Finding The Right WordPress Plugin For A Designer: Our Top 20 Picks

Topics: Web Design, Web Development, WordPress Written on August 31, 2020 by Surfaced Media
Top Wordpress Plugins

35%—That’s how much of the internet is running on WordPress.

54,000—That’s how many free WordPress plugins exist.

Okay, that’s impressive. But so what? What does that mean for designers?

For starters, the monster market share of WordPress means that there are already solutions available for nearly every use case. Every WordPress plugin serves a special purpose.

That’s good news for designers and other non-developers. It means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are already 54,000+ wheels to choose from.

Read on to find out about the best WordPress plugins for designers in 2020.

Why a Designer Should Use a WordPress Plugin

If you’re not already on WordPress, this part’s for you. We’re going to list some more factors that make it such a great option. If you’re already sold on WordPress, feel free to skip ahead to the top 20.

  1. WordPress is a well-known technology with lots of pro tips available.
  2. WordPress has an enormous ecosystem of plugins, including free, paid, and freemium plugins.
  3. Designers shouldn’t try to be developers unless they really want to—WordPress and its plugins allow specialists to stick to their specialty (instead of learning to code).
  4. WordPress is cheap to host.
  5. It’s easy to find reviews for WordPress plugins, so you know exactly what you’re getting into—and what to avoid.
  6. The WordPress interface is simple to use.
  7. WordPress is built for optimization and customization.
  8. In addition to plugins, WordPress also boasts thousands of themes.
  9. WordPress was built with SEO in mind.
  10. WordPress is fully customizable.

Recommended WordPress Plugins for Designers

With 54,000 themes available, you may feel overwhelmed with options. That’s the good kind of problem, but it’s still a problem. We’ve saved you some research time by listing our top 20 recommendations (in no particular order).

We’ve also tagged each with a category, key features, and pricing model. Here’s a brief explanation of each category:

  • Portfolio Management: This is for plugins that allow you to upload and arrange your visual work in sliders, galleries, and other arrangements.
  • Web Design: These are for designing/customizing your WordPress site itself.
  • SEO: These are plugins that assist you with search engine optimization (SEO) tasks with features like smart analytics and real-time content feedback.
  • Website Optimization: These are plugins that don’t add anything visibly to your site—instead, they keep it running more smoothly by reducing bandwidth, speeding up page load time, and increasing your search engine ranking.
  • Contact Form Builder: If you’re a designer with a portfolio to share, odds are you want people to get in touch for inquiries; contact form builders make that happen.
  • Website Backup: Whatever you do with your site, it’s at risk of loss due to attacks, database errors, billing snafus, and more. Be sure to save your work in a secure location so you can restore it later if needed.
  • Ecommerce: If you want to sell products—whether tangible or not—then an ecommerce plugin can make it happen.
  • Social Sharing: If you believe the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, then be sure to install social sharing widgets on your site for maximum virality potential.
  • User Analytics: This category is for collecting and analyzing information about your visitors—with this information, you can optimize your communication strategies and earn more engagement.
  • Website Protection: This includes features like spam protection, brute-force-attack protection, downtime alerts, and more.

Now on to the list!

1. Modula

Category: Portfolio Management
Key Features: Image galleries, effects, and customization
Pricing: Free and premium

2. Elementor Page Builder

Category: Web Design
Key Features: Pre-designed page modules and customization
Pricing: Free and premium

3. Soliloquy

Category: Portfolio Management
Key Features: Image gallery sliders
Pricing: Free and premium

4. Yoast

Category: SEO
Key Features: Text analysis, keyword optimization, metadata
Pricing: Free and premium

5. Envira Gallery

Category: Portfolio Management
Key Features: Image and video galleries, drag-and-drop, social options
Pricing: Free and premium

6. W3 Total Cache

Category: Website Optimization
Key Features: Improved page load time and search engine ranking
Pricing: Free and premium

7. Page Builder

Category: Web Design
Key Features: Live editing, version history
Pricing: Free

8. Contact Form by WPForms

Category: Contact Form Builder
Key Features: Contact forms
Pricing: Free and premium

9. NextGEN Gallery

Category: Portfolio Management
Key Features: Image galleries
Pricing: Free and premium

10. MonsterInsights Google Analytics Dashboard

Category: User Analytics
Key Features: Google Analytics integration
Pricing: Free and premium

11. Updraft

Category: Website Backup
Key Features: Backup and restoration
Pricing: Free and premium

12. Jetpack

Category: Website Protection
Key Features: Backup, malware scanning, downtime monitoring
Pricing: Free and premium

13. Ninja Forms

Category: Form Builder
Key Features: Drag and drop forms, customizable, responsive
Pricing: Free and premium

14. MetaSlider

Category: Portfolio Management
Key Features: Image sliders
Pricing: Free and premium

15. Social Media Share Buttons & Social Sharing Icons

Category: Social Sharing
Key Features: Social media sharing buttons and icons
Pricing: Free and premium

16. ShortPixel

Category: Website Optimization
Key Features: Image backup, optimization, and restore
Pricing: Free and premium

17. Smart Slider 3

Category: Portfolio Management
Key Features: Image sliders, layers, responsive
Pricing: Free and premium

18. Shortcodes Ultimate

Category: Web Design (with WordPress shortcodes)
Key Features: Shortcode design
Pricing: Free and premium

19. Widget Options

Category: Web Design
Key Features: Widget customization, extra widget options
Pricing: Free and premium

20. WooCommerce

Category: Ecommerce
Key Features: Storefronts for digital and physical goods
Pricing: Free with free and paid extensions

And This is Just the Beginning

If you’re looking for a WordPress plugin to simplify or augment your work, odds are you have too many rather than too few to choose from. It’s important to experiment and play around with different plugins—don’t just read the reviews.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of great options that don’t get as much attention. Use the built-in WordPress search function to find the plugins that fit your needs, install them, activate them, and see how you like them.

Just remember to deactivate and delete the ones you rule out. Leaving unused plugins installed is a security risk and a drag on your site’s performance, so clear out that clutter sooner than later.

Need help with design, development, SEO, or any of our other specialties? Get in touch here!

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