The amount of WordPress Plugins available for download are endless, to sift through them and find one or two that you can actually use can be horrendous. Quite often you can find, like a Flickr Plugins, hundreds that do the same function. Others are far too complicated for the designer as well as the user to be usable. Some are even just pointless, and use up design space. How do you test all of them? Do you rely on word of mouth? Do you ask someone to write a plugin for your tailored needs?
It is not always necessary to have as much information and navigational / archival links as you have space for in the sidebar or footer. The calendar for instance I hate, to me its the most pointless thing as far as web design is concerned, my opinon of a site with a calendar is quickly lowered. What I am trying to say is, just because there is a plugin that does a particular function that you like, your readers might not. Do some research first into what your readers like and act on it, taking this into consideration your possible list of useful WordPress Plugins becomes smaller.
Then have a thought ‘what would I like to say through my site?’, what information do I want to convey? What information do I feel my readers need to know, above all else? Hopefully taking into account these factors this will greatly reduce the volume of Plugins you need to wade through.
The below list contains plugins that I have tried and tested, and for the most part have used in a live site, or hope to pretty soon. I hope its helpful.
Below are my list of the Top 30 WordPress Plugins that are actually useful
1. CForms 2 (www.deliciousdays.com/cforms-plugin)
Cforms 2 is the first plugin I activate in any WordPress Installation. It is not just a contact from, if you need it to be it can be configured into any type of form you can think of.
Don’t be put off by the functions list, these are understood by the pro,and taken for granted by everyone else, upon using the plugin you will see how easy this plugin is.
Functions: , Ajax supported form submission, Full localization support (see section below), Tell-A-Friend functionality, see Help documentation, File attachments / Upload, fully configurable per form, Multiple upload fields allowed, Backup & Restore, Role Manager support, Database based tracking of submitted data, Cloning / duplication of forms, Drag and drop form management, Fully integrated with TinyMCE and default WP editor (via button), Submission limits (e.g. registrations), Widget support and more
As with all the best plugins, you get an option to style the form to integrate seamlessly into your theme.
Download it NOW: CForms 2 Download.
2. FireStats (http://firestats.cc/)
I get different visitor stats from my Web Hosts control panel, Google Analytics and Alexa. So tracking visitors accurately is not an exact science, as it should be. FireStats is the closed thing to accuracy that I can find, its accuracy is on a par with Google Analytics, which will do me.
The configuration can be a little bit tricky for the novice, but they do have great help on their site. Have a look at the FAQ section before you install it, it will give you an insight into the functions that you can use as well understsand the installation procedure.
Download it here: FireStats Download.
3. WP Post Ratings (http://lesterchan.net)
This adds a rating system add the bottom of each post, allowing each user to have there say on how good your post is. It is powered by Ajax, making it very unobtrusive, and to be honest, configured correctly, can be very elegant. You also have (my favourite option) the option to style the ratings star images with you own. You can also show the rating results in the sidebar, this is also done in an elegant way.
You can see it working at FW Extensions, one of my other sites.
Download it here: WP Post Ratings Download.
4. Twitter Tools (http://alexking.org)
‘This plugin creates an integration between your WordPress blog and your Twitter account. Pull your tweets into your blog and create new tweets on blog posts and from within WordPress.’ As Alex King simply puts it on his webpage. Simple is the word here. If you haven’t got a Twitter account, I strongly suggest you get one. The plugin allows you to dispaly your latest tweets in your sidebar. Simple.
Download it here: Twitter Tools Download.
5. Social Bookmark Creator (http://www.twistermc.com)
For every Social Bookmark site there seems to be 10 plugins. This is the simplest that I have found, it is the plugin I use for speckyboy.com. It can display image links, or as I like it, as text links. It can even do it as a dropdown list. It blends with your sites CSS style very well, and its options menu is very easy use and configure. The links can then be placed anywhere you want it show up.
Download it here: Social Bookmark Creator Download.
6. Plug ‘n’ Play Google Map (http://archive.yongfook.com/plug-n-play-google-map/)
This is a plugin that links your post to the relevant geographic location on your Google Map page and it will only show up on posts that have latitude and longitude data associated with them. To show this button, you will need to edit one of your templates. Navigate to Presentation > Theme Editor. On the right hand side, click on Single Post. Where you put the button is up to you, but as an example, lets make it so the button appears after the main content of your post.
How cool is that. I am going to, some day, make a website just for this. This is for all you world travellers out there. (One of you commission me to make this site).
Download it here: Plug ‘n’ Play Google Map Download.
7. Google XML Sitemaps (http://www.arnebrachhold.de)
‘This plugin generates a XML-Sitemap compliant sitemap of your WordPress blog. This format is supported by Ask.com, Google, YAHOO and MSN Search.’ This will make it easier for your site to be indexed with google. A Must.
