Want to give your readers a good experience? Want to save time on administration to focus on the content you want to create? Same here! There is an ocean of available plugins out there, so we spent some time researching which ones that would suit our needs the most, while being free or having a free version. We don’t make any money of this hobby and naturally would like to keep the monthly costs as low as possible.
Websitesetup.org’s list of “Best Plugins for WordPress Websites” is a good place to start, but we’ve also included a few we found for integrating our newsletter sign-up form and Discord link. Additionally, we wanted to use as few plugins as possible, as this decreases the likelihood of conflicts between plugins and makes it easier to keep them up to date.
Table of Contents:
- Site Maintenance:
- Backup – UpdraftPlus
- Site Security and Optimization – Jetpack
- Content Creation and Forms
- Content Blocks and Forms – Jetpack
- Forms – Everest Forms
- Signup forms – MailerLite
- Social Media Integration
- Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – Jetpack
- Discord – Webhook for Discord
1. Site Maintenance
1.1. Backup – UpdraftPlus
A good backup is always important! When adding plugins or updating the wordpress version, something might happen. Loosing all your hard work of setting up the site, and the content you have created, would feel disheartening. Your server hosting service might take regular backups to save this progress, but usually you have little control over when the backup is taken, and it will take time to get access to the backup copy. When you finally do, it might not be straight forward to revert the site to this backup-version.
We have landed on using UpdraftPlus as our backup plugin. You can easily press the button “Backup Now” before updating plugins, themes or the wordpress version (it just updated to 6.0 today). Having this plugin in place beforehand is a great weight off our shoulders. The plugin’s free version even allows for automatic backup at set interval, saved directly to your Google Drive, Dropbox or other place. Some places, like OneDrive, is only available with premium version, but the plugin is fully functional as a free version.
1.2. Site Security and Optimization – Jetpack
Jetpack is one of those multi-purpose plugins that can help with a whole lot. With the paid version, you could take care of almost anything, like the backup function mentioned above. With the free version, it will protect your site against spam bots in the comments and forms, as it has Akismet Anti-Spam plugin integrated. It also protects against brute force attacks against your WordPress login page and give alerts if your site goes offline.
For a better site experience, it optimizes image sizes and dowload speed using their global network of servers. It also improves content creation and supports sharing to social media (more on that below). Jetpack also provides overview of the site’s traffic statistics on the dashboard, making you able to see from where people find your blog and which country their traffic stems from.
2. Content Creation and Forms
2.1. Content Blocks and Forms – Jetpack
In addition to the security abilities described above, the free Jetpack plugin also gives access to several convenient blocks for the new block themes. They are easy to drag’n’drop and customize in posts, pages and in theme appearance. The ones most useful to us are:
- Image Compare – For before and after photos of works in progress.
- Tiled Gallery – Multiple images in an organized tiled layout.
- Embedding of individual Facebook and Instagram posts.
- Latest Instagram Posts – To show what we’ve been up to lately, as shown on the blogs landing page!
- Related Posts – Shown below every post to highlight similar posts that might be interesting to the reader of the current blog post.
They have several other blocks not mentioned here that might be of interest to you. Additionally, they have quite a few possibilities for creating forms, for example:
- Contact Form – We prefer to use “Everest Forms” as described below, but that is because I (Kristian) has previous experience with it. Jetpack’s forms might be all you need.
- Newsletter Sign-up Form (and other forms) – Can be integrated with Jetpack’s other plugin called Jetpack CRM (also has a free version). It can be integrated to other newsletter services as well, it seems, like “Creative Mail plugin” or “MailChimp”. We’ve decided to use MailerLite, which has a separate plugin to integrate their sign-up form (described below).
There are also other form examples that can be used as a basis for creating your own forms. This could be for registration to courses, booking appointments in time slots, and responding to invitations (RSVP).
2.2. Forms – Everest Forms
We use this plugin to manage the “Contact Us” form. All basic functionality is include in the free version, but premium is needed to get access to more advanced input blocks. Filled out forms can be sent to several email addresses with different information included in the email. We get an email with the complete form, but we also send a confirmation email to the sender (if they filled in their email address).
2.3. Signup forms – MailerLite
Mailerlite is a newsletter service. Basically it allows us to collect email-addresses of people that are excited to hear about our games and design processes! It has a lot of good articles on how to use MailerLite and how to write good newsletters to your followers.
There are several ways to integrate a signup form from Mailer on WordPress:
- We have chosen to include a button in our sidebar for the reader to sign up at their leisure. Pressing this button will open a pop-up form with a field for filling in an email.
- Alternatively, the form can be embedded directly in the header or sidebar of the site.
- Another option is to let the form pop up on the screen if the reader stays on the page for a certain time, or scrolls half-way down the page.
The former options is implemented by adding a line of code from the MailerLite dashboard, while the two latter options can be added through a WordPress-plugin by connecting it to an API key in your MailerLite account.
3. Social Media Integration
3.1. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – Jetpack
Like previously mentioned, we use Jetpack for some of our social media integration. When posting a new post, we can choose to let Jetpack controll our accounts on Facebook and Twitter to leave a post about the new blog post. There’s also a field for us to write the message that comes together with the blog post. Jetpack can also post to LinkedIn and Tumblr.
Instagram is also connected to Jetpack, but Jetpack does not post til Instagram. However, content from Instagram can be shown on the blog.
Jetpack also has settings where you can enable likes and follows on the blog post on WordPress!
3.2. Discord – Webhook for Discord
There are several plugins for Discord to integrate with WordPress. Some plugins include the whole Discord community as users on the WordPress site. For our needs, that would be a bit overkill. We simply wanted links to new blog posts to be automatically added to our Discord server.
We tried Zapier, a plugin for automation between different services, like WordPress to Discord, and plenty of others. We would prefer the message to tag specific roles in the server, but it seems like it is not possible yet due to the Discord API (PS: Please correct us if we’re wrong ?). As this didn’t work, we let Jetpack tak care of posting to Facebook and Twitter, and kept looking for a simple Discord plugin.
We ended up with the basic plugin called “Webhook for Discord”, which does exactly what we want it to. To set it up, start by open settings for the Discord channel you want the posts to appear in. Go to “Integrations”, create a new webhook, and paste its URL into the settings section for the WordPress plugin. Define a short message, and it will post in your server every time you press “Publish”! It can’t tag individual server roles, but it can @everyone, if enabled in the settings on WordPress.