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Recommendations for plugins and services

Updated on July 6th, 2021

Plugins are utilized for a variety of reasons, and there are tons of them out there – in the WordPress.org repository alone, about 56,000 exist at the time of this writing! This doesn’t include any available through GitHub, CodeCanyon, other marketplaces, developer sites, and custom-built plugins. Needless to say, things can easily get a bit overwhelming when looking for the plugins that work best for your site.

In this help doc, we’ll walk you through some plugins we recommend or suggest as alternatives for commonly used plugins!

Table of Contents


Image Optimization

Optimizing your images is a critical piece of site development! Every image you use on a site has to be loaded by the server, and if your site uses large, uncompressed images, the site may not be as performant as expected. Image optimization keeps those file sizes down, which are in turn served up faster, and save you space in your server’s storage.

A couple of things to be aware of with this type of plugin is that some of the plugins out there use methods that aren’t compatible with Flywheel, or use methods that are resource-intensive and can slow down (or in some extreme cases, even crash) your site.

Here are a few plugins we recommend checking out for optimizing your images:

Don’t want to add another plugin to your site? No problem! You can optimize your images before uploading them to your site. Here are some options that offer image compression via the web or an application on your local machine:

  • TinyPNG – free browser-based tool for compressing PNG & JPEG images
  • ImageOptim – free open-source app for compressing images
  • JPEGmini – photo compressing app for Mac & Windows
  • RIOT  – free Windows app for optimizing images

Note

Want to learn more about image optimization from one of our Happiness Engineers? Check out this Layout article for more information.

Security

Here on Flywheel, we take care of site security with things like locking down core files and taking care of WordPress updates. However, we still recommend taking a few extra steps to increase your site’s security even further. We generally disallow security plugins, and this is due to possible interference with our native security features and the resource-hungry nature of many security plugins.

These plugins, however, are ones we absolutely recommend if you’re looking to take your site’s security to the next level:

*Keep in mind, this recommendation is based on the WordPress plugin, Authy. We recommend doing research on which mobile authentication app you’d prefer. 

**These plugins may utilize server resources, as they are scanning and recording activity. Use with caution, and disable if the site sees performance issues when in use!


Backups

We take care of backups for you every night, but maybe you want to take an extra backup. Like security plugins, we generally disallow backup plugins, but if an extra backup is what you need, check out the plugins below. We like these because they offload the backups to cloud storage, which means they won’t clutter the server:


Site Optimization

Site speed and overall performance is important to just about everyone! Ironically, some performance plugins can create server strain, and actually make things worse. The plugins below utilize things like HTML & CSS minification and lazy loading, which help make a site zippy without much of a trade-off on server resources.

While it’s best to work with a developer to make these optimization strategies a part of the theme development process, these plugins can help in lieu of that:

Note

Certain settings in WP-Rocket can create adverse effects on site performance. Check out this guide for optimizing WP-Rocket on Flywheel.


Debugging & Decluttering

Sometimes you may need to do some troubleshooting or may want to clean up your site. By doing so, especially cleaning up a site’s database, you can ultimately improve the site’s performance. Here are a few handy plugins we recommend if you’re looking to dive deeper into your site to help clean or troubleshoot:

WordPress does offer native debugging, through WP_DEBUG (which can be turned on in your Flywheel dashboard). This is great for troubleshooting critical errors with plugins and themes. More information on WP_DEBUG can be viewed here.

*Query Monitor is best used before a site goes live. If troubleshooting is absolutely necessary on a live site, use this for a very short amount of time. The reason for this is it’s actively scanning & reporting, which utilizes server resources. Rather than using  this on a live site, we’d recommend cloning the site and installing the plugin on the cloned site.

**We recommend using WP-Optimize exclusively for its database cleanup feature. Cache preloading and other features may utilize server resources, which could create performance issues.


Content and Uploads/Downloads

Protecting and managing your downloadable content is an extra step you can take to keep your site nice and secure! However, if unadvised plugins are used, they could have potential conflicts with our native security features on Flywheel and could create some performance issues. Here are some plugins we recommend for monitoring your content closer:


Form Creation

Contact forms are amazing for connecting with potential clients, getting feedback, and all sorts of information! A quick search on the WordPress.org plugin directory for “contact form” comes up with 49 pages full of options currently! So, which ones are the cream of the contact form crop? Here are some options that are reliable and used on many sites:


Newsletters

While you can dispatch newsletters using the default mail service included in your Flywheel hosting plan, it’s important to stay within the email sending limits of your plan. For this reason, customers often look to a specialized newsletter service if they expect to run sizable email campaigns.

