Choosing the top ‘anything’ is often subjective, and it’s even more so when it comes to the best WordPress plugins. Despite this, it’s still a worthwhile pursuit, especially as development-specific examples don’t get as many column inches.
In this roundup, we’ll look at 🔎 some of the best WordPress plugins. They won’t all be technical, bug-hunting examples, though. Instead, they will cover lots of different applications.
What to look for in a plugin suitable for development
WordPress development takes many forms, so it’s understandable that you’ll need a whole range of plugins to help with the various tasks you’ll encounter.
As such, we can’t give you an exact list of requirements for a specific plugin. Instead, here are a few guidelines and tips to help you choose the right ones:
- First, think about the task you need help with, and how a plugin could fulfill that need.
- While ratings, reviews, and support are important for any plugin choice, it’s imperative for development plugins. You don’t want to introduce vulnerabilities or bugs while you’re trying to build a stable product.
- You may want to take a look at the documentation for a plugin, too. This is because you can get a feel for the support provision on offer, and understand aspects of what a plugin can achieve.
- By the same token, take a look to see what developer-specific features and support you can get. A plugin may offer plenty of hooks and filters, or an Application Programming Interface (API), for example.
Overall, we advise you to use a lot of common sense when it comes to choosing the best WordPress plugins. After all, your choice will be unique for your project’s needs. 🔌
Best WordPress plugins of 2023
Over the rest of the roundup, we’ll look at some of the best WordPress plugins out there. There’s no order to the list, and of course, our list is subjective and our opinion Throughout, you’ll find all sorts of plugins – for developers, casual users, WordPress enthusiasts, or anyone interested in building a WordPress site.
Here are the best WordPress plugins of 2023:
1. Advanced Custom Fields
We think Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) is one of the most popular and best WordPress plugins for developers. It lets you add custom fields to WordPress edit screens, which means you can create the exact layout, workflow, and experience you wish on the WordPress dashboard.
There are around 30 field types on offer, and one of the best developer APIs around. Thousands of developers love ACF thanks to its extensive documentation, world-class support, and ability to create custom ACF Blocks.
What’s more, the core plugin is free, although a PRO subscription starts from $49 per year.
Automating tasks and parts of your workflow can theoretically put you in multiple places at once. It’s a way to multitask without spending brain power. AutomatorWP is kind of like a platform-specific Zapier, in that you can connect plugins together within WordPress and automate complex tasks without code.
To use the plugin, you add triggers to your workflow. These combine into actions that run when you need them to. The triggers fire on all sorts of actions, such as watching a video, purchasing a product, and more. Combining them lets you automate actions such as auto enrollment on courses, emailing a discount code, and others.
While there’s a free version of AutomatorWP, the premium version starts from $149 per year and gives you access to all add-ons.
3. Simple History
Here’s a completely free plugin that performs some vital functionality. Simple History shows the most recent changes to happen within WordPress, right on the dashboard. You can view changes to posts and pages, taxonomies, comments, logins (including failed attempts), and much more.
There is also lots of support for third-party plugins. For instance, the plugin will log changes you make to ACF fields and field groups. If you also use the User Switching plugin, Simple History will log those changes, too. Although there are other plugins available, it’s reassuring to know that this free solution can work with some other WordPress development plugins.
4. Debug This
You can find out quite a lot about your WordPress installation without any additional plugin, but Debug This will help you during development or even customer support. In short, you can find out more site information from the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.
For instance, you can see the current
WP_Query object, rewrite rules, PHP and server information, cache statistics, those files that the site renders in HTML, and plenty more. Even simple facets, such as post authors or attachments, are available for you.
Debug This is another free plugin that could become an essential part of your development workflow.
5. Theme Switcha
You often don’t want the site visitors to see what you’re doing behind the scenes. This is where Theme Switcha shines. It lets you swap out a theme on the back-end of a site, while the current theme stays in place on the front end.
The plugin offers focus, without the bells and whistles of other theme switching plugins. For example, you get to control who can switch themes – all the way up to everyone! – send preview links to others, and set it up with a passcode. When it comes to theme testing without disrupting the User Experience (UX) Theme Switcha is ideal.
6. Otter Blocks
The WordPress Block Editor is fantastic, but might not include everything you need to build a site layout. Otter Blocks gives you a whole host of templates, Patterns, and extra content Blocks to add in extra functionality.
This plugin would be great for ecommerce sites, as it includes WooCommerce Builder Blocks such as Add to Cart, Product Metadata, Review Comparison, Business Hours, and much more. Not to mention, you have advanced control over Block visibility, styling, animations, and more.
