So, you’ve installed a new WordPress theme and set it up in a way that looks quite good, sifted through the mass of extra options and plugins that a premium WordPress theme might offer and come bundled with, yet some functionality is still amiss. The basics are there alright, blog all you want, write, insert photos, attachments. Yet, once you start thinking beyond the blog, beyond what the theme offers already you’ll find yourself looking for plugins in the Free Plugins Directory that WordPress.org hosts, offering a little short of 19,000 plugins.
Many simple WordPress plugins, like social bookmark links, related posts widgets, lightboxes, etc. usually come bundled with a premium theme. However, even the most expensive WordPress premium themes out there will lack some of the core features that are simply indispensable.
Caching drastically improves the speed of your WordPress theme, reducing server load and memory usage. If your theme is in the heavyweight class (a huge amount of Theme Options usually tells you that it is), has been coded to satisfy time limits and budget, has never undergone any performance testing, and your site is on shared hosting – caching will be a savior.
The two most well-known caching plugins are WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache. Both are very advanced, but quite easy to use and setup. There’s no winner here, most of the time you will not notice any difference or require any of the additional functionality that one may have over the other.
Lots of WordPress.com Goodies
Jetpack, developed by a huge team of Automattic developers and WordPress core contributors, brings all sorts of WordPress.com extras like a URL shortener (wp.me), e-mail subscriptions, statistics, enhanced spell-checking and lots more.
Jetpack requires you to have a WordPress.com account (no need to have a blog there, just an account). On-going development ensures that Jetpack is always ahead of the game (if updated), with new features, fixes and improvements. The plugin integrates well with all standards and conventions compliant themes and should be considered the swiss-army knife of WordPress Plugins.
Best of all, it’s free.
Spam or Ham?
New websites are not in the immediate danger of coming under mass spambot attack. However, spambots find out about it in a matter of weeks and add it to their lists. Very quickly you’ll find yourself removing dozens of spam comments per day. And if you’re not vigilant enough, they’ll even trick you into thinking it’s a legit comment. Akismet, is another must-have. Developed by Automattic and WordPress core contributors, Akismet is actually bundled with every installation of WordPress by default. This further proves how important Akismet is.
Akismet filters your comments and adds them to the spam queue driven by the contents of the comment and comment fields, the IP and other data. Akismet’s servers do all the hard work of deciding whether a comment is spam or not. In the end, this saves you an enormous amount of time.
So next time you find yourself with a brand new WordPress theme and thinking about what plugins you need to additionally install and use, these three must-haves should probably make the top of your list. WordPress themes can be beautiful, flexible, highly functional, yet they will never offer vital core features as the ones mentioned above. In the end it’s up to you to make your WordPress theme comfortable and happy.
Are there any other vital plugins you would recommend? Like SEO-enhancing plugins? Anything else that themes alone cannot offer? Security? Mobile versions? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe and get more plugin tips and recommendations.