WordPress provides you with a lot of flexibility when building and customizing your site. However, plugins are often the best way to fine-tune your site’s functionality so it does exactly what you want. Your primary challenge then? Finding the right plugins to get the job done.
There are plenty of high-profile plugins that generate a lot of press — we’ve even covered popular WordPress plugin options here on our blog. But the constant focus on big players means you’re less likely to hear about smaller, niche plugins that might ultimately be a better match for your website’s unique needs.
It’s time to root for the underdog!
In this article, we’ll talk a little about plugins and explain why it’s a smart idea to think outside the box when choosing them. Then we’ll introduce nine up-and-coming WordPress plugins that could be perfect for your website. Let’s begin!
An Introduction to Plugins (And Why You Need Them)
You can build a perfectly functional site on the core WordPress platform — and many people do. However, sooner or later, you’ll want to expand your functionality as your WordPress website grows. That’s where plugins come in. These add-ons, which you can download and install on your site, provide additional features and enable your site to do just about anything you’d like.
For example, do you want to add a store to your site? There’s a plugin for that. Or maybe you’d like to turn it into a knowledge base or forum? Plugins unlock these types of functionality and more!
You can find a wide variety of options in places such as the WordPress.org Plugin Directory and CodeCanyon. There are thousands of free and premium options to choose from — so your chances of finding exactly what you need are excellent.
How Lesser-Known Plugins Can Benefit Your Site (And Where to Find Them)
Plugins are the functionality icing to your WordPress cake. Some options are so popular and useful that you’ll hear their names repeated often. Take Jetpack, for example. It’s a comprehensive plugin that can help with your site’s traffic, security, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and more.
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However, your site has its own specific needs and required functionality. Simply downloading the most popular plugins around might not give you everything it needs to achieve your goals. Many lesser-known plugins provide more specific, targeted features aimed at a particular niche.
Of course, it’s more difficult to find lesser-known plugins — you’ll probably have to do some digging, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Browse through plugin directories and don’t just focus on the ‘featured’ or ‘most popular’ plugins. Use keywords to search for what you want.
- Look for extensions or add-ons to the larger plugins you already use, which may add more specific features. For example, there are lots of WooCommerce extensions you can use to tailor your e-commerce store to your exact needs.
- Scour online plugin reviews and roundups. Gold star because you’re already reading this!
Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to finding the best plugins for your site. To get you started, here are nine lesser-known plugins you might want to check out.
The 9 Best WordPress Plugins You Might Not Know About
Choosing a targeted, less popular plugin can be a little challenging. After all, you may not be able to rely on finding lots of user reviews and other criteria normally used to select plugins. Below, we’ll provide you with an idea of what to look for, by offering nine examples of niche plugins that provide useful, targeted functionality while not sacrificing quality.
The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open-source initiative developed mainly by Google. Its goal is to improve the speed and performance of all websites when viewed on mobile devices. As we discussed above, speed is key to retaining visitors and providing a smooth user experience. The pages are designed using HTML but take advantage of new technology prioritizing speed.
If you want to use this technology on your own site, you can download the AMP plugin, which was created by Automattic (the developers behind WordPress.com). It creates new versions of all your posts that adhere to AMP coding standards and can be loaded quickly by any mobile browser.
- Generates AMP-compatible versions of all your posts dynamically.
- Provides limited customization options for your AMP output.
- Yoast SEO offers an add-on that ensures meta-data is implemented correctly on AMP pages.
2. Admin Color Schemes
You may spend a lot of time perfecting the front end of your site. This includes adding images, tweaking fonts and colors, and editing the layout. However, throughout this process, it may not occur to you to give similar attention to the look of your site’s admin area.
While you can’t customize your back end’s appearance as thoroughly as the front end, you can make a few tweaks. For example, you can mix up the default colors with Admin Color Schemes. WordPress already comes with 8 color schemes for your admin area, but this plugin adds 8 more so you have double the options. This simple change can make working on your site more pleasant and provide a better experience for employees or team members.
- Adds eight new color schemes for your WordPress admin area.
- Lets you switch between schemes at will.
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3. Wish List for WooCommerce
WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce solution for WordPress and is a simple way to add a store to your site. If you’re already a WooCommerce user, you’ll know there are many add-ons available to expand the platform’s functionality. This includes official extensions, as well as unofficial plugins and themes developed by the community.
Wish List for WooCommerce is one such add-on. It’s a straightforward, easy-to-use tool that adds wish-list functionality to your online store. For example, you can let customers create their own wish lists of products or take advantage of the feature to create a gift registry for a wedding or baby shower.
- Adds a customizable wish-list feature to your site.
- Offers a dedicated widget that points to your wish-list page.
- Lets users share their lists on email and social media.