Even better, a new pricing model means buying is more straightforward. The Essentials plan is $5.99 per month, per app, although there are higher tiers too.
8. WP Reset
Sometimes you need to rip it up and start again. In these cases, it would help to have a quick and simple way to do so. WP Reset can offer that! In only a few clicks, you can revert the WordPress database back to its original settings.
You will set up snapshots of your site, which WP Reset will refer back to when you need. However, you can also choose to delete and restore specific parts of a snapshot too, so you have lots of flexibility.
WP Reset costs $39 per year for a single site license. This is fantastic value and means the plugin could be a regular in your toolbox.
Your testing process should be rigorous, so you can ensure your site looks at the business across multiple devices. LambdaTest is one of the best tools for that job as it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the cloud to help you generate testing screenshots across over 2,000 browser configurations.
This means you can perform cross-browser testing for almost every device, and even conduct Selenium tests. While there’s a free tier, a premium plan will give you more, and starts from $15 per month based on annual billing.
10. Antispam Bee
Spam is the bane of the internet’s existence. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about spam on your WordPress website thanks to Antispam Bee. It’s a free plugin that offers arguably the best performance among its class for the platform.
Antispam Bee is a ‘set-and-forget’ plugin, although it comes with a multitude of options. You have a number of ways to ‘trust’ users, block based on choice of language or country, validate IP addresses, search a local spam database, and plenty more. That this plugin has no premium tier is astounding, which makes Antispam Bee even more essential for every site you run.
Here’s a plugin that could improve your collaboration and feedback loops. Marker.io is a way to give and collect visual feedback for your WordPress website. You’ll likely use it when designing or testing to get the opinion of others about the direction you’re taking.
The plugin uses a pop-up for testers to add feedback while they use the site. This removes a big barrier to offering feedback, and we love the approach. You can annotate screenshots too, using arrows, text, emojis, and more. The whole package is slick and integrates with WordPress without a hitch.
Pricing for Marker.io begins from $39 per month, which seems high, but could pay for itself if it speeds up the design and testing phase of your project.
12. Custom Post Type UI Extended (CPTUIE)
It seems as though custom post types are par for the course when it comes to WordPress web development. As such, Custom Post Type UI Extended could be an essential plugin in your armory. It provides an interface within WordPress to register custom post types with ease.
The plugin enables you to create your custom post types and display the data they collect right inside posts and pages. You can do so from the WordPress Block Editor, and CPTUIE also lets you work with data from any other post type on your site. The plugin does this through a dedicated shortcode builder that’s a breeze to use.
Even better, CPTUIE won’t dent your budget. A single-site license is $29 for six months of support and updates, although there are options to purchase more licenses if you need them.
Image optimization is a key way to create a performant site, so a good solution here is a must. Optimole is one of the best all-in-one solutions on the market. It combines compression with device-specific optimization, cloud-based hosting, and more.
Optimole resizes your images for the device it’s displaying for without the need for your input. What’s more, you can carry out some basic editing too if an image needs it. You can also take advantage of lazy loading and a CDN so that images won’t stress your server.
Optimole starts at around $19 per month, although you can scale up based on your monthly site visits.
Staging is a crucial step during development, as it lets you transition from local to live without impacting your UX. What’s more, you can make more changes and conduct more tests on a live server. WP-Staging is one of the best WordPress plugins for developers we know of to help you if your host doesn’t provide staging functionality.
In fact, you don’t only get staging functionality with this plugin. You can also duplicate sites, clone them, and migrate them all within its settings. The staging itself is a breeze to use, and you can set things up in minutes. It supports all common types of web servers, and the data stays with you rather than heading off to a cloud provider. This is welcome if you choose to host sensitive information.
We like the premium version over the free one, as you get lots of cool backup options. The lowest tier costs around $89 per year.
15. What The File
Last on our list of best WordPress plugins, we have arguably the most straightforward plugin on this list. What The File will show you the template parts and files used to display the current page. You can find the information out in the WordPress toolbar.
That’s basically it, but we do have a caveat about the plugin. If you check its Last Updated time, it often goes well over our recommended six months. However, during our testing we didn’t uncover any issues so we are happy to recommend it. Our advice is to test it on your own setup before you do any serious work.
In summary 🧐
The very best WordPress plugins don’t have to be the typical Query Monitor and friends. Instead, you can bring in solutions to make your workflow a richer experience. In this post, we look at some of the best around. For instance, you can set up a staging site using WP-Staging, or implement top-class image optimization and delivery with Optimole. You can even set up feedback loops from within WordPress using Marker.io.
Do you agree with our list of best WordPress plugins? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!