For more information and recommendations, check out this help doc: Do you allow newsletter plugins?


Anti-Spam

It’s probably safe to say that no one enjoys spam – not in your comments, and definitely not in your contact forms. So, which plugins are best for combating spam? Here are our recommendations:


Maintenance Mode/Coming Soon

Maybe you’re redesigning your site, migrating it to Flywheel, or have another reason for a “coming soon” page. Utilizing these types of pages can prevent visitors from experiencing any bugginess, seeing an incomplete page, or downtime. Here are some maintenance mode plugins we love at Flywheel:


SEO

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is very important for sites, especially those that depend on traffic like eCommerce sites! SEO isn’t just about search engines and “being on the first page” – following SEO best practices can improve the site’s usability and overall user experience. Need a plugin to help you manage SEO? Well, look no further:


Cron

A cron job is very handy for scheduling automated tasks like deleting temporary files from the server. On Flywheel, we don’t allow users to create or manage server-level cron jobs for security, but there are a few different ways we suggest managing and creating these jobs:

Note

WP Cron is built into WordPress and is free to use. It does have limitations. If you’re not seeing the desired effect, check out one of the other plugins or services listed above!

Here are a few third-party services we recommend as well:


General Site Management

Need some other neat tools to help manage your site? Check out these recommendations!

  • CloudFlare – Cloudflare is a third-party service that acts as a go-between from your site’s server to your users. Cloudflare adds various features related to speed, security and performance along the way! Here’s a guide on optimizing CloudFlare for Flywheel!
  • Redirection – While Flywheel does help if more complicated rewrites are needed for your site, if you’ve got some simple redirects you need to manage, this plugin is great for doing so!
  • File ManagerYour site’s files are accessible via SFTP, but sometimes that’s not ideal. With File Manager, you can say toodaloo to SFTP for moving and managing your files!
  • Better Search-Replace – Every now and again, you may find yourself needing to run a search-replace, like needing to fix mixed content. This plugin is our go-to for any search-replace jobs you may need. Note: we recommend taking a backup before utilizing this plugin!
  • User Role Editor – Editing user roles in WordPress can be done with this plugin in just a few clicks! This is our top pick for user-role management.

Choosing a Plugin – Best Practices

Need a plugin and can’t find our recommendation?

That’s okay! Here are a few tips for identifying useful plugins that won’t have adverse effects on your site:

  • Do some research! A quick search for the best plugins of its type, and finding trends in those top picks will help eliminate plugins that may not be a good fit.
  • Once you’ve narrowed your search down, ask yourself these questions: is the plugin compatible with my WordPress/PHP version? Is it regularly updated? Is it still supported by its developer, and is it easy to get support? What about the reviews? Taking a look at the plugin’s profile on wordpress.org (if applicable) may help you answer those questions!
  • Once you’ve picked out the best one, give it a test! Test the site’s speed before installing the new plugin using GTMetrix or another reliable page speed tester, so you can effectively compare how the plugin impacts your site. We recommend doing a test on Staging, or if you wish to put it on the live site, make sure you take a backup first. Run another page speed test after installing and activating the plugin.
  • If the site is looking good and running smoothly, you’ve got yourself a new plugin!

What do do if the plugin doesn’t work, or has negative effects: 

  • Occasionally, plugins can conflict with themes or other plugins. We recommend deactivating all plugins and switching the theme to a default theme, and testing the plugin again. If it works, that means there’s a conflict! Activate each plugin one at a time, then the theme, to identify which plugin (or theme) doesn’t play nicely. If you’re still having issues, open up a support request with the plugin developer.
  • Not all plugins are great for performance. If you see the site experience extreme slowness, it may be best to try out another plugin. If the plugin works at first, but later on experiences some slowness, we recommend reaching out to our 24/7 support, as you may be experiencing maxing of server resources or we can point you in the direction of those plugin issues.

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