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Perfect Plugins for a WordPress  CMS

WordPress is well known for it’s blogging capabilities, and it’s not too uncommon to hear of it being used as a CMS. In order to create a truly powerful CMS you need certain features that the standard WordPress install just doesn’t have, and that’s where plugins come in.

I’ve been recommending WordPress as a CMS for over four years now, and I truly feel that it can handle any situation well if used right. Here are some of the plugins I frequently find myself using in my CMS projects, and a few words about why they’ve landed themselves a spot on the list.

Members for Permissions Management

User permissions management is an important aspect of any content management system. The Members plugin by Justin Tadlock allows you to easily manage roles and capabilities. I find this especially useful when handing off a finalized CMS to a client that is less technical. I will often remove powerful, often dangerous, settings to help keep them safe from their own mistakes. Sometimes these settings are related to advanced plugins that interact with the database, or something minor that could throw off the site, like managing the permalink structure. Whatever the scenario, this one can be a powerful CMS tool for sure.

Relevanssi for a Relevant Site Search

WordPress has a built in search, but it’s not so great. Your search results are organized chronologically, meaning that the most recent thing will be listed at the top of the search, even if it doesn’t match the term any better than the next. This is not good.

Steve Krug repeatedly emphasized the importance of having a relevant and simple site wide search in place on any decent sized website in historic usability book, Don’t Make Me Think.

Some people (search-dominant users), will almost always look for a search box as they enter a site. These may be the same people who look for the nearest clerk as soon as they enter a store. -UX Booth](

Developed by Mikko Saari, the Relevanssi plugin improves the WordPress search by sorting search results by relevance, placing the most strongest matching results at the top of your results. Search terms will also be highlighted in the results for me, which can be customized the CSS used in the plugin settings. Search algorithms and pattern matching settings can be managed on a simple settings page, and search results are fully cacheable.

Gravity Forms for Form Management

Gravity Forms is the best form plugin for WordPress. It’s well built, stable and incredibly powerful, making form creation, and submission management simple. It is a premium plugin, meaning it costs money. In my opinion, that’s a good thing. The quality, support and reliability of the plugin is more than justified by it’s price tag. Using Gravity Forms you can:

  • Drag’n’drop form builder
  • All submissions are stored in the WP database
  • Email notifications for new submissions (both to admins and users)
  • State/country drop downs fields
  • Phone numbers, addresses, and date/time fields
  • Spam protection including math test, CAPTCHA, and honeypot fields

Beyond those standard features, Gravity Forms can:

  • Process form submissions into new posts to allow user driven content
  • Credit card fields, processing support and shipping fields
  • Donation fields
  • Full API with hooks and actions for advanced hacking

It does cost money, but I think you’ll find that it’s well worth the investment. I use it on every project I do.

W3 Total Cache for Caching & Performance Optimization

WordPress stores all of it’s content in a MySQL database, and each time you load a page that content needs to be loaded from a database and displayed on a then screen using PHP. When you have a high traffic website, many people are viewing the posts at once. This can be hard on your web server, and is often the cause of server crashes.

The solution to this dilemma is to cache your pages, only making hits to the WP database at certain intervals. The W3 Total Cache plugin will help you optimize your site for these scenarios. When properly configured, it provides a faster WordPress site, that is much less susceptible to traffic crashes. If you have a high volume WordPress site this plugin is essential.

Advanced Custom Fields

Custom fields allow you to manage post data outside of the WYSIWYG editor. Unfortunately, the built-in interface for managing custom fields in WordPress is difficult and unintuitive to use (at best).

Using the Advanced Custom Fields plugin we can fix this, taking full control of WordPress edit screens & custom field data. Using the plugin, you can create intuitive UI’s to manage custom fields, attaching them to specific post types, page templates, and other conditional scenarios.

WordPress SEO by Yoast for SEO Metadata Management

This plugin is an absolute essential for managing SEO in WordPress. With it you can manage and automate your websites title tags, descriptions, and much more related to search engines.

WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.

Safe Redirect Manager for Redirects

Sometimes you’ll need a page to redirect to another. A good example would be if a Case Studies linked to the first Case Study (probably a child page) instead of an overview page. To handle this scenario I would recommend the Safe Redirect Manager plugin.

Safe Redirect Manager is a HTTP redirect manager for WordPress. An easy-to-use UI allows you to redirect locations to new URL’s with the HTTP status codes of your choosing. The plugin uses the wp_safe_redirect function which only allows redirects to whitelisted hosts for security purposes. The plugin automatically handles whitelisting hosts for you.

Speak Your Mind

There’s no one way to do something with WordPress. What plugins have used for certain situations? Have an suggestions? I’d love to hear them, post a comment below to speak your mind.

Meet the Author

Kevin Leary, WordPress Consultant

I'm a freelance web developer and WordPress consultant in Boston, MA with 16 years of experience building websites and applications. View a portfolio of my work or request an estimate for your next project.