2016 has been a year where I have started dipping my foot into more web stuff again. I’ve been setting up and managing WordPress sites for a few non-profits as part of pro-bono projects. I’ve tested out various plugins across the year and these are some of my favorites.

Top Bar

A simple free plugin by WP Darko that does exactly what is says: it puts a bar at the top of your website with a call to action and a button link. The bar can be different colors, sticky or not, and the option to have or not have a button. There is also a pro version available with more options like delayed load, exit button, more colors and font size options, and user visibility choices.

Contact Form by WPForms

Adding a contact form should be easy without clashing with your other plugins. WPForms does that with both lite and pro versions that get the job done with drag and drop functionality and responsive layouts. The premium version of WPForms with many other features like payment integration, more templates, email subscriptions, and more.

Disqus

I have been a big fan of Disqus for a long time for Tumblr, but I use it on WordPress as well because it’s an easy to manage comment system that also allows for interaction between commenters and convenient login authentication with many different social platforms. Added bonus, I have yet to see spam accounts offering to sell watches, cheap prescriptions, or SEO.

WP Smush Image Optimizer

I think most people managing their own WordPress site aren’t thinking that much about site load times, but it’s something to think about. Check out how your site fairs on Pingdom or Google’s Page Speed Insights and I think you might be surprised at how your site might be doing. You can read more about various steps to optimize your site by reading this article by Raelene Morey.

WP Smush It is a lite version of WPMU Dev’s Smush Pro plugin. But even though it’s a lite plugin, it still does plenty. It does limit you to batch compress your existing images 50 at a time, but that’s nothing to complain about. However, it will compress all new uploaded images after installation. The lite version also has some extra options, including whether or not to retain EXIF data, specify specific categories of images to compress versus others, and ability to resize original image files. One thing to note: WP Smush It will skip over any images larger than 2.6 MB. This might help anyone who forgets about resizing images before uploading (I’m guilty of this way too often) to become more mindful of their media upload sizes.

Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall

I have SiteLock as part of my hosting plan and so after a couple months of malicious attacks to my sites, I decided it was time to get a better handle on things. I like this plugin by Eli Scheetz because it’s free (but be nice and make a donation!), gets regular definition updates, has great support and reviews, and it doesn’t just identify malicious items. It will identify plugins that are vulnerable and locations to look for corrupted files if the scan doesn’t come up with anything.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to protect your WordPress site, you can read this article from Optimize Smart that is a good walkthrough on how sites can be attacked, what to look out for, and some common sense points like keeping your own computer clean.