Yesterday we re-launched the ManageWP Blog with a new mission: to champion those of you in the WordPress community who are toiling away to create something of value – for yourself and for all of us.
With that mission set in stone, I felt that there was only one possible place to start – by celebrating everything that is awesome about WordPress. Not just themes and plugins – everything from core features, to community outposts, to third party tools.
And that brings us to the list below, of the 53 finest WordPress creations in the world. (It was 50, but we added another three due to popular demand in the comments section!)
I must of course start with a disclaimer: This is a list mostly compiled personally by yours truly. It is by no means an objective list (if such a thing were possible), and I have no doubt that many of you will feel that there are items missing. Also, as much as possible, I have chosen to avoid overlap in functionality (for example, you won’t find WordPress SEO by Yoast and All in One SEO on the list). With that in mind, once you’ve pored over the list, I invite you to share your opinions in the comments section. Enjoy!
1. The Codex
While the web abounds with tips, tricks, and tutorials of all kinds for the world’s best content management system, the WordPress Codex stands at the core of that effort to make knowledge about the platform accessible. It boasts exhaustive and comprehensive documentation about all aspects of WordPress – from initial installation, to theme development, to system development.
It’s a handy resource for everyone from the green-eared newbie to the rugged WordPress veteran.
Why is the Codex so snazzy? Anyone can contribute. It’s administrated by Matt Mullenweg and Jenifer Wells, but it – and thus the entire community – has benefited from the efforts of dozens of contributors.
WordPress doesn’t just exist as an online application – it has given rise to offline gatherings. Everything that’s good about the WordPress community can be experienced in WordCamps: camaraderie, support, collaboration and so on.
To resort to an elevator pitch, WordCamps bolster the WordPress community by offering tutorials and workshops to enhance the skills of beginners and experts alike.
Who do we have to thank? People like you, who have taken the initiative to host local WordCamps around the world. Since the first WordCamp in 2006, 346 of the conferences have sprouted up worldwide. To date, there have been WordCamps in 48 countries and 6 continents – be sure to get in touch with me once WordCamp Antarctica is in the works!
WordPress has thrived largely because of its community’s contributions. We’re lucky to have so many involved people, and to top that off, we have the Make WordPress blog to showcase that involvement.
The blog has sections about contributions to many parts of WordPress, like the following:
- User interface
- Mobile apps
It embodies the open source spirit perfectly and shows just how transparent the development process is.
With mobile devices capturing an ever-growing share of the market, it’s not enough for WordPress sites to have responsive layouts. There needed to be a way for people to blog from their smartphone. Luckily, Matt Mullenweg’s company Automattic stepped in.
When the WordPress iOS app first launched, it wasn’t so good. But it has come a long way – it’s now a must-have app for any iPhone or iPad user looking to manage their site on the go.
With its considerable progress and dependable functionality, this app demonstrates the forward-thinking nature of Automattic and the WordPress community.
5. Distraction Free Editor
The Distraction Free Editor – a core WordPress feature – gives bloggers a key commodity that’s so difficult to find in today’s world, especially amidst abounding distractions online: focus.
There’s an awful lot going on in the WordPress user interface. While all that functionality is fantastic, it can draw your eyes away from your writing. Thankfully, a simple button lets WordPress users toggle to full screen and get to work on writing.
If you’re interested, I’ve delved deeper into this function before.
6. Theme Customizer
Added in WordPress 3.4, the Theme Customizer enables you to fiddle with theme settings using a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface. You can see changes in real time, which saves your time.
The Theme Customizer offers you the option of altering your site’s title, tagline, header, background image/color, and custom menus.
Expanded options would be a boon, and I’m happy to say that things are looking good: this particular feature is becoming better and better over time.
7. Comment Moderation
WordPress is a blogging platform first and foremost, and the ease with which you can moderate comments makes that clear.
Communication and interaction are key to blogging, but comment spam is the medium’s bane. WordPress lets you tweak the way your blog deals with comments, so that you can find a balance between spam-free pages and open discussion that works best for your blog.
