WordPress Plugins are a given. If you are willing to work with WordPress, you need to be willing to give in to using the plugins that integrate with it. There are pros and cons to them, but I think the pros far outweigh the cons. That said, if you have the budget, then skip using WordPress entirely and use another platform.
Important Sidebar: WordPress is made for those folk that want a simple website that has simple functionality. Those people could be Anglo American, a school, a café, your personal blog (what WP was made for, actually) a design agency – there are no real limits. Except, there are. You can work around WordPress and hack out a solution, or you can go for something more suited – be sure to plot out your website’s five year future and pick the best option.
Back to WordPress plugins. A plugin can do many things. In most cases it adds some code (to put it simply) to your current code (think of it like adding some paragraphs to a chapter in a book) and performs a simple function. Examples: Submitting a contact form, converting a currency, getting Google Analytics Data, Backing up your site daily, and the list goes on. There is good money in it for premium plugins, but most plugin developers offer a free, basic version of their plugin and hope people upgrade if they need to for a small fee. WooCommerce is full of such paid plugins (so much so that I eventually started hating the platform, despite the creators being local Cape Town folk) yet you will find yourself thinking “Would I rather learn to code, and write this script, or just buy it and get annual/eternal support for it?” – to which the answer is often a resounding “Yes! I will purchase!”.
For those of you who are wondering if this post will ever add something a little more useful, here is a list of plugins I love to use, in no real order:
Yoast SEO – Ideal for the basic on-site SEO tweaks needed
All-in-One WP Migration – For moving sites seamlessly
Really Simple SSL – Ideal for when you take that risky step of migrating from http to https and need to ensure it all goes seamlessly
ManageWP Worker – For when the above step fails dismally and you need to restore from a backup. This plugin links to ManageWP (a GoDaddy thing it seems; I hate GoDaddy so it pains me that they bought them out) and their free plan options are epic. But get a paid one in time.
Wordfence – A super useful plugin for protecting your website. Again, the paid option is ideal but it is pricey! Worth it if your website is of high value to you on a day to day scale – i.e. you will lose sales if it’s down for a day. [Otherwise, I personally have alternative methods of protection and will likely write a post on a solid procedure for keeping your site as protected as possible. It’s probably also a good time to note that if Sony, Dropbox etc can get hacked, I am sure your site can, too. Statistically though, if you are a small web entity then one questions the motives…]
Those are just five of my favourite, but a great place to start. In future, just search within WordPress for plugin options, or scan the forum sections of useful articles for user tips – the best advice always seems to surface there.