WordPress has always been a very powerful blogging platform, but for website developers and those looking to update and add to their website on a regular basis, it can also be used as a very powerful content management system (CMS), with the implementation of the right plugins. Here’s a summary of the plugins that we consider to be crucial in the setup of a website that will be using WordPress as a full CMS.
As web developers, we find that with some customisation WordPress can provide our clients with an easy-to-use administration area that enables them to add content to their site in the format that matches their needs, knowing how this will display on the frontend of the website. By default, the WordPress content editor consists of the title field and a WYSIWYG field for the main page content. This is very restrictive and mankes it difficult to achieve structured page layouts. But by customising the administration and designing a bespoke WordPress theme to fit the needs of the client, you have an incredibly powerful content management system that goes beyond editing basic news articles and information pages to more complex content such as highly detailed product pages with multiple images, embedded video and detailed product data, structured within responsive rows and columns.
A few weeks ago, David provided a basic introduction to Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) – this can be used with WordPress to create the structure that you need for the content management. For example, you might set up a field group for all of relevant custom fields that will be needed for a product page – this might include a product code field, a dimensions field, anything that is particular to your products – this can, of course, be set within ACF to apply to all pages where your ‘Product Page’ template is applied. Combine your custom fields with the in-built categorisation abilities in WordPress and a well-coded bespoke theme, and your website structure will be easy to manage for your content editors and easy to navigate for your end users.
You’re going to want to keep your website fast and one area that is going to have a huge impact is your imagery. But don’t worry, all you need to do is install EWWW image optimizer, and it will automatically optimize all images that you upload to your WordPress website. You can also retrospectively optimize all of your existing images using the plugin. If required, there are also options for conversion of images to different file formats and different compression options.
Speaking of website speed, caching of your content can make a huge difference. We’ve tried out various caching plugins, but our favourite is WP Super Cache.
Your going to at least want to include a contact form on your website, but you’ll probably need some call to action forms throughout the site too. So you’re going to need a plugin that makes setting up your forms and embedding them into the right pages super easy. And not forgetting the settings to send your potential customer an acknowledgement email and sending your sales department a copy of the enquiry. The best contact form that we have used is Ninja Forms – the whole process is easy, and you can even store submissions in the database, accessing them via the WordPress administration area (just make sure you have a process in place in regards to how long you are going to store this data).
On a large website, even the best planned and structured navigation doesn’t always point people to what they are looking for quickly enough, so a search facility is really important. WordPress does have a built-in search facility, but it doesn’t always bring back the best results, or order them particularly well. This is where the Relevanssi plugin comes in – it searches through much more than the WordPress search, including the content of your custom fields, categories and taxonomies as well as enabling you to exclude certain elements from search, uses ‘fuzzy matching’ to bring more results, highlights matches in the results, and adjusts weights for various elements. All in all, the search results that your users see will be much better and will get them to the content they are looking for quicker.
Due to it’s popularity, WordPress sites make up about 25% of the internet. This makes it a big target for malicious behaviour, so keeping your site secure is also of great importance. WordFence is a great security plugin that will scan your site for unknown files, modifications to core files, comments that include unsafe urls, and much more. The plugin also includes a firewall designed to filter attacks before they reach your site and there are lots of settings to help restrict login attempts from unauthorised users.
One of the simplest ways of implementing a ‘first line of defence’ for your website is to change the url at which you access the WordPress administration area. By default, of course, the WordPress administration is accessed at either /wp-admin or /wp-login. Anyone trying to exploit a website knows this and will try these urls first. If you change this to something unique to your website, you’re making their job much more difficult. The WPS Hide Login plugin makes this extremely easy – simply install the plugin and set your new url, done!
Search engine optimisation is of course important for all websites – we all want to give our sites the best possible chance of appearing in the search engine results listings. Yoast SEO is great and providing you with pointers on how your page and post content can be improved to help it give the best chances of appearing for a target keyword that you set. It also provides you with the opportunity to customise the meta title and meta description for your page or post and even the Facebook and Twitter titles, descriptions and images. The plugin also handles the production of an xml sitemap for you, as well breadcrumbs if you need it to.
Don’t forget that if you are using Advanced Custom Fields you will also need the ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO plugin so that the analysis also takes into account the content of your custom fields.
Of course, there are many others plugins that you may find useful or that suit a particular need for the website that you are developing, but for us these core plugins cover all the essentials of a full content management system with great usability for editors and frontend website users, with optimisation and security in place.