The best free WordPress plugins for August 2014
Ladies, Gents… welcome back! It’s time for another round of WordPress plugins that you might just find useful. As per usual, I’ve installed every plugin listed here and given it a test.
We have a variety of plugins, too. Some of them add features to WordPress, integrate with third-party services (which seems to be a theme this month), or merely refine existing features.
As always, let us know in the comments if we’ve missed one of your favorites, or if you have any feedback on the plugins we’ve featured.
Conversion optimization by 40Nuggets
Okay, this plugin has its pros and cons. First off, allow me to state its purpose: increase your conversions.
It integrates your WordPress install with the 40nuggets website to create Call to Action (CTA) campaigns, for free.
These CTAs are delivered by modal windows. I know. The thought makes me sick too. I just really, really hate it when an unsolicited modal window comes out of nowhere, blocks the rest of the page, and forces you to deal with it before you can continue browsing the site.
But it’s like any tool: it’s all about how you use it. From the admin interface, you can change the modal window to a “slide-in” affair which won’t disrupt the experience too badly. Pair this with the plugin’s advanced CTA campaign options and conversion reports, you have a powerful tool for attracting new, regular readers.
What’s more, the whole thing is driven by what’s called an “Algorithmic Intelligence”, which will decide when is the best time to show a notification to an individual user. If you want more refined control, you can set the calls to action to show themselves after a certain number of page views.
Other features I like: you can choose to display CTAs only to anonymous users, and how often to show them to an individual user (I’d recommend only once). You can also choose to show them after the user has spent a specific amount of time on the site. You can customize the design of the slide-in CTA, or code your own. You can set CTAs to remain inactive if an individual user has already seen a different one. You can make them appear only in certain subsections of your site.
Features I don’t like: Well, the traditional modal windows aside, you can set these Calls to Action to appear when a user tries to leave your website. I hate that. I REALLY hate that. You can also set them to appear on every page view, and other annoying things like that.
In other words, this plugin has the potential to be a powerful and useful tool for increasing your regular readership. It could also be used to nag your users into leaving forever. Be careful with it.
(Crazy idea: have a slide-in notification that shows up maybe once or twice a month with no call to action, just a compliment for your readers. “You’re awesome!”, that sort of thing.)
WPCore plugin manager
This is one of my favorites for the month. It makes use of another third-party service; but again, it’s free.
While signing up for their service will allow you to create your own collections, either public or private, you don’t need to. There are a number of public collections of plugins that anyone can use.
For people who make a lot of WordPress sites, this could drastically streamline the initial set-up, especially if you use a lot of plugins.
I’ve never really thought of using WordPress for building résumés visually, but this tool makes it quite easy. You get the standard introduction section, skill list, and so on. But then, you can build more detailed, customized sections for your résumé.
Then, you can use shortcodes to call in each section individually, should you so desire, giving you more precise control over the layout on the front end.
Since the résumés themselves are custom post types, you can create and post any number of them. The potential use cases for this plugin are interesting to ponder. Perhaps a site where anyone in a particular location/industry can post their résumé? It could also be used to build a directory of local celebrity profiles, or any number of things you can imagine.
The misspelled title aside — an error that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence — this is a simple and reliable way to display the contents of your Etsy shop on your WordPress site.
I won’t go into too much detail here. It’s integrated with an online store, and it works. Those who want to know more should check out the official documentation.
Need a quick and easy way to pull your own, non-private, Instagram feed onto a post or page with a shortcode? Now you have it.
Install it, and head over to the configuration options. The layout can be percentage-based, but it’s not quite responsive. Further configuration of the gallery layout will require editing some CSS yourself.
WordPress normally doesn’t allow for the uploading of SVG files into the media library for security reasons. If you want to work with SVG files, install this plugin, and go.
Additionally, it makes things easier for those who want to use CSS to style their SVG images directly. If you have multiple authors on your WordPress site, you can limit the ability to upload SVG images to Administrators.
Remove problematic formatting options from tinyMCE
I know I have, more than once, felt a certain amount of trepidation when handing over websites to my clients. When provided with WYSIWYG functionality, they will almost invariably use it, sometimes to disastrous effect.
In other words, they’ll try to right-align (or center) something that should not be right-aligned (or centered) and screw your layout all to hell.
There are ways around this, and many plugins designed to manage TinyMCE, allowing you to customize it to your will. This one, despite its unwieldy name, does not allow for feature-by-feature customization. Instead, it provides a set of reasonable defaults, and leaves it at that.
Mind you, there’s nothing to stop your clients from making seventy-eight percent of their text ALL-CAPS AND BOLD TOO; but there’s only so much you can do.
Handing a WordPress site you just built over to someone else, and want to give them some easy visual references? This tool allows you to select any public page or post on your site, and tie tooltip notes to any element on that page/post.
These tooltips will only display to logged-in site administrators, and they are crazy easy to manage. What’s more, because they are tied to specific elements, and not absolute positions, they work just fine with responsive layouts.
Warning: back up your database before you try this one!
Junk Deleter promises to clean up your database, making it run faster. How does it do this? Well, here’s a list of everything it cleans out:
- Old drafts (the ones that have not been edited in the past X days).
- Post revisions.
- Automatically created drafts (auto-drafts).
- Posts in the trash section.
- Orphan postmeta entries (the postmeta whose post no longer exists in the database).
- Pending comments older than X days
- Comments in the spam section
- Comments in the trash section
- Pingbacks and trackbacks
- Orphan comment meta entries
This cleanup can be performed on a weekly or monthly basis. I installed it on my test install, tried the cleanup, and nothing broke. That’s the closest thing to a guarantee that you’ll get out of me.
Bonus: Romance admin color scheme
Are you building a WordPress website for Barbie? Do you like pink? Do you want your WordPress admin side to be pink? Get your pink UI here!
Okay, speaking from a usability standpoint, I think this plugin could be improved with a bit more contrast, especially in the navigation bar on the left. The main shade of pink used is a bit too light, and makes my eyes blur the white text.
I’d also take the word “Romance” out of the title. I’ve never actually understood what the color has to do with the concept. Besides, everyone knows romance is red (at least in North America…).