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Must have WordPress plugins for every project

Kevin Doherty

Creative Director


Jun. 24, 2014

Must have WordPress plugins, in no particular order:

Advanced Custom Fields


Custom fields. Made easy.

This go-to plugin allows us to set up an unprecedented amount of control and configuration of meta fields, options pages, content controls and pretty much anything we need to make each project specifically dialed in for our client’s requirements. It helps us turn WordPress into the Full-fledged CMS it can be.

Recommended add-ons:

It’s also worth mentioning that a new version (5.0) is in beta and to be released soon was serious performance increases and some new features and functionalities. The “Pro” version will be coming with all the add-ons bundled under one roof for the ultimate in ACF offerings.

Gravity Forms


Form creation, management has never been easier than with the aid of Gravity Forms. This a paid plugin but worth EVERY penny. You can actually import/export forms. We have a bunch of forms that are ready to import depending on the project requirements. So on a moment’s notice and a couple of clicks we can import:

  1. A generic contact form
  2. A careers application form
  3. A survey template

There are tons of add-ons and the community support is really deep for this plugin. The ability to have conditional fields show based on previous selections on the form and to even have conditional notifications/confirmations show based on certain field entries make Gravity our go-to plugin for ALL form management.

WP Migrate DB Pro

I use this plugin on a daily basis. This is by far the easiest and efficient way I’ve found for moving my WordPress database from one place to another. Whether its if you’re migrating to a new host or from your local web development server to a remote server… All of this is achieved by a simple intuitive user interface. Gone are the days of exporting from phpMyAdmin and doing a search and replace 🙂

Black Studio Tinymce Widget


This one is pretty straightforward. This adds a new widget type which acts much like the native “text” widget BUT with one big difference… a WYSIWYG editor!
I’m still very surprised that this isn’t in WordPress core. How many times have you set up a widget for a contact page for a client where maybe they have their address, hours of operation etc.. You can’t expect them to work around <br> tags and add <strong> tags to bold things… This simple widget will allow you to use the already familiar Tinymce editor as a widget 🙂

Codepress Admin Columns

The free version still does lots. According to the plugin repository description:

Manage and organize columns in the posts, users, comments and media lists in the WordPress admin panel. Transform the WordPress admin screens into beautiful, clear overviews.

The free version of Admin Columns does not support sorting, filtering and inline editing and has no priority support. Admin Columns Pro offers these features, direct e-mail support and several add-ons.



“SEO” means many things to many different people and the debate on differences are not soon to be agreed upon. That being said, there are some essential best practices one should do to ensure their content and website are as digestible and SEO optimized as possible with easy to use tools such as Yoast.

According to their website:

WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.

There’s a full feature list for the base plugin below. If you want, you can also read more about the preium add-on modules for this plugin:

  • The Video SEO module for sites wanting to optimize their videos for the search results.
  • The Local SEO module for sites that compete in Google Maps.
  • The SEO Video Manual plugin that contains training videos for editors and instruction videos for the Admin section.



This free alternative to the native WordPress commenting system is super easy to setup, responsive and allows your users to login via their Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts. The ability to subscribe to a comment thread is another feature we’ve grown fond of.

Simple Page Ordering


This is another one of those small plugins that you wonder why the functionality isn’t already baked into WordPress. On hierarchal post types (pages for example) you have the ability to change the order via the page attributes. The problem with the way WordPress wants you to change the order is by entering a numerical value in the order page attribute field. This can be very time consuming and a pain to keep track of. The plugin adds drag and drop functionality to your pages/posts on the listings page of your admin. If you’re ordering things by “menu_order” in your templates, you’ll now have a super intuitive way to organize your pages/post independent of publishing date.

Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order


Just like the Simple Page Order plugin, the Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order plugin allow you to drag and drop and change the sort order of any of your custom taxonomy terms and categories.

Custom Post Type Maker


This plugin is a very lightweight easy to manage solution for creating custom post types and taxonomies for your custom post types. The other advantage we found for using this plugin is that it keeps the logic separate from the theme itself. In the event, we ever need to migrate to another theme (which is rare for us.. but… still…) it was nice knowing the custom post type declarations weren’t theme dependent.

Regenerate Thumbnails


Here is the scenario: You’ve declared some image sizes in your functions.php, you’d uploaded some media along the way BUT you decide you’d like to declare a new image size… The problem here is that WordPress creates your various image variations on upload and doesn’t have the capacity to create new thumbnails based on your new image size declaration.

The solution: Regenerate Thumbnails 🙂 Not much in ways of setup or settings, just run the “Regenerate Thumbnails” action under /tools and sit back and let it work its magic.



Developer is a collection of some of the more popular debugging tools all under one easy to manage roof.

Did we miss any must-have plugins?

Make sure to leave your must have plugin suggestions in the comments.

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