We’re just a few months into 2016. As a WordPress freelancer, work has been increasing as businesses begin making changes to their sites.
All of that work can get quite overwhelming. So today’s article is all about making your workflow more efficient with some awesome WordPress development plugins (and a few tools). Here they are, in no particular order.
1. WP Migrate DB Pro
Ever since I discovered WP Migrate DB Pro, my developer life has never been the same.
WP Migrate DB Pro lets you push and pull databases between sites. Perfect for migrations, cloning, or managing databases between development, staging, and production sites. It even lets you perform a search and replace to easily change the URLs in the database.
If you’re not ready for the pro version, you can try the free version. You won’t be able to migrate between sites, but you can download your database and still use the find-and-replace functionality.
2. Advanced Custom Fields
Advanced Custom Fields has been in my development arsenal for years. Custom Fields are already built into WordPress but they are not the most user friendly.
Advanced Custom Fields lets you build an entire backend interface with custom fields. I’ve used it to create theme options page on custom themes, or to create a custom slider, or even to build out real estate listing data. You can do a lot of awesome stuff with…especially when paired with the next plugin.
3. Custom Post Type UI
I mentioned creating an interface for real estate listing data with Advanced Custom Fields. When I do that, I use Custom Post Type UI to build the real estate listing functionality itself.
If you haven’t worked with custom post types, they let you extend posts and pages and add new types. You can create Recipes, Events, Real Estate Listings, and more.
Of course, you can do all of this with code, but it is so much easier when you use Custom Post Type UI.
Ok, so this isn’t a plugin, but I can’t leave it off this list when talking about development tools. Almost every WordPress developer uses DesktopServer.
It lets you spin up and manage local development versions of WordPress. All without touching any of your system files. It’s perfect for someone just getting started with local copies of WordPress, or even for advanced users who don’t want to waste time in system files.
Maintenance pages serve a wide range of purposes. I use it primarily for my staging site when building a new site for a client so I can keep it hidden from the public, but provide a username and password to my client so they can view it.
There are a number of maintenance plugins, but the best is Maintenance. The free version provides most of the options you’ll need.
It’s a simple plugin, but definitely one I use over and over again.
6. Query Monitor
This is my favorite debugging tool for WordPress.
Query Monitor provides you with almost every stat you’ll need about your site as you build a custom plugin, theme, or are just troubleshooting.
7. Regenerate Thumbnails
When I’m developing, I’m usually changing and adding custom image sizes. Problem is, if you’ve already uploaded images, the new image sizes won’t be available for those older images.
Regenerate Thumbnails allows you to choose an image and resize it to all currently available sizes.
Or, you can do a bulk process and resize all images in your media library.
8. Gravity Forms
There are so many free contact form plugins, why would I recommend a paid one? I haven’t used any other form plugin that is so easy to use, yet offers so many options and functionality.
I can build a simple contact form in just a few minutes, or build out a much more complex order form.
9. Duplicate Post
I’m actually surprised this isn’t built into WordPress yet. You can probably guess what the plugin does just by its name: clone any page, post, or any other post type.
FileZilla is the absolute best FTP client I’ve ever used. And what’s even better: it’s free. If you’ve never used an FTP client before, no problem. The WordPress codex has an article dedicated to how to use FileZilla.
11. WP Mail SMTP
Have you set up a contact form for a client, but when you send test submission, your client doesn’t receive them? First thought: there’s something wrong with the client’s email program. Maybe it is sending the emails to spam.
But it could also be an issue with the way your server sends emails. You will want to test out WP Mail SMTP. This plugin lets you send emails through your SMTP server instead of through your server’s email functionality.
You can even use a third party email server like SendGrid.
12. EWWW Image Optimizer
Images can make a site very slow. But without images, websites are pretty boring.
So be sure to use image compression. There are a few plugins that help with image compression, but my favorite is EWWW Image Optimizer.This plugin is free, but it uses your server resources to run the optimization.
This plugin is free, but it uses your server resources to run the optimization. A better option would be to use EWWW’s cloud server to optimize your images, and use the cloud version of their plugin.
13. Sublime Text
Another “non-plugin” tool. Sublime Text is a text editor, but one with a lot of functionality that makes development easier.
14. Custom Sidebars
Sidebars on websites are awesome. But you usually need a different sidebar for certain pages. For instance, your blog page will need a different sidebar than your sign up page. Custom sidebars lets you create new sidebar widget areas, and then choose which page to show it on.
15. WP Retina 2x
Won’t lie: dealing with retina displays is a pain. You need to deliver the correct images to the correct devices. Otherwise, images start to look pretty crappy.
WP Retina x2 makes managing image sizes and resolutions easy. It is more or less a set it and forget it process.
16. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
One of the top pieces of advice for WordPress developers: only add plugins that you need. Why? Adding too many plugins can slow your site down.
But which plugins? Well, P3 will analyze your site and show you how your plugins are affecting your site performance.
17. WP Pusher
This plugin is one I just became aware of. It lets you deploy themes and plugins from GitHub with ease.
When you push changes to GitHub, you can update your themes and plugins on your development site. All without having to copy files over FTP. (Thanks to Jeff Gould for writing a wonderful review of WP Pusher that made me aware of this awesome plugin.)
What Do You Use?
Are there some awesome plugins or tools you use to make WordPress development easier? Any new ones you just started using in 2016?
Or do you disagree with my list? Feel free to share in the comments below.
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