What are must-have plugins for beginners according to YOUR experience?

YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer

So, I have been working at my university's media and language department for a couple of years now, and the other day I have been approached with the question, whether I could imagine myself becoming a WordPress Instructor at our Uni to hold some of the University's WordPress (Beginner) classes. Since the course outline at least includes the introduction of a couple of plugins, which I can to some extent choose, I wanted to ask you guys (especially @bikegremlin @vyas ) which plugins you would consider must-have plugins for total beginners of WordPress.

Please keep in mind that, due to the nature of the course, there's likely gonna be the option to introduce either 5 plugins a bit more "in-depth", or about 10 plugins very superficially. The plugins should ideally not only be free(-mium), but also be easy to use and (if possible) require little config (less options means less walls the pupils can hit).
For example, WP Super Cache (while not necessarily my caching plugin of choice), has an "Easy" and "Advanced" configuration mode, where in the course probably the "Easy" mode would be addressed.

I am still waiting for more information and if this actually comes to pass, however, I already wanted to do some brainstorming so I thought, why not ask you guys :)

Comments

  • Good question. Before I turn on my both brain cells, here are just my first thoughts, while the coffee is being slownly ingested... :)

    Making a WordPress website video series

    5 videos in total. Long (some over an hour), boring, tedious. Those who manage to sit through them are:
    1) Really patient, disciplined and eager to learn (or dumb as a door knob, one not excluding the other :) )
    2) Will get an idea of one (perhaps far from ideal) system of work (until I figure out the proper English name for that). And will have learned the basics of all the stuff involved and how it all works, and interacts with each other (domains, DNS, emails, hosting, WordPress etc.).

    Workflow! Yes, that's the term I was looking for! :)
    The main idea behind the video series was to introduce my workflow to a friend who knows a lot already.
    However, while I was at it, I tried to explain the basics so that even novices can follow (hopefully).

    Now, for the plugin list:

    We need SEO, security, caching, optimization and emails (whatever else you think matters should be added of course).
    So, 5 "areas" and 5 plugins.

    1.
    The SEO Framework.
    It's one of the very few plugins I install on literally every site I make.
    Teaching WP is (should be) also about teaching the very basics of SEO.

    2.
    Wordfence
    This is a plugin I usually install before installing any other plugin.
    Yes, hard men don't need such gimmicks, but I'm a wuss.
    When configured properly, it won't bring a site to work draggingly slow, and in my experience it can help in case something else fails (though it's by no means replacement for a good firewall and overall server/account security).

    3.
    WP Super Cache is a good choice, especially for instructional purposes.
    Yes, LiteSpeed is better, but probably a bit more complicated to use for that.

    4.
    Optimization.
    LiteSpeed does this wonderfully.
    WP Optimize is a good alterantive

    5.
    Emails. Configuring proper SMTP email sending, not relying on the PHP function.
    Easy WP SMTP for the win (my article)! :)

    That should cover the basic website functioning.
    Sure - anti spam and contact form are also important, but so are the manual migrations etc. A lot of stuff that leans on each other. Depending on how much time and effort one puts in (both for learning and for teaching), the "course" could be expanded, or cut shorter/briefer.

    ...Now... where's my medicine?!

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  • vyasvyas OGContent Writer
    edited September 20

    @bikegremlin

    Edited your category a bit

    SEO, security, caching, optimization and Backup

    I would
    Focus on
    Category of plugins not specific plugin.

    What about themes? Block or Classic?

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  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer
    edited September 20

    @bikegremlin said:
    Good question. Before I turn on my both brain cells, here are just my first thoughts, while the coffee is being slownly ingested... :)

    Thanks for the quick reply, mate! I totally get how it must feel if you haven't had your fair share of caffeine in the morning yet (I am heading out to get my second cup of coffee for today as we speak).

    Making a WordPress website video series

    5 videos in total. Long (some over an hour), boring, tedious. Those who manage to sit through them are:
    1) Really patient, disciplined and eager to learn (or dumb as a door knob, one not excluding the other :) )
    2) Will get an idea of one (perhaps far from ideal) system of work (until I figure out the proper English name for that). And will have learned the basics of all the stuff involved and how it all works, and interacts with each other (domains, DNS, emails, hosting, WordPress etc.).