8. TwentyX Themes
With wide exposure, these themes provide a touchstone for the community, setting trends and standards alike. Their twin traits of simplicity and quality inspire us all.
Many people in the comments clamored for this one to get a place on the list, and rightfully so! It is a powerful options framework for themes and plugins, saving developers time and helping options panels run smoothly.
Besides offering a plethora of customization options, the Redux developers release frequent updates to constantly improve the framework.
But it gets even better: Redux is fully open source. With clean code, full flexibility, and a supportive community, Redux is bound to be here for a long time to come.
Created by DIYThemes, the Thesis architecture offers a visual template editor that’s friendly to users with zero coding experience. While your average WordPress theme offers few customization options beyond the bare basics, Thesis is all about changing things to meet your needs.
Some consider it the daddy; the original theme framework. It’s still going strong today.
Like Thesis, Genesis enables you to dive in and customize your website to your needs. It’s a bit cheaper than Thesis, though there’s certainly debate about which one is better.
Genesis does have a lot going for it. Impeccable code and numerable child themes arguably make Genesis the most flexible WordPress framework available.
WordPress companies and the WordPress community have crafted a myriad of marvelous themes, but some really stand out. Made by WooThemes, Canvas has a minimalist feel, yet offers extensive options for customizing design, typography, and layout.
Canvas has been WooTheme’s flagship theme for a long time, and with good reason – Canvas is a beauty.
PageLines is a premium theme framework that seeks to stand out from the competition with a promise that it’s faster, easier, and better than the competition.
Whether or not you think PageLines beats alternatives, it has undeniably made a name for itself as a premier drag and drop theme design for WordPress. In that way, it has helped bring unique theme design to the masses.
For $69, you can get access to all 87 of ElegantThemes’s premium WordPress designs. The company offers customers some truly eye-catching themes at an incredibly low price.
You can admire the image-centric dazzle of Gleam, the one-page simplicity of BusinessCard, or the awe-inspiring flexibility of Divi – three of the many well-crafted themes that the company has forged.
If you enable Multisite, you’ll be able to operate multiple sites from a single WordPress installation. Your installation can serve as a central hub for a number of sites. (Of course, ManageWP is a better solution for independent multiple website management ;-))
The likes of Edublogs and WordPress.com really showcase what’s possible with WordPress Multisite. WordPress.com uses Multisite to offer thousands of users the ability to create their own sites without having to hassle with self-hosted WordPress.
As great as WordPress’ native comment moderation is, Automattic’s Akismet takes things to the next level. It is awesome enough that it comes (perhaps controversially) pre-installed with WordPress, although you have to activate it before it gets to work.
The powerful plugin refers new comments on your blog to the Akismet web service, which tries to determine whether the comment is spam. To do so, its algorithm relies on information compiled from all participating websites.
Akismet is the original spam protector, and in my humble opinion, it’s still king.
17. Antispam Bee
While it’s not a titan like Akismet, Antispam Bee has managed to garner 731,000 downloads and a 4.4 rating on WordPress.org.
While I don’t find it to be incredibly effective on its own, it’s a great tool to use on top of another anti-spam plugin – what Akismet misses, Antispam Bee catches. As WordPress users have come to expect if all else fails, disparate efforts in the community come together here to cover everything we need.
In an online world obsessed with optimizing for search engines, WordPress SEO by Yoast is the most popular SEO plugin in the community: it has amassed 9.7 million downloads, yet it still maintains a 4.7 rating on WordPress.org. It’s good.
It contains a variety of features to help you boost your page rank. Page analysis checks each post for SEO fundamentals and Automatic optimization adds links elements and meta tags.
The plugin even shows a preview of how a post or page will appear in search results, allowing you to optimize it for real human beings and maximize click-through rates. These few features only scratch the surface.
19. W3 Total Cache
A slow site is a dead site these days, so site performance is key. That’s where W3 Total Cache can save you: it caches elements of your site to boost speed.
