There a few common functionalities that clients want where it makes sense to use WordPress plugins that do the job well rather than fitting the functionality into a theme (where it arguably doesn’t belong anyway). I know there are a lot of options in the Plugin Repository so I thought it’d be helpful to share a few that I use frequently that I’ve found to be well-written and useful, for seven common features.
1. Twitter Feed
With the recent-ish Twitter API changes, it became much harder to embed totally streamlined, clean timelines. Fortunately, my favorite plugin for Twitter feeds, called Really Simple Twitter Feed Widget was updated and still works swimmingly. I’m using it now on this blog, in fact.
Setup requires creating an authenticated “app” through Twitter’s developer’s tools which sounds fancy and difficult but is really quite easy.
Expand to view directions similar to those I send my clients
- Please go here: https://dev.twitter.com/apps and click the “Create a New Application” button
- For “Name” give it a name, e.g. “Your Site Name Twitter Widget”
- For “Description” call it whatever you want, such as “Displaying tweets on my WordPress site”
- For “Website” enter your URL
- Leave “Callback URL” blank
- Accept the terms and click “Create your Twitter application”
- On the next page, at the bottom click “Create my access token”
- Then, copy and paste the provided information to your widget
From there, fill in the rest of the widget information to your preferences.
The output is a nice clean Twitter feed that is easily styled using CSS. Since this is a widget and the settings for Twitter authentication are within the widget instance, I typically create a custom widget area in my themes specifically for the feed when it needs to appear outside a normal widgetized area.
2. Pinterest Feed
I’ve written about the Pinterest RSS Widget plugin (about modifying it to display larger images. I can’t think of any other examples from my own work that are currently live, so here’s that use case again:
The plugin allows you to select both the user and the board to display (board is optional if you just want to do the full user feed), among other settings. The output is clean and easy to style as well. In this particular instance, we added the overlay and bottom bar in the code to further customize the appearance.
3. Pin It Image Hover
This particular effect is everywhere these days, particularly with bloggers in the niches I work in. When you hover over an image, a Pinterest “Pin It” button appears and you can click it to Pin that image:
There are a couple variations on plugins that do this and many of them are much the same, but my go to is this one. I just override the plugin CSS to replace the built-in icon with a custom image and position it according to the design specs.
Two notes about this method:
- It works best when the images are full width and inserted with center alignment. Sometimes smaller images or those with other alignment end up with weirdly positioned buttons.
- Due to the way CSS positioning works, it works best to position the button a certain defined distance from top or bottom of the image. Alignment left to right is more flexible.
4. Google Maps
This one doesn’t come up as often, but every so often I run into a project where we need to display a map or set of maps with custom icons. The best plugin I’ve found for this is Basic Google Maps Placemarks. Despite the “basic” in the name, it’s very full-featured and easy to use. You can see it in action on La Boîte:
We also used a modified version (mainly modified for display purposes – I don’t think we made back-end functionality changes) on Scouted NYC to display each individual’s favorite NYC spots:
5. Social Media Buttons
My favorite plugin for displaying custom social media icons is of course the one I wrote because I couldn’t find a suitable plugin for my needs.
In addition to using it for social media icons, it works well for other image-based link lists in a sidebar (for example, really simple ad layouts) or graphical links to categories.
6. Suggested or Related Posts
We recently switched to using NRelate to display related posts for each post on Love Taza:
There are other options in the plugins-to-display-related-posts niche but I don’t think any are quite as good as NRelate. LinkWithin is less customizable in terms of display and styling, and plugins that utilize queries are really hard on servers (in fact, some hosts don’t allow them at all because of the high volume of queries).
NRelate is both very customizable and less intensive on your server since they handle the indexing externally – highly recommended!
If you’re ever looking for other plugin recommendations, you may also want to check out the ones I’ve save as favorites via my profile on WordPress.org.
Which are your favorite plugins?