    Workflow! Yes, that's the term I was looking for! :)
    The main idea behind the video series was to introduce my workflow to a friend who knows a lot already.
    However, while I was at it, I tried to explain the basics so that even novices can follow (hopefully).

    Right, I remember your cool video series and it was certainly fun checking in on how you do things (or "recommend" doing things to your friends and other potential human beings and robots jk). Video tutorials are certainly an essential part to acquiring new skills today, but I am, for one, really happy that this will be in the format of a "workshop" kinda thing where there's theory & action combined. This will also prevent people getting stuck in "tutorial hell" :tongue: Depending on the lesson format (several weeks of 1.5-2h lessons would have me structure things differently than e.g. 2x5-6 hours on a weekend). While Domains, DNS, emails, and hosting are important this will likely not fit in the scope of the lesson (, unfortunately,) as it will really have a focus on WordPress itself.

    Now, for the plugin list:

    We need SEO, security, caching, optimization and emails (whatever else you think matters should be added of course).
    So, 5 "areas" and 5 plugins.

    1.
    The SEO Framework.
    It's one of the very few plugins I install on literally every site I make.
    Teaching WP is (should be) also about teaching the very basics of SEO.

    I remember you recommending that one a while back and I'll have to check it out again. SEO basics would certainly be part of the course, even though at a limited scope (given that Dashboard navigation, creating/editing sites etc will play the major part of the seminar/workshop).

    2.
    Wordfence
    This is a plugin I usually install before installing any other plugin.
    Yes, hard men don't need such gimmicks, but I'm a wuss.
    When configured properly, it won't bring a site to work draggingly slow, and in my experience it can help in case something else fails (though it's by no means replacement for a good firewall and overall server/account security).

    Certainly agree that it's important and I'll see if it fits into the expectations and schedule of the lesson. Again, not saying it's not important, I'll just have to clarify what exactly would be the "goals" of the course with the university staff (e.g. "setting up and securing a fresh wp install VS navigating in wp and using convenient plugins like block plugins, backup, SEO, Cache..).

    3.
    WP Super Cache is a good choice, especially for instructional purposes.
    Yes, LiteSpeed is better, but probably a bit more complicated to use for that.

    Agree, however, LiteSpeed depends on the hosting environment, so as much as I like LSCache, I'll probably go with this one.

    4.
    Optimization.
    LiteSpeed does this wonderfully.
    WP Optimize is a good alternative

    See 3). WP Optimize may indeed be a good pick :)

    5.
    Emails. Configuring proper SMTP email sending, not relying on the PHP function.
    Easy WP SMTP for the win (my article)! :)

    Interesting that you brought this up. Again, depends a bit on what they expect me to cover in the "beginner course".
    Below is a screenshot from the contents of the first wp beginner course I found on Udemy. I assume that 70-80% of my time will be expected to go into teaching them "What is WP?", how to create/edit pages, navigate the dashboard, what are themes and plugins, how to install+activate themes/plugins, menus etc.....and then 20% of additional stuff like introducing some 5 plugins going through basic settings, or a larger amount but even more superficially (e.g. more categories of plugins and 1 decent plugin per category but not going into its settings at all; hence why I probably prefer introducing just 5).

    That should cover the basic website functioning.
    Sure - anti spam and contact form are also important, but so are the manual migrations etc. A lot of stuff that leans on each other. Depending on how much time and effort one puts in (both for learning and for teaching), the "course" could be expanded, or cut shorter/briefer.

    ...Now... where's my medicine?!

    Go grab that coffee now, you've earned it :D

    @vyas said:
    @bikegremlin

    Edited your category a bit

    SEO, security, caching, optimization and Backup

    Definitely agree with you that "Backup" should be one of the categories (might leave out e.g. email instead). Even though server side backups are what, in theory, are to be recommended, a backup plugin can be crucial, especially for beginners so they can easily roll-back when they screw up.

    I would
    Focus on
    Category of plugins not specific plugin.