Jetpack is perhaps Automattic’s most all-encompassing plugin. It packages together a number of useful features including site stats, contact forms, the WP.me URL shortener, widget visibility options, and automatic posting to social networks – this is merely a small sampling.
Jetpack exemplifies the ease of use that WordPress is known for, and extends that to the realm of plugins.
21. WooCommerce (+ Extensions)
With online shopping gaining steam, a viable e-commerce option for WordPress websites is a must have. We can all thank WooThemes for putting Mike Jolley and James Koster on the job – the two developed WooCommerce, which is a free, flexible and open source plugin for online stores.
WooCommerce is a nifty plugin that testifies to the fact that WordPress today is far more than a simple blogging platform.
22. bbPress (+ Extensions)
Blog are about interaction, and online forums take a different spin on that concept. For those looking to manage a forum on WordPress, bbPress has led the way.
It’s another Automattic creation that pushes the envelope of what WordPress can do.
23. Digg Digg
With the plugin, site managers can give readers an easy option for sharing content on social media. It supports sharing for a number of sites, from big name networks like Facebook and Twitter and Reddit to more niche offerings like Marketing Land and WebBlend and Blog Engage. It is easily my social sharing plugin of choice.
The TablePress plugin empowers users to display tables on their site. It can accommodate a wide array of data types and integrate in pages, posts, or text widgets.
Tobias Bäthge created the plugin and keeps it updated. Incidentally, he is a great guy too – someone who truly encompasses what the WordPress community is all about.
Even with over 1,100 ratings, TablePress still manages 5 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org – that’s proof that it’s a wonderful plugin of immense quality.
VaultPress is a comprehensive security plugin that maintains an up-to-date backup of your site while running security scans to keep it safe.
Subscriptions for the invaluable service start at just $5 per month. Its simplicity elevates it above many other offerings.
Made by iThemes, BackupBuddy is another option for those seeking to ensure that their site can rebound from threats. BackupBuddy is a plugin that automates regularly scheduled site backups and makes site restores easy as pie.
It backs up everything on your site: plugins, themes, posts, pages, widgets, the SQL database and so on.
Long gone are the days when every blog was a lone venture. Collaboration is a watchword for many WordPress sites these days, and EditFlow makes that easier for you to do. It provides a editorial comments, editorial metadata, user groups, calendar view for content, and more.
EditFlow caters to the increasing number of sites using WordPress to support full-blown news sources, high-volume blogs, or online magazines.
28. Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7’s page on WordPress.org states that it is “just another contact form plugin.” That may well be true on some level, but it lives up to its promise to be “simple but flexible.”
It provides an easy way to mange multiple contact forms, with flexibility when it comes to customization. It also offers CAPTCHA and integration with Akismet to stamp out spam.
With almost 17 million downloads, Contact Form 7 seems here to stay. Plugin developer Takayuki Miyoshi has done a stellar job.
I guess that modesty is a hallmark of many WordPress plugins – Jeff Parker should give himself more credit for Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP).
The plugin does do exactly what you would expect, but it does those things extremely well: it shows your visitors posts and pages on your site that relate to what they’re reading. It stands out because of its customization, capacity to pull content from other sites, and option to earn money via sponsored content.
Mikko Saari has crafted one of the most useful plugins available to WordPress users. Relevanssi sorts search results by relevance, and it’s backed up by powerful search functionality tailored to WordPress as a platform. I love it.
Before WordPress 3.7, WordPress search sucked so much that a plugin like Relevanssi was unquestionably necessary. Even now, Relevanssi’s powerful capabilities are bound to be an asset to any site.
31. Easy Digital Downloads (+ Extensions)
If you’re looking for a way to sell digital products on your WordPress site, look no further than Easy Digital Downloads. It offers many payment methods, a promotional code system, charts, and a great cart system. It also boasts a number of great extensions. Oh, and it’s free.
This digital goods e-commerce solution was originally masterminded and developed by none other than Pippin Williamson.
With an enviable 4.8 out of 5 stars in the WordPress plugin directory, it’s clear that Easy Digital Downloads works well.