4. WPFront User Role Editor
By default, WordPress lets you assign varying roles to individual users. These user roles have different permissions levels — an Administrator can edit or change just about anything on the site, for example, while a Contributor can write posts but not publish or delete them. If you have more than one person working on your site, this feature can come in handy to ensure everyone has the right level of access.
However, you may find yourself wanting more than just the default user role options. That’s where WPFront User Role Editor comes in. This plugin lets you create new roles, edit and rename the default roles, and more. With it, you can design a set of custom user roles with the exact permissions each of your team members will require.
- Lets you create, rename, edit, and manage user roles on your site.
- Adds or removes capabilities from specific roles.
- Enables you to assign multiple roles to each user.
5. WP Force SSL
If you haven’t yet heard about HTTPS and SSL, this is an important topic to read up on. In short, HTTPS is a way to encrypt your site’s data more securely, and SSL is a type of certificate that enables this technology to work properly. No matter what kind of site you’re running, switching over to HTTPS is a smart idea.
Once you have HTTPS and SSL set up on your site, you’ll still need to direct traffic away from the old version and towards the new, more secure version. WP Force SSL helps you to do just that, without the need for you to do any coding. This plugin will ensure all users have a secure browsing experience when visiting your site.
- Redirects traffic from the HTTP to the HTTPS version of your site.
- Handles the redirection automatically after minimal setup.
6. Enhanced Media Library
The Media Library is one of WordPress’ most basic yet useful features. It enables you to upload images, videos, and other media files to add to your site. There’s quite a bit you can do with the Media Library as-is, but some users still find its functionality limiting.
That’s where a plugin like Enhanced Media Library comes in handy. This plugin adds a number of features to your library, making it more useful. For example, you can categorize and tag media items so they’re easier to organize and find. Plus, you’ll get access to a variety of useful shortcodes and a more flexible way to control media file types.
- Lets you add categories and tags to files in your Media Library.
- Provides filters to help you search through and sort your media files.
- Adds shortcodes that enable you to categorize media items on the front end.
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7. Embed Any Document
Most of the content you add to your WordPress site will likely be in the form of pages and posts. However, you may find you want to provide documents for your visitors. Perhaps you’d like to upload e-books that your readers can download for themselves or maybe you need to provide users with ‘fillable’ PDF forms.
No matter the reason, Embed Any Document makes the process of uploading documents and embedding them on your site simple. It supports many file types, such as Microsoft Word and Excel docs, PDFs, and TIFF images. You can also choose between multiple options to determine how your visitors can view the documents.
- Enables you to upload and embed documents on your site.
- Lets you display documents using either Google Docs Viewer or Microsoft Office Online.
- Includes support for a variety of file and image types.
8. Responsive Menu
WordPress provides a flexible menu system out of the box; for many sites, it’s sufficient as is. A lot of themes also add their own menu functionality. However, if you’re looking for even more control over your menus, you may need a dedicated plugin to provide it.
Responsive Menu enables you to customize menus to your heart’s content. It adds more than 150 options to your WordPress menus, each of which has various settings. For example, you can personalize the text, fonts, and colors of your menus and determine their position on the page. You can also edit menu buttons and animations, add background images, and even upload your own logos.
- Provides more than 150 menu options that can be customized to your liking.
- Lets you alter key elements of your menus, such as fonts, colors, sizes, and animations.
- Offers various menu placements.
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9. Syntax Highlighter for Post/Page HTML Editor
If you’ve written any content in WordPress, you’ve probably noticed that the post and page editor has two different views. The Visual editor shows you what your content will look like on the front end while the Text editor displays the behind-the-scenes HTML code. The view you use will depend on your preferences and experience, although many users switch between the two while creating content.
Syntax Highlighter for Post/Page HTML Editor is a plugin that replaces the Text editor with a new, enhanced version. It displays code with syntax highlighting and line numbering so reading and editing your HTML is easier. You can even change your editor’s color scheme — there are 36 options to choose from!
- Adds a new editor to your posts and pages with coding-friendly features.
- Provides an intuitive interface that makes editing your code simple.
Do Your (Plugin) Homework
Building an effective website to meet — and even exceed — your goals is a complex process, and not one you want to rush. This holds true especially when it comes to plugin selection. Rather than simply downloading the first few plugins you run across that seem useful, you’ll be better off putting in the time required to research and locate plugins that do exactly what you need.
We can’t possibly know what plugins will be most beneficial to your unique site (if we could, we’d offer mind-reading services along with great hosting)! However, in this post, we’ve introduced nine options to give you a taste of what’s available. With a little searching, you can find a plugin that adds nearly any functionality to your site, such as a more user-friendly media library, additional menu options, and easy ways to beautify your admin area.
Do you have a favorite WordPress plugin that deserves some extra attention? Tell us about it in the comments section below!