WordPress is an amazing way to quickly and easily set up an effective portfolio website. I’ve used it since day one to advertise my graphic design services as Inkbot Design and have yet to find a comparable system that equals on quality, diversity and popularity. There is a tonne of great free WordPress plugins that allow non-coders (like myself) the ability to make a site tailored to their specific requirements. If you need your site to have a particular purpose, in the case of a ‘portfolio site’ to showcase your work to potential clients – be sure to have a look through the plugins and there will most likely be a purposely designed tool to do it.
I’m always curious as to what systems, tools, apps and plugins designers use on their websites – if there’s something you would recommend please leave a comment below even if it’s not WordPress related.
What are the Best Free WordPress Plugins?
You can get by solely on free plugins sourced from WordPress’ own repo, most of which work perfectly well and are updated regularly. I’ve listed below a few that I use and recommend, certainly worth looking into since they won’t cost you a penny.
Installed by default for good reason, this highly effective plugin blocks 99% of useless spam comments from filling the discussion section up with cheap links to adverts and scammy sites. If you have a portfolio site without a blog, you could probably uninstall this but if there’s anywhere a comment can be inserted it’s worth having.
2: W3 Total Cache – optimises your site’s loading times so everything appears quickly.
They call it “The fastest and most complete WordPress performance optimization plugin” and although that may be marketing copy, I kind of agree. When my site was having page load speeds of above 10 seconds using a previous caching tool, I decided enough was enough and installed W3 Total Cache. A few simple clicks later that time was halved; with a little tweaking I had the average page load time down to a couple of seconds. I noticed over a period of weeks, the bounce rate jump from a measly 1.3 to 2.1 – basically, people were spending more time on the site, happier to click through to more pages. No matter what type of site you run, a decent caching plugin is essential – make sure you have one installed.
3: WordPress SEO – make sure all your pages are named and described properly to get Google’s love.
Every time you add content to your site, be it a new page, blog post, image or video, you need to make sure you give it a decent title and description so that the search engines can understand just what they’re looking at. As smart as they are, the web crawling spiders still need your help to work out what’s what, so make sure you’ve installed a good SEO plugin (or have a theme that is optimised for SEO) and take the time to name everything in detail. WordPress SEO should be a premium in my opinion with the quality and service it provides.
4: WP-Optimize – a ‘clean up utility’ for the database and background data.
This is a great little tool that you can run manually to optimise the database and delete old drafts of posts. The cache plugin makes sure everything that loads, loads quickly – this makes sure everything that is loaded, is as efficient as it can be.
5: BackWPup – can automatically make backup up copies of your website and syncs with Dropbox.
When I first started inkbotdesign.com it looked quite a bit different. It was pretty good and I was happy with the results of many hours of effort that I put into learning and creating content for it. Unfortunately, I managed to delete an important folder in the site structure when trying to install a new theme, and was absolutely delighted (sarcasm) to realise I’d made the site unworkable. If I had been aware of BackWPup at that point, there wouldn’t have been all the headaches and broken keyboards, but… you learn from your mistakes.
Learn from mine.
Install a backup plugin that automates the process for you so you don’t forget. Set it to backup your whole website including database(s) at least weekly, more if you make changes every day. Losing your website literally wastes your time as you start from scratch to rebuild, but restoring from a backup can be done easily, within 10-15 minutes.
This post is the first of a two-part look at the best free WordPress plugins I use on my sites. The second half of the top 10 is the Best Premium WordPress Plugins and is definitely worth a look if you want to take your portfolio site to the next level.