Almost a year ago, I wrote an article about page speed. I listed a few things necessary to make your WordPress site load faster and use fewer resources.
A popular part of that article, mainly because it led directly to action steps, was reducing the number of plugins and increasing the efficiency of the ones used.
Besides switching from the Thesis WordPress Theme to the Volatyl Framework, most everything written in that article still describes how SDavis Media is structured.
However, the framework swap and aggressive, new design tactics changed the landscape of my plugins. Here’s how.
Removing WordPress Plugins
Like most WordPress users, I have a few plugins that I refuse to operate without.
This list is different for everyone and there’s no doubt that it can change over time. Let’s review mine.
Here’s a snapshot of my plugins panel:
As you can see, there are fewer now than there were in my page speed article. Let’s first talk about why that is before I explain each plugin.
Switching Frameworks & Features
The first two plugins to go were “The OpenHook Customization Manager” and “WP-PageNavi.”
OpenHook, though it could be used for a few basic WordPress actions, was primarily created to add content to the Thesis WordPress Theme. The Volatyl Framework has a similar hook structure. However, the hooks interface is built into the Volatyl Options removing the need for a remote plugin.
WP-PageNavi was used in conjunction with custom PHP to create numbered pagination of article feeds in Thesis. Though I no longer use pagination on SDavis Media, that feature is also built into Volatyl.
Purposefully Structured Content
The next two plugins to go were “Display Widgets” and “WordPress Popular Posts.”
Not very long ago, I wrote an article about the redesign of SDavis Media and why I dropped things like sidebars and dropdown menus.
As you would expect (I hope), less space to fill means less meaningless content.
Display Widgets was used to add conditionals to every widget to determine where they displayed across the site. I could have a widget in sidebar one that only displayed on single posts and was hidden everywhere else.
WordPress Popular Posts uses article statistics like comment count and total views to make lists of your site’s most popular content. I used it as a sidebar widget, though it could be used in other areas as well.
Without sidebars, these widgets became irrelevant to me. I scrapped them.
Essential WordPress Plugins
With those plugins removed, using a new WordPress framework, and changing my design strategy, my needs changed.
A new plugin was added and has become part of my “never leave home without it” list.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress SEO by Yoast is packed full of SEO features.
The reason why I never used it before is because Thesis offered great SEO features itself. Many of the major frameworks do, including the Genesis Framework. However, Genesis does a little plugin sniffing and if WordPress SEO by Yoast is installed and activated, Genesis turns its SEO features off. Nifty.
The Volatyl Framework has the same respect for Yoast’s plugin. It goes a step further, though. Volatyl does not include any options at all.
Every WordPress theme should be optimized for search engines… period. SEO best practices are not limited to options you can turn on and off. Instead, many of the biggest SEO advantages are found right in your theme’s markup.
Volatyl focuses on a search engine optimized foundation and leaves the additional features to talented plugin developers like Yoast. Those SEO settings will stay with your WordPress install as long as the plugin is active.
There’s absolutely no reason to lose or adjust SEO settings simply because you switched front-end designs (WordPress themes).
The Original Plugins
Yoast’s plugin was the only one added to the ranks. The remaining five plugins, three of which won’t be deactivated any time soon, are still in action.
Akismet by Automattic
Not very many WordPress users respect Akismet. Why? I don’t know. It gets treated like “Hello Dolly” for some reason.
To make a long story very short, Akismet blocks the hell out of spam.
I use Akismet on all of my sites and I will continue to do so.
Jetpack by WordPress.com
Listen, I can’t get rid of this thing.
In the page speed article, I used Jetpack as a way to consolidate functionality in plugins. Jetpack does everything under the sun for your WordPress site. Though not all of it is necessary, some of it is just plain old slick.
I use Jetpack for exactly two things.
- Jetpack’s Carousel feature powers my Portfolio. I used
do_shortcode()for placing a WordPress gallery in a custom PHP page. Because it’s a WordPress gallery, having Carousel activated in Jetpack gives you a nice slideshow experience when you click on one of the gallery images.
- The Contact Form feature is awesome. You can add contact forms to any part of your website just as easily as adding an image. Again, I created a form in a post and used its shortcode with
do_shortcode()to power my custom contact page form as well as a few others.
Jetpack is not a necessary plugin. It comes with a lot of additional weight. But for me, a couple of features it provides are must-haves. For now, Jetpack stays.
W3 Total Cache
Going back to the page speed article, W3 Total Cache (or W3TC) is used to serve your site faster by caching, minifying files, and more.
I use MaxCDN to quickly deliver my content all over the world. W3TC links right up with MaxCDN for maximum speed. From what I read recently, W3TC and MaxCDN integration may have just gotten even better.
That’s it. WordPress SEO by Yoast, Akismet, Jetpack, and W3 Total Cache are my must-have plugins.
I use two more plugins to make life a little easier on me. This stuff can be stressful sometimes, you know?
The Raw HTML plugin is used to keep WordPress’ editor from turning water into wine without your consent. I started using this plugin at the arrival of WordPress 3.4. Read about it here.
Pretty Link Lite
Plain and simple, Pretty Link Lite turns ugly URLs into pretty ones. In SDavis Media’s early days, before having its own URL shortener, Pretty Link Lite was how affiliate links (and other monstrosities) were cleaned up.
Soon, I will scan every article on this site and replace the Pretty Link Lite links with shortened links from my own shortener. That’ll allow me to remove the plugin. Until then, don’t judge me.
The last plugin I have chosen to neglect here is the Maintenance Mode plugin.
I turn it on when I am upgrading Volatyl or doing something sneaky. It blocks the site from unregistered users. I can remove it and re-install it at the drop of a dime. It deserves no attention.
What’s on your list?