    This would be the other approach. Introducing various categories and maybe naming/bringing up a couple of decent plugins per category, however, not diving into their settings at all (this could be done e.g. when introducing plugins overall, how to install etc..).

    What about themes? Block or Classic?

    Themes will probably also be introduced, however very superficially at best (this is what themes are, how to install them, activate them and yeah..configuration probably not much due to time restrictions).

    Probably going to work with (Gutenberg) Blocks if I got that correctly (will have to confirm).

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  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer
    edited September 20

    Just pulled up a description of the previous courses (might be even more superficial than I anticipated).
    Course was held on a weekend (2x7 hours).

    Want to easily create a blog or a sophisticated website with just a few clicks? WordPress makes it possible. The most popular application for creating websites is easy to use, offers a variety of professional design options and requires no programming knowledge.

    After the course you will be able to create, design and maintain an attractive website according to your wishes:

    You know how to set up your website (put it into operation, configure it)
    You can embed and customize content in WordPress (text, images and videos)
    You are able to select a suitable design template and set it up individually (themes)
    You can extend your page with helpful functions, e.g. B. with forms (plugins)
    You can make your website user-friendly (accessibility, device adaptation and search engine optimization)

  • bikegremlinbikegremlin ModeratorOG
    edited September 20

    Videos (and articles for that matter) can be used to save time during the lessons (especially if the number of classes is limited).
    So people can use them as notes, reminders, and basic explanations so they get a clearer image of what they need to ask the teacher.

    I made a series of articles for that use primarily, as I was both attending and helping execute a WP course in my city. The first article:
    Introductory article for Davor Altman's WP Worksohop

    Introductory article for BikeGremlin WP series

    The list (category) containing all the articles (first ones start at the bottom):
    WordPress workshop article list

    Feel free to "butcher" for slides and notes anything you find to be useful.

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  • vyasvyas OGContent Writer

    So far sounds good

    Was referring to block themes.

    https://wordpress.org/support/article/block-themes/

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  • vyasvyas OGContent Writer

    @Ympker said:

    @vyas said:
    So far sounds good

    Was referring to block themes.

    https://wordpress.org/support/article/block-themes/

    Ah, like Blocksy?

    Mea Culpa.. I meant
    Full Site editing.

    Self-check to explain what I intended to say:
    Since WP 5.9, themes can be edited via web browser.. that is the direction WP is moving towards.
    Look up andersnoren.se for e.g.
    Tove, Beaumont, Poe, etc...

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  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer

    @vyas said:

    @Ympker said:

    @vyas said:
    So far sounds good

    Was referring to block themes.

    https://wordpress.org/support/article/block-themes/

    Ah, like Blocksy?

    Mea Culpa.. I meant
    Full Site editing.

    Self-check to explain what I intended to say:
    Since WP 5.9, themes can be edited via web browser.. that is the direction WP is moving towards.
    Look up andersnoren.se for e.g.
    Tove, Beaumont, Poe, etc...

    Ah, right. Gotcha. I know about FSE, just was not sure what you were trying to say, initially(probably too tired).

  • cloudflare
    the seo framework
    wp super-cache
    updraftPlus
    smush pro

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  • i had the idea of this for a long time. i'd like to see the finished syllabus

    i was thinking to name the lesson "content management systems" and talk about some of them (joomla, drupal, wp) and continue on wp

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  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer

    @tridinebandim said:
    i had the idea of this for a long time. i'd like to see the finished syllabus

    i was thinking to name the lesson "content management systems" and talk about some of them (joomla, drupal, wp) and continue on wp

    I think it all comes down to your goals. Syllabus would be different according to the respective use case.

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  • BlaZeBlaZe Hosting ProviderOG

    Irrespective of what type of site it is, I install the following by default:

    • Rankmath SEO (earlier I relied on Yoast)
    • Loginizer (security)
    • Smush
    • Contact Form 7
    • SiteKit (best integration with Google Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adwords & Pagespeed)

    Also, I install UpdraftPlus Backup plugin.

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  • @BlaZe said:
    Irrespective of what type of site it is, I install the following by default:

    • Rankmath SEO (earlier I relied on Yoast)
    • Loginizer (security)
    • Smush
    • Contact Form 7
    • SiteKit (best integration with Google Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adwords & Pagespeed)

    Also, I install UpdraftPlus Backup plugin.

