20 of the Best WordPress Plugins for Web Designers (+ What to Avoid!)
Sifting through the WordPress Plugin Directory is a bit like scrolling through design inspiration on Pinterest—everything looks so exciting to try! And these days, there’s a plugin for just about everything: malware scans, page-builders, SEO, and the list goes on and on.
So, how do you decide which WordPress plugins are essential for your business and your client sites?
While the answer is ultimately up to your specific needs, I’ve compiled a list of the top WordPress plugins for web designers to help you start sorting through the masses! I’ve found all of these plugins to be super simple to use, immensely useful when building sites, and just downright reliable.
These are my top 20 WordPress plugin recommendations for web designers!
The essential WordPress plugins for overall security and maintenance:
The best WordPress plugins for portfolio and website design:
The top WordPress plugins to grow your business:
- Yoast SEO
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights
- Thirsty Affiliates
Bonus: 4 types of WordPress plugins you’ll want to avoid!
Ready to install your new favorite plugin? Let’s dive in!
The Essential WordPress Plugins for Overall Security and Maintenance
Jetpack is a must-have plugin for WordPress!
Jetpack is a “jack-of-all-trades” plugin that offers a convenient and easy way to get started in using, managing, and customizing your website. It jacks your site with a handful of robust features, including real-time backups, malware scans, content tools, and more.
From powerful tools that help you customize the design of your site to intuitive services that help protect your site from invaders, it’s packed with options to optimize for you and your clients’ sites. It’s arguably one of the most versatile plugins available which is why there are more than five million active plugin installations of Jetpack to date!
Nothing ruins your credibility (or your clients’!) faster than spam. Installing this plugin is a simple and straightforward way to help keep spammers away!
This anti-spam plugin will keep your comments clean and free of malicious content. It checks every comment that your site receives to identify whether or not it’s spam. It also shows URLs in the comment, so you’ll be able to catch “hidden” links right away (instead of site visitors accidentally clicking something they shouldn’t).
Not sure if you want it to do all the work? You can still manually mark comments as spam, or approve comments that may have accidentally been flagged.
Looking to collaborate with your editorial team or contributors directly in WordPress? Edit Flow has you covered!
Edit Flow features several amenities such as a month-by-month editorial calendar, task statuses, content budgets, and more! It takes the extra steps out of communicating in a third-party application and let’s you do it directly on the WordPress platform.
You know it, your clients know it, we all know it . . . mobile web design matters.
Luckily for us WordPress users, a lot of the work is already done thanks to the WordPress core. To create an exceptional mobile experience, however, we recommend WPtouch, a plugin all about optimizing for smaller screen sizes. It’s even recommended by Google (which is good news, since they’re ranking your site) and allows you to make simple customizations.
If you’re reading this, you most likely hold the title of web designer. A title that wears many hats so you may not prefer to hire out work to a developer if you can finesse something yourself. Enter, WP Forms from stage left.
WPForms was created from the same people who run the popular WordPress tutorial blog WPBeginner. The team created WPForms on the idea to make WordPress form creation as easy as possible, without the need of being or hiring a developer. This plugin comes in a range of free and premium plans and has over three million downloads so you know it’s heavily trusted by WordPress designers!
Regenerate Thumbnails solves a simple task that your clients will greatly appreciate. Let’s say you’re rebranding an existing WordPress site. The client wants a new site design, but also wants to reuse and resize some of the existing images. This plugin will automatically regenerate the thumbnail sizes for images already in the media library. That means neither you nor your client have to do that work manually!
Revamping old sites for clients can always be a challenge, but Regenerate Thumbnails can help solve one piece of the puzzle in a quick and efficient way.
The Best WordPress Plugins for Portfolio and Website Design
Ok, I’m cheating a little bit, because Local technically isn’t a plugin (sorry not sorry). It may not be a plugin but it is the #1 local WordPress development tool for web developers! With that humblebrag, Local is absolutely worth adding to this list.
Local has everything you need to get more work done. It’s a fuss-free way to locally develop WordPress sites thanks to its one-click installation, instant hosting connect controls, and great support when you run into a hiccup. It’s trusted by over 100,000+ talented developers from around the world (and the best part — it’s free)!
Let’s move on from housekeeping plugins to website design plugins!
Design your website with ease thanks to the Elementor plugin (no coding hassle)! This live page builder allows you to design WordPress sites in real-time and view the updates. With an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, you can effortlessly create the website of your dreams with advanced design capabilities.
This plugin packs a double-punch when it comes to visual website curb appeal and functionality!
Ok, I’m cheating again, because Divi is technically a WordPress theme instead of a plugin (last one on this list, I promise!). It’s so feature-packed that the increased functionality deserves a place in this list! This drag-and-drop theme makes it easy to customize every single page of your website, and it’s perfect for visual creatives.
If you just want to focus on designing instead of worrying about functionality, Divi is a fantastic WordPress tool to speed up the site creation process and let you focus on how things look!
Every designer needs an easy way to build a portfolio on WordPress and display the work you’re proud of. With Envira Gallery, a photo gallery plugin, you’ll have full control over the display with an easy drag-and-drop editor. Bonus: It’s already optimized for mobile devices, so you don’t have to worry about responsive design!
