At JDM, we’re big fans of WordPress for most applications (business & blogging) and we love looking at people’s picks for the best plugins to extend this flexible CMS. After half a decade of experience, here are OUR picks for the very best 8 WordPress plugins to improve user experience.
01. WP Greet Box
WP Greet Box lets you dynamically show a relevant greeting message depending on where to your new visitors are coming from (comes from the URL referrer). For example, when a Twitter user clicks through from a link in a Tweet, they will see a message asking for a RT — or whatever you choose for the message to say in the plugin admin.
The plugin comes with a whole slew of pre-built referrers like Reditt, Facebook, etc. as well as the option to remove or add custom referrers — for partner/friends websites, for example.
Having these targeted suggestions will help your blog or website increase exposure, loyal readership, and user experience. Best of all, it’s compatible with WPMU and various WordPress cache plugins (if you’re into that).
02. WPtouch Pro
WPtouch Pro, from Brave New Code, is a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily adds powerful, easy-to-use themes for mobile and tablet visitors. These mobile themes are completely separate from your existing one, but the content remains the same. A handy way to bring your desktop website to a mobile world with little or no programming needed.
This one is not free, but it’s well worth the money building a double-optin email list that’s about as automated as it gets. Newsletter Tycoon, from getButterfly, is a premium WordPress plugin (avaliable from CodeCanyon.net for a whopping $14) allows users to subscribe and receive an automatic email newsletter containing formatted blog posts or exerpts, links, authors, date and more.
The subscription system features a sidebar opt-in widget, double opt-in system (with email confirmation), duplicate and email validation. Administrators can also manually activate or remove subscribers.
Send frequency is very flexible. Emails can be sent regularly (weekly, monthly), manually (anytime), or after a pre-determined number of new posts.
My favorite part is that this plugin allows you to customize (via simplified HTML) how the email template looks. Our Shameless News blog uses this plugin to manage subscriptions. Subscribe in the sidebar and see for yourself. You can always unsubscribe later. Our feelings will only be a LITTLE hurt. ;)
04. Print CSS (from yours truly)
There was a time when the ‘mobile’ version of a website was printing it out and taking it with you. Although that time has past, it’s not a bad idea to install a simple and light-weight plugin that simply loads a separate CSS file that will hide or remove any unnecessary formatting.
Test your site. Go to a page on your site and click ‘File’ >> ‘Print Preview’ in your browser to see what it would look like. If it looks like a rabid dog chewed your layout, download a printer-friendly css plugin.
There are several out there, but we were never satisfied with what we found. So, we made our own. It’s not on WordPress.org yet, but it IS free.
Learn more about JDM’s Print CSS plugin in the Lab Codex and download the plug-in free.
05. QR Code Widget
QR (or Quick Response) codes are gaining in popularity and allow visitors to scan your content from their desktop monitor and take the content mobile (particularly if you’re using WPtouch). QR Code Widget is exactly what it sounds like. The free plugin automatically generates QR codes for all your webpages, posts, etc. and caches them in a folder. The Admin allows for some neat customizations (including styling) and for multiple ways of embedding (widgets, shortcodes, PHP calls, etc.). Built on the PHP QR Code encoder, this plugin has been completely re-written in version 2.0.
Want to see it in action? Scan the QR Code at the bottom with your mobile phone and you’ll see it take you to the mobile version of this page. Scan the QR code on a different page of our site and be taken to THAT page on your mobile phone. You get it. Pretty cool, right?
06. WP Cumulus
I don’t know if this is a user experience thing, but WP Cumulus is just too cool not to make our list. On the sidebar (a little further up) under “Trending Topics”, you’ll see a 3D tag cloud which is interactive and clickable.
The plugin installs in seconds. It’s configurable in minutes. It’s super-cool and, of course, totally free.
In the latest version, you can have the plugin use the old-fashioned 2D tag cloud if a user is using a browser or device that doesn’t support Flash, such as an iPhone or iPad.
Now this little plugin is ALL about user experience. [tooltip content=”THIS is a toolTip. Cool, right?” url=”” ]Wordpress ToolTip[/tooltip] allows for roll-over pop-up bubbles that allow authors and admins to offer additional (search engine visible) content to better explain the numerous abbreviations we are all guilty of using.
The plugin is free, light-weight, super-easy to use from the WordPress [tooltip content=”WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get” url=”” ]WYSIWYG[/tooltip] editor. Save your sophisticated readers from over-explanations and prevent your greener readers from feeling like you’re talking over their heads with a simple, but snazzy [tooltip content=”Did I mention you can add links to tooltips?” url=”http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-tooltips/” ]ToolTip[/tooltip].
08. Simple Social Icons (Updated)
Even if you’re no social media guru, allowing your visitors to syndicate YOUR content through THEIR social networks is a powerful way of spreading the word. This plugin was originally developed by someone else and has since been forked and improved.
To see it in action, check out the social sharing widgets (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn) just below. Download the plugin for free here.
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