20 Essential Tools and Plug-Ins to help you become a better WordPress web designer and developer
As the web grows, so does the role of a web professional. Luckily, the toolkit of available plug-ins grows as well, enabling developers, designers, and project managers to take on tasks historically reserved for specialists.
Many of today’s web pros have jobs that blur several technical and creative disciplines ranging from front-end designer and back-end developer to marketer, project manager, and entrepreneur. In order to help web professionals meet these evolving demands, we’ve created a list of twenty essential tools for multi-faceted web professionals to work across management, design, and of course, development.
Picking the right tool for the right job can make your life a lot easier. We hope these tools can save you time and help you become a better end-to-end web professional.
Before you do anything else, make sure these tools and plug-ins are ready to go. The following five tools provide consolidation help and help automate various administrative needs to help save time.
This is a free dashboard that lets you manage all of your WordPress sites in one place. You can install plugins and updates across all of your sites at once, run reports, and generate executive summaries for your clients.
Consolidate multiple WordPress sites into a single place to save time and avoid the tedious logging in and logging out that comes with multi-site management.
This plugin allows you to make changes to the WordPress administration area by activating and deactivating various fields. It even lets you add your own custom fields.
If you manage a multi-author WordPress blog or WordPress sites for clients, then you may have wondered if it was possible to clean up the WordPress admin area for your users? There are lots of things in the WordPress admin area that your users don’t need to see or use, so this plug-in helps clean up the admin area to avoid mistakes and save time.
3: AB Press Optimizer
A/B testing is crucially important for improving site traffic and getting the right visitors. This is a plugin that integrates A/B testing for various elements of WordPress sites.
4: WP Reset
This plugin speeds up testing and debugging by providing a quick way to reset settings and re-test code.
With this plug-in you can quickly reset a site’s database to the default installation values without modifying any files. It deletes all customizations and content and has multiple fail-safe mechanisms so you can never accidentally lose data.
5: Co-Authors Plus
With more content you’ll inevitably need more authors. This plug-in simplifies admin work by circumventing the need to create a Wordpress account for each individual author, saving you time and effort. Additionally, this plugin enables you to assign multiple bylines from an input box. You can even add bylines for writers who don’t have a WordPress user account for the site.
There are tons of design-related tools and plug-ins on the market, but here are a few of our favorites.
6: Theme Check
The theme check plugin is an easy way to test your theme and make sure it’s up to spec with the latest theme review standards. With it, you can run all the same automated testing tools on your theme that WordPress.org uses for theme submissions.
This is an automated tool you can use to test whether your new theme conforms to the latest WordPress standards. That can save you a lot of tedious revision work when you are trying to get your work approved.
This is a theme studio and marketplace. They also sell the Genesis framework, widely considered to be one of the best on the market. Adding a sleek, professional design without paying a fortune can be a tough ask but with Studio Press and Genesis turnkey designs you can get an array of beautiful frames for your content built on HTML5.
8: WP Rollback
New themes can create new problems, and troubleshooting takes a lot of time. This plugin automates the process of rolling themes and plugins forward or back which can save you a ton of time when you’re testing out a new theme.
Design can be a messy, difficult process, so it’s important to consolidate tools and eliminate distractions where possible. This design tool kit includes vector editing, pixel precision, export presents, prototyping, grids, and guides, among other tools. Having all of these tools in one place can save you time over assembling them piecemeal.
Charts add a dynamic, clean visual to your site, but manual creation and coding takes time. If you’re looking to save time, this plugin can help you create interactive and fully responsive charts, infographics, and maps. If you’re designing sites that are heavily data-driven, this can be a huge time-saver.
Like design, there is a vast range of development tools available for even the smallest web development tasks. Here are a few plug-ins to help round out your existing web development tool belt.
12: Freelancer DevKit
This plugin for creating child themes also provides a point-and-click interface for responsive design. More and more visitors use cell phones and tablets when browsing, so responsive design is an important component for any site.
13: Debug Bar (Plus extras)
Debugging multiple sites requires a significant amount of time, but integrating your debugging directly into Wordpress can help automate and speed things along.Add a debug menu to the WordPress admin bar, courtesy of this plugin. You can further enhance the Debug Bar by installing the following plugins: Debug Bar Console, Debug Bar Shortcodes, Debug Bar Constants, Debug Bar Post Types, Debug Bar Cron, Debug Bar Actions and Filters Add On, Debug Bar Transients, and Debug Bar Remote Requests.
When in doubt, back it up. This plugin helps move or clone a WordPress site to a new location. You can use it to easily move a live site to a localhost or sandbox location for testing.
15: Varying Vagrant Vagrants (VVV)
The primary goal of Varying Vagrant Vagrants (VVV) is to provide an approachable development environment with a modern server configuration. VVV is ideal for developing themes and plugins as well as for contributing to WordPress core.
This one in particular is an open-source Vagrant virtual machine designed for WordPress development; it works in Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Without project management, there would be no development or design at the end of the day. Try out a few of the below tools to refine your timelines and communications.
A cross between a spreadsheet and a database, Airtable is great for organizing all kinds of information. Save time by using templates like their Design template, their User Feedback template, or their Product Planning template.
This is a simple but free time tracker that can integrate with WordPress via a browser extension. Like Time Doctor, you can use Toggl to figure out how profitable your work really is.
This is a popular workplace chat platform that comes in both free and paid versions. Multiple channels help you keep conversations organized and on point.
If you haven’t used a Kanban board yet, you should seriously consider implementing them into your workflow to help organize production tasks. This is a free collaborative project-management tool that uses virtual cards to create Kanban boards.
This plugin creates a project-management dashboard inside WordPress; it comes in both free and paid versions.
Looking for more tools? Last year we published this list of our essential 90 WordPress tools for web designers and developers in case you need a tool not listed above.
About the author: Andy McIlwain is a Senior Marketing Manager at GoDaddy overseeing technical content and community projects. As a former web freelancer, Andy has a zeal for helping local small businesses work with the web. You can connect with Andy on Twitter and LinkedIn.