36 Essential Plugins that add features to your WordPress site

36 Essential Plugins that add features to your WordPress site

Last time we focused on Maintenance & Security and this time we’ll highlight some awesome plugins that add features to your website.

General Management

These plugins all add features to the admin/backend.

WP Editor – This plugin replaces the default theme and plugin editors.  It gives you line numbers, let’s you search the files and has a file browser that lets you go all the way into the files.

Edit Flow – Managing workflow on a multi-author blog can be a pain but EditFlow is really the answer.  Editorial calendar, custom post type statuses,  editorial comments, and user groups? Managing becomes a breeze!

Post & Page Creation/Updating

TinyMCE Advanced  – This lets you add, remove or re-arrange the buttons on the WordPress TinyMCE editor.  This also adds support for creating tables too among many other things.

WP Edit – Another option for taking control of the content editor in WordPress.  In addition to helping you format your content better, easily access all shortcodes available and put them in your content, create tables, create columns in your content with ease!

TablePress – Let’s be honest, creating tables in WordPress is a bit of a pain.  TablePress takes away that pain by allowing easy creation of tables  (no code) and let’s you see a visual representation of them as well!  Add in table sorting and pagination (by adding another library) and you are all set with Tables!

Custom Post Types, Taxonomies & Custom Fields

Custom Post Type UI – This plugin can do so much relating to Custom Post Types and taxonomies that it might be all you need!  However, there isn’t much there as far as displaying the custom post types and taxonomies.

Types + Views – Types is Free and allows you to create custom post types, fields, and taxonomy. For easy display you’ll need Views, which is not free.  However, Views is wonderful at making the display of the items you create with Types a breeze!   They also have great docs and tutorials to help you figure out what you want to do.

Advanced Custom Fields – This is a great solution to more control over your custom fields.  If you think it, you probably can do it with this plugin. Visually create your fields and so much more.

Pods – Combines easily creation of Post Types, taxonomies and custom fields and the display of them and it is FREE.  The docs are a work in progress but the support is top notch!  Easily better support than received by some premium plugins.


Black Studio TinyMCE Widget –  Adds a new widget type that allows you to insert rich text and media objects in your sidebars with no hassle.

Widget Logic – Gives every widget an extra control field called “Widget logic” that lets you control the pages that the widget will appear on.  Accepts WordPress conditional tags (or any other PHP).


Gravity Forms – It is no secret that we love Gravity Forms.   You can create forms in minutes and then figure in the add-ons and you have so much control – create a custom user registration form, accept payments via paypal or stripe, and so much more.  However, one complaint is that is isn’t super easy to control the design/styling.  Headway offers some control of your gravity forms styling and we even have a gravity forms block to make adding a form anywhere a breeze!

Formidable Pro – This is a hidden gem: has a lot of options/power to create what you need, is super affordable, and offers a way to control the design/style of the form right in the options.  You can also create a custom registration form and even a page to let a user edit their profile, accept payments via paypal and stripe and so much more.  The documentation is great and the support has been great as well.  Note: There is a free version in the WordPress repository but it does have limited features.

Ninja Forms – You may not want to have to pay for a great form or maybe you don’t need a lot of options mentioned above.  If so, take a look at Ninja Forms.  It is free but the add-ons are mostly, if not all, paid.  I found that to get all of the features I needed it would be more expensive if I went the NinjaForms route but you may not, so give it a look!


WooCommerce – WooCommerce is the leader in all things WordPress e-commerce because it packs a lot of features,  works for physical products as well as digital, is customizable, has great docs and a big market of add-ons.

Jigoshop – Many forget or don’t know that WooCommerce is a fork of Jigoshop so if you feel like WooCommerce has more features than you need, give Jigoshop a look.

iThemes Exchange – We love this plugin as we feel it takes most of the complication out of managing an E-Commerce site but it does have less features as compared to WooCommerce.  That said, it is always being updated and it is also free so you should really check it out as it may just be the solution for you or your client!

Easy Digital Downloads – The leader in digital download management for WordPress.    Supports discount codes and a number of different gateways.  It also has a pretty decent market for add-ons including one for software licensing.  In fact, Headway’s backend is built on EDD!

Calendars/Event Management

All-in-One Event Calendar – Offers many views, upcoming events widget, color-coded categories, recurrence and more!

The Events Calendar – Similar features to All-In-One.  No shortcodes are available as it is intended to work out of the box.   We recently worked with the team here to improve compatibility with Headway and it went great!

Multi-lingual Sites

WPML – Easily the WordPress standard for multi-lingual sites but it is complex and may take some time for you to fully grasp how it works and it also is not free.

Polylang – A free option but has less features that WPML and we’re still working on making sure Headway and it play nice together.

Social Integration

Twittercard – Easily display your tweet timeline on your site.

WordTwit – WordPress to Twitter publishing.

Instagram Feed – Supports multiple feeds and it is responsive!

(Note: We also wanted to include a WordPress to Facebook publishing plugin but we haven’t round a reliable one just yet)


Audio Theme Framework – This plugin is a must-have for musician websites: discography, gig management, videos!  If you just need gigs, this plugin may be overkill though and you should check out GigPress.

Download Monitor – If you don’t need an e-commerce solution, but want to offer downloads, this plugin does that job very well!