    Why I avoid Rankmath

    Why I no longer use Yoast either

    For Google Analytics and the likes, I think it's easily "connected" using some child-theme custom code, without adding yet-another-WP-plugin just for that.

    Regarding backups (which @vyas also mentioned), I think those are best done on the server level, i.e. not relying on WP to back itself up, if at all possible (some providers won't let you do that).

    I can't tell you which hosting to buy, but I've written in great detail about the providers I've used so far:
    BikeGremlin web-hosting reviews

  • vyasvyas OGContent Writer

    @bikegremlin said:

    Regarding backups (which @vyas also mentioned), I think those are best done on the server level, i.e. not relying on WP to back itself up, if at all possible (some providers won't let you do that).

    I would agree with you on most days. But reg backups- a plugin can help when in times of crisis.

    But yesterday, I saw that Softaculous license on the reseller hosting where my blog is hosted - had expired, and there was no sensible way to make "Server side" backups or download older backups. Reset password via email also did not work.

    DA panel was accessible, I uploaded Updraft plus into the /wp-plugins folder, changed password via phpMyAdmin, and took a backup. Could have done something similar with All In One WP Migration or a similar plugin.

    The password change was my self motivated precautionary measure and probably not needed. Softaculous license was restored btw and the provider was very apologetic since the cron job had failed.

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  • @vyas said:

    @bikegremlin said:

    Regarding backups (which @vyas also mentioned), I think those are best done on the server level, i.e. not relying on WP to back itself up, if at all possible (some providers won't let you do that).

    I would agree with you on most days. But reg backups- a plugin can help when in times of crisis.

    But yesterday, I saw that Softaculous license on the reseller hosting where my blog is hosted - had expired, and there was no sensible way to make "Server side" backups or download older backups. Reset password via email also did not work.

    DA panel was accessible, I uploaded Updraft plus into the /wp-plugins folder, changed password via phpMyAdmin, and took a backup. Could have done something similar with All In One WP Migration or a similar plugin.

    The password change was my self motivated precautionary measure and probably not needed. Softaculous license was restored btw and the provider was very apologetic since the cron job had failed.

    Backups should provide you all the files and a DB export.
    And be available off the hosting server.

    Don't know how Softaculous handles that - never used it for backups.

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  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer

    @BlaZe said:
    Irrespective of what type of site it is, I install the following by default:

    • Rankmath SEO (earlier I relied on Yoast)
    • Loginizer (security)
    • Smush
    • Contact Form 7
    • SiteKit (best integration with Google Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adwords & Pagespeed)

    Also, I install UpdraftPlus Backup plugin.

    Honestly, UpdraftPlus can be a life-saver. Just gotta love this plugin.

  • My first plugin is always limit login attempts reloaded. Because there are brute force attacks going on all day and especially installations by amateurs like your students could be vulnerable. The logs are a constant reminder to use strong passwords.

    Next is to activate automated updates on all levels (themes, plugins)

    We all know that many of these amateur blogs will run unattended for years...

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  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer

    @someTom said:
    My first plugin is always limit login attempts reloaded. Because there are brute force attacks going on all day and especially installations by amateurs like your students could be vulnerable. The logs are a constant reminder to use strong passwords.

    Next is to activate automated updates on all levels (themes, plugins)

    We all know that many of these amateur blogs will run unattended for years...

    Fair point. Thanks!

  • bikegremlinbikegremlin ModeratorOG
    edited September 22

    @someTom said:
    Next is to activate automated updates on all levels (themes, plugins)

    You don't do WordPress tech. support, do you?

    :)

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  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer
    edited September 22

    @bikegremlin said:

    @someTom said:
    Next is to activate automated updates on all levels (themes, plugins)

    You don't do WordPress tech. support, do you?

    :)

    New major version gets released. Auto updates load...What could go wrong ;)

    While I agree that probably lots of blogs/sites are running unattended and updates are important for security, one should still be careful. If the website is going to run unattended, maybe a static site export would be a better option.

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  • vyasvyas OGContent Writer
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