Date published: 30 January 2024
WordPress is one of the most popular website builder platforms on the internet. Why is that so? One reason is the vast selection of plugins available, allowing you to build almost anything you can imagine. WordPress provides you with the essential tools you need to create a blog, but unless you are building a very basic site, you will need at least a few plugins to give you those additional functionalities. If you are unsure of where to begin, read the article below on my top 10 free plugins for WordPress.
1. Custom Fonts
Your website's theme may come with a limited number of fonts, and if you need to use a particular font that the theme doesn't include, it can be tricky. With the Custom Fonts plugin, you can install any font, and it'll be hosted directly on your local server, rather than on an external font service. This reduces external requests, therefore improving page loading times. Self-hosting your fonts also ensures compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR, so you can eliminate any privacy concerns associated with external font services. The Custom Fonts plugin supports the following file types:
When it comes to page builders, in my opinion, Elementor is the best choice. Elementor is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) drag and drop page builder which lets you create beautiful web pages without the need for any coding. Even with the free option, you get a huge number of widgets, including containers, headings, text editors, buttons, images, galleries, maps and much more. The interface is very user-friendly and also features a "responsive mode", allowing you to preview your website on different devices (desktop, tablet and mobile). If you are building an entirely custom design, you can start with the Hello theme, which is a lightweight and minimalist theme that was built specifically to work seamlessly with Elementor.
3. Elementor Header & Footer Builder
If you are using the Elementor page builder, you can create a customised header and footer with the Header & Footer Builder plugin. Like Elementor, it features a drag and drop interface, making it quick and easy to create any design you want. What makes the plugin more powerful is that you can set rules to display headers/footers on specific pages, or according to whether the user is logged in or not. As well as headers and footers, you can also create a Before Footer, or a Custom Block, to be displayed anywhere on your site.
4. UpdraftPlus - Backup/Restore
Have you ever thought about what would happen if you lost your website? Would you be able to continue running your business if your website was hacked, or files were corrupted? To prevent any loss of data, it's essential that you backup your website on a regular basis. Fortunately, you can do this for free, using the UpdraftPlus plugin. UpdraftPlus allows you to create a copy of your website's files in a location of your choice, for example, Dropbox or Google Drive. For more information, read my blog post on How to Backup Your WordPress Website with UpdraftPlus.
Are you planning to sell your products and/or services online? If so, you don't have to create a new website, as you can set up an e-commerce store directly on your WordPress site. To achieve this, use the WooCommerce plugin, which includes everything you need to create an online store. It can take some time to make the necessary configurations, as you will need to create your products, set up shipping options and configure your payment gateway. If you need some help with creating your WooCommerce store, don't hesitate to contact me!
6. WP File Manager
Accessing the files of your WordPress site is usually achieved via FTP (file transfer protocol). If you don't have FTP access, you can edit the files and folders from your WordPress admin using WP File Manager. The plugin allows you to copy, paste, view, edit and delete files just like how you would using Windows Explorer or Finder on your computer. A word of warning: editing the wrong files may cause your website to stop working! If in doubt, do not make any changes to the files here. Additionally, always make a backup before editing any files.
7. WPForms Lite
Displaying your business' contact information on your website is a legal requirement. You can simply add a clickable link to your email address on your contact page, but to provide an alternative for your customers, you may want to show a contact form. By using a contact form, you can be more specific about what information you gather from customer enquiries. For example, you can require that the customer provides a phone number.
I recommend the WPForms Lite plugin. The plugin includes a wide range of templates for contact forms, newsletter signup forms and much more, or, you can start with a blank template and build your own. You can also set up notifications, so you will receive an email whenever a customer submits the form.
If you are worried about receiving spam through your contact form, you can activate the free reCAPTCHA feature which reduces the risk of form submissions sent by bots.
8. WP Mail SMTP
By default, emails from WordPress are sent using a function called
wp_mail(). This can be problematic, with emails often being sent to the recipient's junk folder, or even worse, not being delivered at all. You may have noticed this issue when sending a reset password email to a user, or, you installed the WPForms Lite plugin (above) and did not receive a notification when a customer submitted your contact form. If this is the case, then you need to use a plugin like WP Mail SMTP. This plugin reconfigures the
wp_mail() function so that it can work properly with an SMTP mail provider. You will need to connect a service, for example, your Gmail account, to get the email notifications working successfully.
9. Yoast Duplicate Post
If you've created a page on your website and you want to create another page with the same layout, use Yoast Duplicate Post. It's a simple plugin that allows you to clone posts of any type, or copy them to new drafts for further editing. Simply click the "Clone" button on the post or page, and you'll have an exact duplicate of your page, in draft mode. You can then edit the content of the page, whilst keeping the existing layout, and publish it when you are ready.
10. Yoast SEO
Are you looking to gain organic traffic to your website? Then focusing on your SEO (search engine optimisation) efforts are essential. The Yoast SEO plugin is a must for all WordPress users! Yoast SEO allows you to optimise your page titles and meta descriptions. It will analyse your posts and help you to write content that is SEO-friendly and readable to humans. It also lets you configure some technical SEO aspects, such as your robots.txt file, or tell search engines whether to index certain types of pages (e.g. tag and category pages).
WordPress is well known for its powerful tools and capability to be extended by the use of plugins. When building a WordPress site for the first time, it can be difficult to know which are the best plugins to use. This article listed 10 of the most useful free plugins for WordPress.