that must be installed on every single WordPress website. The WordPress Plugins that we install from the start are: WP Rocket, Yoast SEO, Gravity Forms and JetPack.
The first thing that we always make sure to cover when hosting a WordPress website is the website’s speed. Caching a website helps with page load times, performance and overall function of your website. Some hosting platforms provide caching but often do not cache WordPress related content in a sufficient way. If you search for caching plugins you will find there are several. Early on, we found ourselves struggling to find the right plugin that will cache WordPress properly and provide a positive experience to both the visitor as well as site admins.
WP Rocket is an affordable plugin that works from install. Probably their biggest deliverable is that you can install the plugin and it immediately starts working at increasing a site’s performance and speeding up load times. You don’t have to configure any settings to start benefiting from this plugin. However, if you want to take full control of the plugin, they do offer an easy to understand set of settings that will build on its default functionality. Some of these added benefits include:
- Automatically caching from install
- Disable caching for admin roles (great for editing)
- Lazy load images and other media
- Streamline scripts and CSS files as well as inline code
The beauty about this caching plugin is that WP Rocket takes full adavantage of making sure the plugin core is doing most of the work and the settings are for you to fine tune the job. Other plugins will not properly cache a site unless you first configure them and it often becomes a productivity crunch because you are fighting with the plugin to get it to properly work.
If you have a website then you need to know about Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Although some people let a marketing team worry about this, everyone who is actively involved with a website’s content should know and understand SEO. Yoast SEO was designed to help review your site and bring its SEO performance up as well as maintain that level when writing content.
Upon installation, the plugin will walk you through the initial setup and it takes less than five minutes. Once installed, you will have control on how search engines index your website and the content that they scan on individual posts. In addition to having control of how the site is properly indexed, Yoast SEO has a review process in place that will identify areas of improvement.
One thing that WordPress does not come with but I feel would benefit from the core software is a simple contact form. Now, I understand why they don’t feature this and its obvious that most websites need more than just a simple contact form and navigating email functionality is often a beast. This is why the third plugin we install is Gravity Forms.
With Gravity Forms you have the ability to build any number of contact forms through the easy to use “drag ‘n drop” interface. The plugin is extremely versatile and provides several form fields. Along with the plugin is a huge support network that provides add-ons allowing you to take forms from a simple contact form to purchase forms as well as user registration forms for the website.
A common introduction to WordPress is often through their public blog platform found at wordpress.com. This is how WordPress originally got started, allowing individuals to create a blogging website without having to host it on their own. This comes with several features that you lose, or have the impression that you lose, after jumping from the blogging website to a self-hosted WordPress website on your one domain and hosting platform.
JetPack is a plugin that bundles a lot of those features that are not automatically installed when activating a new WordPress website. Although most of these features are extras and do not necessarily cover the “required” aspect, I find that the tools will help streamline how you use your WordPress site and provides features that other website creation sites claim to offer.