Download it here: Google XML Maps.
8. All in One SEO Pack (http://wp.uberdose.com)
As they say, this plugin is streamlined for best SEO practices for WordPress. Actually very easy to install, and the user interface is easy to fill out. Recommended for the serious blogger.
Download it here: All in One SEO Pack Download.
9. FeedBurner FeedSmith (http://www.feedburner.com)
For those who don’t know, this allows you to track everyone that subscribes to your RSS feeds, giving you many stats and useful information,
Download it here: Feedburner Download.
10. Download Exec-PHP 4.3 (http://www.feedburner.com)
Have you ever tried to write code in a post without a plugin? Your whole sites appearance crumbles. There are methods around this of course, I have found this plugin is the best.
Download it here: Download Exec-PHP 4.3 Download.
11. Lightbox 2 (http://zeo.unic.net.my/notes/lightbox2-for-wordpress/)
Lightbox is the best effect you can find for an image gallery. Not just for galleries but even for a single thumbnail image. Like all good plugins you can style the CSS until your hearts content. If you haven’t, you should.
Download it here: Lightbox 2 Download.
12. WP-Cache 2.0 (http://mnm.uib.es/gallir/wp-cache-2/)
WP-Cache is an extremely efficient WordPress page caching system to make your site much faster and responsive. It works by caching Worpress pages and storing them in a static file for serving future requests directly from the file rather than loading and compiling the whole PHP code and then building the page from the database. WP-Cache allows to serve hundred of times more pages per second, and to reduce the response time from several tenths of seconds to less than a millisecond.
Download it here: WP-Cache 2.0 Download
13. WASABI Related Post (http://wasabi.pbwiki.com/Related%20Entries)
This plugin will output a series of “related” entries based on keyword matching. The plugin installation is standard, the configuration a little bit more complicated. Have a look at the release notes for help.
Download it here: WASABI Related Post Download.
13. Search-Highlighter (http://www.fahlstad.se/wp-plugins/search-highlighter/)
A plugin that highlights the search terms in your posts. Only tested with WP 2+ and not MU.
Download it here: Search-Highlighter Download.
14. WordPress Database Backup (http://www.ilfilosofo.com/blog/wp-db-backup/)
WordPress database backup creates backups of your core WordPress tables as well as other tables of your choice in the same database. Better safe than sorry.
Download it here: WordPress Database Backup Download.
15. flickrRSS (http://eightface.com/wordpress/flickrrss/)
This plugin for WordPress allows you to display Flickr photos on your weblog. The plugin supports user, public and group photostreams. It’s easy to setup and configure via an options panel. It also has support for an image cache located on your server.
Download it here: flickrRSS Download.
16. WP-PageNavi 2.20 (http://www.lesterchan.net)
Adds a more advanced paging navigation your WordPress blog. Example: Pages (17):  2 3 4 » … Last ». Very useful if you have a large blog with many posts.
Download it here: WP-PageNavi 2.20 Download.
17. Easy Tube (http://www.ejump.co.uk)
Need YouTube or Google Videos on your WordPress blog without all the hastle of playing with HTML code? Then the EasyTube plugin is for you! The EasyTube plugin allows you to take control of your video content by using one simple tag!
Download it here: Easy Tube Download.
18. Spam Karma 2.3 (http://unknowngenius.com/blog/wordpress/spam-karma/)
Spam Karma is a great free replacement for Askimet. Very powerful and thorough.
Download it here: Spam Karma 2.3 Download.
19. WordPress Global Translator Plugin (http://www.nothing2hide.net)
Global Translator is a free and open source WordPress Plugin which is able to dynamically translate your blog in the following thirteen different languages:
English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Greek, Dutch.
The number of available translations will depend on your blog language and the translation engine you will chose to use.
Download it here: WordPress Global Translator Plugin Download.
20. Democracy AJAX Poll (http://blog.jalenack.com/archives/democracy/)
This plugin places an ajax poll in your wp blog. Very simple to use and configure.
Download it here: Democracy AJAX Poll Download.
And now the rest … not as important … you might like them though …
21. Simple Tags.
22. Syntax Highlighter.
23. Screencast – Posting Events with WordPress.
24. WordPress Reports.
25. Top 10 posts and Views per post.
26. Mobile Phone optimized WordPress.
27. Wp Forum. (It has been brought to my attention that this plugin has a security issue, when its fixed I’ll reinstate the link. Thanks Miriam).
28. Configuring WP Permalinks.
29. WP User Manager.
30. WP Tags to Technorati Tags.
Please remember these are just recommended, part of the fun is looking for the proper plugin, and trying to configure that really complicated options menu.
Hope these help.
Comments are as always welcome.