Our website here at BOALT is built on WordPress. WordPress is the open source CMS platform that currently powers 16.7% of the web. It’s so widely used because it’s simple for anyone to get set up with a WordPress website, it’s highly extensible and it has a strong development community. The WordPress plugin directory has more than 20,000 free plugins available to WordPress users, and there are plenty of commercial plugin development shops where you can buy plugins and receive ongoing support for them.
As well as extending our website using plugins, we’ve been using WP Valet for WordPress hosting and management to ensure that the website stays fast, secure and up-to-date. WP Valet also provides development and consultancy so the team there has been helping us to ensure that we’ve got the right plugins and settings for BOALT.com. Here are the plugins that we are using:
Gravity Forms is a commercial plugin created by Rocket Genius. It’s the leading forms builder plugin – no one makes easier to use or better-coded forms. The biggest benefit of Gravity Forms is the code output. It’s semantic so it is really easy to add your own CSS and style it, and the code is efficient. We use Gravity Forms for our Request a Consultation page, but that’s just a taste of what you can do with it.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Joost de Valk is the leading expert in WordPress SEO, and the plugin he created comes for free and is available in the WordPress repository. The plugin is very customizable, and you can fine tune the default settings. Once you get it up and running you can “set it and forget it”, but it also has enough options for you to customize every element.
Custom Google Search
The built in WordPress search is notoriously bad, and it’s not on the development team’s agenda to get fixed any time soon. Google is the world leader in searches, so if you want to improve the search functionality on your WordPress website it’s natural to look to them. The Google Custom Search plugin replaces all of the default searches with a Google search, making it easier for your website visitors to find what they need.
Large images can slow down your website. If you upload a large image your visitor is going to have to spend time downloading it before they can view your website. This is particularly a problem for mobile users who may be on a slow 3G network. Yahoo’s Smush.it service optimizes images by reducing the file size without losing the image quality or metadata. It has an API that lets developers run images through the service – the WP Smush.it plugin takes advantage of this service and seamlessly optimizes your images without you having to lift a finger.
Caching stores your data so that it can be served up to visitors without having to be loaded from your database each time you receive a new visitor. BOALT.com is hosted on WP Engine, which means that it has caching built into the hosting. If we weren’t hosted on WP Engine, we’d be making use of W3 Total Cache, one of the lead caching plugins. It works by default but has lots of settings for power users.