Clef stands out amongst the WordPress plugins aimed at security. It is simple yet innovative: instead of using hackable passwords, you can use two-factor authentication involving your smartphone.
Part of WordPress’ promise is that you don’t need to know any code to run a fantastic site. Redirection strengthens that promise by empowering users to manage 301 redirections and monitor 404 errors without knowledge of Apache.
Aptly named, this plugin by Janis Elsts checks your site for broken links. It also keeps on the lookout for missing images.
Broken Link Checker combs through your posts, pages, comments, and blogroll. It notifies you if it uncovers a problem, so that you can keep your site tidy.
It’s a perpetual problem for some bloggers: their social sharing buttons aren’t being used. OnePress Social Locker helps them get the likes, tweets, and shares needed to generate traffic.
What does it do? It allows you to block off a section of content on a web page until a user clicks a social button, which can boost shares. It’s a plugin that lets you implement the “pay with a tweet” concept.
36. WP Smush.it
Smush.it optimizes images to slim them down to size, thus boosting your site speed. It strips meta data from JPEGs, compresses files optimally, evaluates file format, and removes unused colors from indexed images.
The plugin can easily collect campaign information, and it only charges backers once the campaign reaches a predetermined goal.
38. WP Google Fonts
Web typography is always improving, and WordPress won’t stay behind the game – WP Google Fonts makes it incredibly simple for you to use typesets from the enormous Google Fonts library on your site. That means easier access to hundred of fantastic open source fonts.
There is also flexibility, since you can assign a Google font to a particular CSS element. WP Google Fonts is updated as Google releases new fonts, ensuring that you can always be on top of the game.
39. Gravity Forms
Built by the company Rocketgenius, Gravity Forms enables you to customize and tinker with forms on an advanced level.
Beyond the basics, Gravity Forms offers options to:
- Limit form entries.
- Schedule form availability.
- Create price-based order forms.
- Make posts from forms – perfect for user-generated content.
If you’re looking to make regular use of forms, the pricing isn’t bad. Gravity Forms is a premium plugin that strengthens WordPress with premium options.
Collecting email addresses is a goal near the top of many bloggers’ lists. OptinMonster contributes to that goal by providing a platform for you to create optimized optin forms.
You can integrate the plugin with one of the following email marketing services: Aweber, MailChimp, Constant Contact, CampaignMonitor, or MadMimi. It also facilitates easy testing, so you can find out what really works.
The email list is the sacred cow of web-based marketing, and OptinMonster helps you feed it.
If you run a blog that features multiple content creators, chances are that you would like to spotlight those different authors and give them credit for their content. Fanciest Author Box is a plugin that adds to WordPress by letting you put author bio boxes on your site.
These author bio boxes feature author pictures, a written blurb, links to social media profiles, and a list of latest posts – features accessed separately but easily via tabs on the author box.
42. Raw HTML Pro
The Raw HTML Pro plugin is there for you when you just want to format a post or page using HTML. WordPress has a good visual editor, but it can sometimes warp the formatting that you’re trying to get.
Raw HTML Pro also offers the options of selectively disabling features like automatic paragraph creation and image emoticons.
By handing users the option to choose between the visual editor or their own HTML on a case-by-case basis, Raw HTML Pro makes WordPress that much stronger.
Made by themergency, Foobar can create nifty notification bars for your site. The bars are open to customization and can be featured on the bottom or top of a page. $14 gets you the regular license and allows you to make unlimited foobars.
As a nifty bonus, you can also integrate Twitter and RSS feeds. Once again, a plugin has filled the void where native WordPress functionality was lacking.
SlideDeck was developed by Digital Telepathy, and it opens the door to high-quality digital sliders in WordPress. With the plugin, you can make custom sliders featuring images, text, video, and HTML.
The slide editor lets you go through, slide by slide, to make sure everything fits together just right. You can add captions or text to each slide, and enhance the visual appeal with lenses.
SlideDeck has set a new standard for visual content on WordPress.
