Continuing on from last weeks post on the Best Free WordPress Plugins comes the second part, the Best Premium WordPress Plugins I’ve used on my sites in 2012 and 2013. Sometimes the free plugins do the job, other times you need more functionality, more options, more customisation – that’s when the extra work implementing the code requires a small fee for the work. Usually, the paid or premium plugins are good value if they do what you need them to – it’s a relatively low price to pay if you don’t know how to do it yourself, especially compared to hiring someone to do it for you.
I’ve come to rely on a few premium wordpress plugins in the last year or so, some of which I’ve listed below that I feel (at least in my experience of running a portfolio / business site) are worth paying for. In saying that, they aren’t expensive for the job they do.
My top 5 Premium WordPress Plugins
1: Gravity Forms ($39 – $199) - a feature-rich and highly customisable contact form creator.
If you want your portfolio site to literally bring potential clients to your inbox, I recommend installing Gravity Forms. It allows you to create a range of input forms, from simple contact pages so visitors can get in touch to multi-page questionnaires with check boxes and advanced buttons. I use it so people can request a quote for logo design and also to create a logo design questionnaire. After one project, this plugin has pretty much paid for itself and I genuinely recommend checking it out if you want your site to bring in leads directly from the potential client themselves.
1.1: Gravity Forms PayPal Add-on (Part of Gravity Forms Developer) – allows users to pay you via PayPal without leaving your site.
If you have a lot of clients that use PayPal to pay you, this is worth adding onto the Gravity Forms plugin. Simply, it allows you to make a form on one of your pages that integrates all the standard PayPal details, whilst acting in your branded environment. Although the add-on is free, I believe you need the Developer’s version of Gravity Forms to work.
2: Slidedeck ($49 – $149) – create responsive wordpress sliders and image galleries easily.
If your theme doesn’t allow for easy sliders and image galleries I’d recommend choosing one that’s more appropriate for a portfolio! On the other hand, you can install Slidedeck to do that for you. It allows you to create really nice, professionally designed slideshows and galleries that present your work in the best way possible. It’s both a time saver and an interactive, engagement tool to help visitors navigate the content efficiently. The free alternatives, and there are a lot, are generally pretty good, but I recommend slidedeck if you want something great!
3: Social Image Hover for WordPress ($14) – make sharing to Twitter & Facebook real easy.
I used this smart plugin for a while to integrate social media into the site, instead opting for the simpler insertion of code into the sidebar when I’d learned how to do it. Generally speaking, it’s not recommend to have ‘too many’ plugins installed as they slow down the site, so if you hardcode something with the same purpose it’s probably a better idea. But that’s the beauty of plugins – they allow non-techy people quick and easy access to additional site functionality.
4: Backup Buddy ($75-$197) – Premium website backup tool
This deserves an honorable mention in my books as another backup plugin that at one point safeguarded all my sites. In the end, I went over the 2 licence price limitation and went back to the free alternatives which had me covered, albeit with a little more work on my end. It’s not a bad price for the peace of mind it gives you.
5: Visual Composer for WordPress ($25) – Makes layout and arrangement of post easy via a visual approach, as supposed to html.
This is a great alternative to WordPress’ own post creator, which at times, can be limiting to someone with no html skills. Even something as simple as making paragraphs list in two columns is difficult without intermediate/advanced skills – this is where the visual composer really shows it’s power.
So what have I missed?
Having used WordPress for a few years now, I’ve tried a lot of different plugins to varied success – the items listed above and in last weeks free WordPress plugins are what’s stuck. At the core of a good portfolio site I believe is the ability to showcase your work, with large images and a nice layout that allows the viewer to focus on what they want to see. After that comes the informative side of things – make getting in touch as easy as possible so that it’s not a hassle. If Gravity Forms is a little overkill for your needs, at least make sure to try out a free contact form plugin from the repos.
After that, making sure the site looks good and responds quickly will be all you need to advertise your work successfully online. Everything else, as long as it provides a useful fuction is upto you.
If there’s any free or premium wordpress plugins or tools you rely on for your portfolio site please feel free to let me know below – I’m always interested to learn about time saving devices and ways to make the website as good as it can be.