Easy FancyBox – Easily add lightbox support to your WordPress site.  From our testing, Headway is compatible.  In the Settings (Found in WordPress » Settings» Media) you can choose which items the lightbox is activated on.  Currently supports, images, inline content, pdf, videos and more!

JetPack – Offers a LOT of features: contact forms, carousels, mobile theme, social network integration, social sharing and oh so much more.  Many feel that JetPack is too bloated but you’ll have to decide for yourself!

Nav Menu Roles – Adds options to your menu management where you can make menu items visible by different conditions: roles, logged in/logged out and more.

OpenHook – Built for Thesis, but it also has supports for Headway.  If you are a Headway 2 user, you remember EasyHooks?

WP Responsive Menu – Easily change your menu into a responsive sliding menu.  There are other similar plugins but we’ve found that this one works best with Headway.

WP Page Navi – Create better looking pagination with this plugin and Headway’s pagination will be removed if this plugin is detected!

WP Ultimate Recipe – If you want to create a recipe site, definitely check this out.  It takes the complexity out of setting everything up.

WP Job Manager – Easily add a job board to your site with this lightweight plugin.  It was recently taken over by Automattic after the developer (Mike Jolley) joined Automattic through the acquisition of WooThemes.




24 Essential WordPress Maintenance and Security Plugins

24 Essential Maintenance and Security Plugins for your WordPress Site

Here at Headway, we feel there are just certain plugins that you need to have in your arsenal. While you may not need a plugin from every category for every site, these are the Maintenance & Security plugins we think you should be aware of!


Both All In One SEO and Yoast are free and boast a lot of features so which one you prefer mostly comes down to personal preference.

The free version(s) of the plugins both offer:

  • Sitemap
  • add Social Meta data
  • Automated Meta tag creation
  • Works out of the box
  • And more!

Each plugin’s free version then has some specific features not found in the other so you’ll have to review them to find the one that has what you’re looking for. Both also offer premium versions.

In addition to unlimited usage and premium support All In One Premium boasts:

  • Feature Manager and plugin modules
  • Video XML Sitemap module
  • Advanced custom post type options
  • Control SEO for categories, tags and custom taxonomies

Yoast Premium offers premium support and

  • a redirect manager
  • tutorial videos for the plugin

But there are different licenses to purchase and that determines how many sites you can get updates and support for.

Spam Protection

While Akismet seems to be the most well-known spam protection plugin, it also is not free for commercial use.  Non-commercial use you can name your own price, which as of this writing, can be $0.

However, a real hidden gem is WordPress Zero Spam which is not only free, it does a better job than Akismet.

Speed/Loading Time

We’re big fans of W3 Total Cache and we’ve heard wonderful things from our community about WP Rocket.  W3 Total Cache is free and has a lot of options but takes some time to configure well.  WP Rocket is premium but works out of the box with no confusing configuration.  Both help tremendously with loading times.

If you use CloudFlare, we recommend checking out the CloudFlare plugin for best results with your WordPress site.

One thing that often creates loading time for sites are large images not optimized for the web.  For that job, we can recommend EWWW Image Optmizer or WP Smush.   Both work really well.

Lastly, we also really like the Heartbeat Control plugin for helping decrease requests/loading time.

Thumbnail Regeneration

If you change image sizes in your WordPress settings or various other changes, you will need to regenerate some thumbnails.  For that task, we like Onet Regenerate Thumbnails or Force Regenerate Thumbnails.  Both do the job very well and are a must!


If you install an SSL certificate on your site, then you’re going to want to look at Force HTTPS which forces all pages/posts to load via HTTPS.  It just works and there’s an option to make the admin load over HTTPS too.

Role/Capability Management

We’ve been big fans of Justin Tadlock’s Members but there are times when you need more control.  For those times, we recommend Users Ultra and User Role Editor.


Backups are so very important and we have some tools that will make your life easier.  Both Duplicator and WP Clone are free and offer restoration and migration with its backups.  Duplicator takes a full backup of the entire WordPress install while WP Clone only backs up the user files.  Because of this, WP Clone requires a fresh WordPress install at the new location but no FTP access.  Neither supports scheduled backups, however the premium version of Duplicator (Duplicator Pro) DOES support scheduled backups but we have not tested it.

And then you have BackupBuddy which while premium, is worth every penny.  We also have a discount code that is available only to Headway customers.  BackupBuddy offers:

  • scheduled back-ups
  • remote destinations, including FTP/SFTP, S3, Dropbox, Google Drive and more.
  • Database rollback
  • Restore/migrate sites
  • Deploy selected changes from a dev site to a live site and vice versa (downside is that this is not a full staging environment because it will overwrite data instead of only merging)
  • And more!

Security – Prevent Hack

You’ve got so many options here so you’ll need to research which one fits your needs.

iThemes SecurityAll in One WP SecurityWordfence Security and Sucuri are all great options.  You really need a security plugin these days to try to prevent a hacking or malicious user.

We also like Clef because it lets you choose to allow login via your phone (using Clef) or require it.  A downside is that if you are admin and something happens to your phone, you’ll need to modify the database to allow entry.

Security – After a Hack

After you discover a hack, you’ll want to scan your site.  We have a few tools we really like for this. Sucuri SecurityWordfence Security and Anti-Malware and Brute-Force Security by ELI are free and allow you to search for malware and/or changed files.

You’ll want to have at least one of them on hand at all times.

And that’s a wrap.  Stay tuned to the next post in this series where we go over the essential plugins that add features to your WordPress site!


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