z1

My name is Zhiwan (z-one), a rabbit with a color obsession. A Netherland Dwarf rabbit to be precise. When not frolicking with other like-minded rabbits, I has been known to participate in what one might call artistic endeavors. I’ve been labled a color-field AbEx at heart. But for reals, I have an unhealthy obsession with found objects, paint, and sometimes relational aesthetics. If you would like to hire me for some sort of commercial or artistic labor, but need some sort of official document, I got you covered below:

WordPress Essential Plugins…and W3 Total Cache


Having used WordPress for the past two years, I have found certain plugins I keep coming back to over and over. Many are for optimizing workflow, improving page load times, and hardening security issues. The following is a list and thoughts of what I use most of the time when developing a new theme for either myself or a client.

 

Advanced Custom Fields
I usually use Advanced Custom Fields to streamline workflow by adding unique fields to that show up for certain categories. I can even make the fields required, which ensures a field isn’t forgotten.

Akismet
Akismet comes with WordPress and seems to do a good job fielding spam comments without an ugly CAPTCHA at the bottom.

APC Object Cache Backend / Batcache Manager
These two plugins work in conjunction with each other for fast caching. They only work if you are using an nginx server. Read the installation instructions carefully, as they aren’t your average plugins.

Auto Post Thumbnail
This plugin automates the Featured Image creation by using the first image in a post as the Featured Image, all correctly sized and cropped. Unless you want a custom Featured Image for each post, Auto Post Thumbnails works pretty nicely.

Better WP Security
Better WP Security reconfigures your WordPress site to conform to many of the best security practices, from changing the default admin username, creating custom login URLs, and adding a table-prefix to your database. I would install WP Security on a staging WordPress site first, as too many parts are being edited and things can quickly go wrong. You’ll need to tweak your config settings if you use nginx.

Broken Link Checker
A great way to keep up to date to broken links. You can also set up the plugin to notify an email account whenever it finds a new broken link.

Google Analytics for WordPress / Google XML Sitemaps
These are self explanatory. Sitemaps are particularly useful since it will update every time a new post is created.

Nginx Helper
Use this plugin to optimize WordPress with Nginx, such as fastcgi/proxy cache purging, nginx map{}, rewrite support for permalinks.

Simple Image Sizes
I LOVE this plugin. It allows custom image size creation far beyond the built-in WordPress options. Simple Image Sizes will also recreate the thumbnails, doing away with the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin. Also works in conjunction with WP Retina 2x plugin anytime you need new retina images.

WP-Ajaxify-Comments
Does exactly as described: comments will post without taking the user away from the page through Ajax. Pure awesomeness.

WP-HTML-Compression
Minimizes the HTML for faster page loads. ’nuff said.

WP Optimize
Optimizes your database, cleans up spam, and deletes old drafts. What else could you ask for?

WP Retina 2x
This single plugin has allowed serving retina images so easy! You can even look at which images need a retina version and generate it. Working with Simple Image Sizes, you can recreate the thumbnails and the retina version will be created as well. Any new images uploaded will have an accompanying retina image.

 

And the last one………

W3 Total Cache
Okaaayyyy….this plugin is a bloated beast. For someone looking for those poorly made “quick-solve-all” solutions, this is the plugin for you. Basically, W3 Total Cache does all sorts of caching and minimizing. CDN support is even offered. The problem with this plugin is that by doing everything, it’s easy to get confused by what is happening to your site. I also stopped using W3 Total Cache as my workflow changed. For instance, I use Codekit to minimize most of the CSS and Javascript before being uploaded to my site. WP-HTML-Compression deals with the rest of the minimizing. Batcache/APC Object Cache/nginx rounds out many of the same caching/gziping W3 Total Cache does.

The best part of using individual tools is that if one messes up, it’s easy to isolate the problem. So far, that hasn’t been a concern as since I switched to this setup, I haven’t had any issue with the individual plugins. I can’t tell you how many times something went wrong with W3 Total Cache where I spent hours trying to find the issue and have my entire site mess up as I slowly checked and unchecked each caching option. While running W3 Total Cache, I would constantly be fixing pages. Given how many times I would check my site only to see a blank page, I constantly worried my site would go down at any given minute for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. I understand not everyone has time to setup an nginx server, use Codekit, and learn best practices, and I think W3 Total Cache is targeting that audience. But if you are a WordPress developer, do everything in your power to avoid this plugin.

 

Of course, this list is constantly changing and incomplete, so feel free to make any suggestions.


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