A great gallery plugin will make it super easy to update your portfolio in real-time, meaning potential clients will always see your best work!
Soliloquy is a slider plugin that will help you create impressive first-experiences on your website. It’s optimized for mobile devices right out of the box, and also provides options for including videos. If you’re creating webinars or video courses for your clients, give it a look!
Soliloquy is just stupid easy to use. It’ll help you quickly design the vision in your mind so you can focus on the next project instead of learning how to develop responsive sliders on your own.
Smart Slider 3
Two slider plugin recommendations? Yeah, I know but hear me out! This one’s for my web designers who specialize in responsive web design and need a little more out of their slider plugin.
Smart Slider 3 makes it easier to design a fully responsive, SEO-optimized slider that works with any WordPress theme. It’s a great way to show your best work first, or maybe hook visitors in with a free offer.
This plugin makes it incredibly easy to create dynamic sliders for your WordPress site, without ever worrying about the code. If you’re trying to optimize your homepage, we highly recommend checking this one out.
Social Media Share Buttons
If you’re supplementing your design business with blog content or trying to increase traffic to your website, this plugin is perfect for encouraging social media engagement! Social Media Share Buttons can share your site content to over 200 different platforms, with 1,000+ themes, and plenty of display options to keep everything on-brand.
With this plugin, you can give your social media buttons and icons a range of commands from animations to live ‘counts’ of the amount of users who have clicked on an icon.
The Top WordPress Plugins to Grow Your Business
Have you ever thought about creating a group or forum for your clients? Whether it’s a place they can connect to each other or a streamlined way to contact you for help, a membership plugin like BuddyPress is a great way to create an “exclusive” experience for your clients. Scaling client communication is one of the most difficult tasks for any creative business owner, but a plugin like BuddyPress might be just what you need to keep it easy!
HubSpot is the ultimate marketing plugin for WordPress if you want to grow your email list, generate leads, and manage all your contacts inside HubSpot’s free (yup, it’s free!) CRM.
This plugin automatically captures form submissions from your site and adds them to the fully integrated WordPress CRM, even if they come from a different tool. Possibly the best feature of HubSpot would be the support team being there through live chat, chatbots, and HubSpot’s community resource page.
Looking for more WordPress CRM plugins? Check out this article!
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of competition in the world of web design. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your own site to out-rank other designers while also empowering you to offer SEO benefits for your clients. A win-win!
SEO is incredibly important, both for you and your clients! And the Yoast SEO plugin can help you optimize every post and page for maximum exposure. While you’re editing content, this plugin will help you preview how it’ll display in search engine results and also make suggestions to increase rankings.
If you’re interested in using pop-ups and content upgrades to grow your email list, OptinMonster is a great option for displaying those short forms. You’ll be able to customize the look of each opt-in, plus it integrates well with email providers for seamless list building.
OptinMonster features a wide variety of opt-in styles with plenty of customizable options, meaning it’s pretty easy to make it fall in line with your brand. Plus, their dashboard provides plenty of data, so you’ll always be informed about which design decisions matter!
Google Analytics by MonsterInsights
Take the guesswork out of your business by displaying your Google Analytics data right in WordPress. By housing everything in the same spot, you’ll be able to keep these stats front and center every time you log in to make a change, and in turn, monitor how those changes affect your site traffic.
When you’re focused on growing your business, having accessible data can make the difference between guessing what works and knowing what works. By pulling Google Analytics right into your site, you’ll be able to keep it top of mind.
This one’s going to be a gamechanger for you and your client’s eCommerce sites.
WooCommerce is a flexible, open-source eCommerce plugin to integrate your content and commerce needs. Fresh off the download, this plugin offers a range of robust features from turnkey solutions to advanced, customizable setups.
It offers essential amenities such as product, cart, and checkout pages with secure payment systems. The plugin is also stocked with several logistic feature options like shipping arrangements, tax calculations, and label printing.
If you’re a blogger or your creative agency hosts a lot of blogs, this one will be huge in your plugin toolbox!
The new wave of marketing is all about influencers—and that means knowing how to pitch and manage affiliate links. ThirstyAffiliates ensure you have safe redirects and smart uncloaking so your finished product is a both a functional and polished affiliate link.
This plugin will automatically track and keep reports of your click stats so it saves you time in the books!
Note: Four Types of WordPress Plugins to be Cautious Of
As you’re looking at different plugins, there are a few types that we encourage you to use with an extra note of caution. These include:
- Backup plugins
- Caching plugins
- Performance plugins
- Security plugin
Your hosting provider might have settings in place around these topics already. For example, web designers hosting their websites on WP Engine get free nightly site backups, server-level custom caching and performance rules, and websites optimized for the latest security practices.
While there’s nothing inherently bad about backup, caching, performance, or security plugins, sometimes their settings are redundant to how the WordPress site is hosted, which can negatively impact site performance.
Moral of the story: If you’re concerned about site backups, caching/performance, and security, talk to your hosting provider first, to see if these types of plugins are actually necessary, or if your site is already optimized for all these awesome features.
Your plugin arsenal is now locked and loaded for WordPress victory. Whether you’re a seasoned freelancer or belong to a busy digital agency, these plugins will cover all your bases to ensure your clients are pleased and the sites are protected!