It has a myriad of uses: you can cloak affiliate links, track where visitors are clicking, view where visitor hits came from, share links easily, optimize your site with testing, and more.
A basic WordPress site allows anyone and everyone to see your content. While that’s great for many people, Restrict Content Pro caters to those who want to create a site (or portion of a site) with premium content restricted to members only.
It’s flexible: you can divide users into an unlimited number of custom membership levels (like free, trial, and premium). It keeps the money side in mind, too, as you can track payments and even create coupon discounts.
Restrict Content Pro is an easy, one stop shop for any WordPress user looking to create premium content.
VelocityPage is a plugin that allows you to create and edit pages on your site from the front end. You read that right: with VelocityPage installed, you can forget about your admin panel when it comes to editing pages. It’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach: you get to view how the page will appear to readers as you’re making it.
This one only comes as a premium plugin, but it’s well worth it. You can work with text, headers, media, spacers, and contact forms. It’s all drag and drop, so it’s easy. VelocityPage makes the list because really does offer something unique and game-changing for WordPress.
48. Event Espresso
A premium plugin with a three-tiered pricing option, Event Espresso integrates with WordPress to help you manage event registration and ticketing.
The plugin includes key features: seating limits, custom registration forms, discount codes, multiple price options, printable tickets, and even seating charts.
With full-time support, Event Espresso is an excellent tool for managing almost any kind of event (you could well organize a WordCamp with it ;-)).
49. Yoast’s Guide to WordPress Theme Anatomy
Looking out at the great swathes of themes and plugins available to alter the look and feel of your site, it’s almost hard to remember that WordPress began as a simple blogging platform. However, the same basic structure underlying that platform remains to this day, and Joost de Valk explained it all in a comprehensive post and infographic a few years back.
Joost delves into the loop, different PHP files, and other under-the-hood parts of your site.
The guide is a superb resource to bolster your knowledge of WordPress and start you off on more advanced manipulation of the platform.
The guide also highlights another important fact: there’s a lot going on with WordPress. Even at its most basic, it’s not fair to say that WordPress is a “simple blogging platform.” The beauty of the system’s underlying code is impressive.
50. Page Builder by SiteOrigin
This plugin provides you with a means to easily make responsive column layouts. It turns the widgets that you know and love into the bricks that you stack to create your page, and to that end, it adds some new widgets to the mix.
With widgets for images, galleries, and video – on top of the standard fare – you’ll be set to use Page Builder’s drag and drop interface to craft pages that work.
Boasting over half a million downloads, Page Builder has earned a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org – an accomplishment proving that you might want to download it right away.
Created by Elliot Condon, this plugin provides a graphic user interface for WordPress’s native custom fields function.
It makes intuitive sense – after installation, it’s easy to make a field group, add fields to that group, and set location rules.
For developers, there’s an awesome API.
Made by ServerPress, DesktopServer is a popular platform for local development in WordPress. It lets you quickly and simply build virtual servers that can come in handy for theme development, website previews, or plugin testing.
You can choose fictional domain names to customize each project. More importantly, it’s a speedy process so that you can get right to work.
It also works with ManageWP’s native backup format, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
The inclusion of ManageWP on this list is arguably a bit biased. Perhaps it is, but I think there are compelling reasons for seeing ManageWP as a prime part of the WordPress community.
Going back a few years now, ManageWP completely shifted the playing field by providing one central interface from which users could keep tabs on all of their WordPress sites. It’s indispensable for many developers and WordPress “power users”, and saves literally hours and hours of time for the half million people who have downloaded it.
ManageWP has revolutionized the way people manage multiple WordPress sites, and that’s good for all of us. And what better way to finish up this roundup than with the very tool that is the reason for this blog’s existence?
What’s Your Favorite?
So here’s where things get interesting. I’m sure you’ve got your opinions on what should (and shouldn’t) be on the list, and it only seems right that we open things right up and let you share your views.
So, fire away in the comments below – tell us what you love the most about WordPress! We’ve already added 4 new items to the list in response to feedback in the comments, so we are paying attention 😉