Our mission-critical WordPress plugins

By on Oct 16th

Wear your WORDPRESS love close to your heart… Photo © by Titanas, used under Creative Commons license.

It's no secret that I bet the farm when I built the Offbeat Empire on WordPress. My developer, Jennifer M. Dodd, suggested way back in 2006 that we tap into WordPress's open source platform and a big part of that was the active plugin development community around WordPress.

In the years since, we've tested out hundreds of plugins. Some of them have become mission critical — to the point where I literally couldn't do business without them. Others of them, unfortunately, have been so poorly coded that Jennifer has scolded me for installing them on our server. (ACK! That's the risk with open source code…)

In the interest of spreading the awesomeness around, here are the plugins that the Empire literally could not function without:

OIO Publisher: Advertising

This plugin manages all the direct-sold advertising on the Empire. Every sponsored post, every vendor listing, every text ad, and all the sponsorship banners: they all go through OIO. Honestly, it's not that elegantly coded or actively developed, and we've had to do a lot of hack over the years… but this one plugin manages 75% of the Empire's revenue. It's powerful stuff. Cost: $50.

GravityForms: Submissions

Since so much of our content is submitted by readers, GravityForms was a complete game-changer for us. Suddenly bride profiles went from this awkward process involving email, Google Docs, and WordPress to this perfectly clean, easy, streamlined thing where submissions automatically became drafts, all ready for editing. GAME CHANGER. Cost: Starts at $39

EditFlow: Editorial management

We use this plugin primarily for behind-the-scenes editorial comments on posts (so that all the editors can track the progress of who's seen it, what changes they'd suggest, etc), but it also has custom post statuses that we use, a built-in editorial calendar that I adore, meta-data fields, and so much more. Cost: Free.

BuddyPress & BBPress: Community management & forum

Duh. This is the platform that the Offbeat Bride Tribe is built on, and while it's definitely not as mature as the WordPress platform, it's still pretty powerful. We've had to invest a LOT in development on making it right for us, but it's still a dang powerful tool. Cost: Free, but it needs developer time/dollars

S2Member: Community Privacy

This is the plugin that allows us to keep the Offbeat Bride Tribe private and secure, with special features for paid members. Not sexy, but super important. Cost: $69 for pro version

w3 Total Cache: Caching

My server started melting under the traffic load of Offbeat Bride in 2010, and I spent a lot of time and money that year trying to get the situation under control. This plugin plugin combined with a Content Distribution Network saves me thousands of dollars a year on hosting fees. Caching is so unsexy, but so incredibly important once your traffic gets above, say, 100,000 pageviews/month. Cost: Free

Codestyling Localization: Customization

Another one that's way unsexy, but super important. This plugin allows us to change the admin language anywhere on any of our sites. So for instance, when an Offbeat Bride Tribe members complains that our cheeky "2 Tribesmaids like this" language is disrespectful to genderqueer members, it takes me five seconds to change the language to read "2 like this." No hacking necessary. Cost: Free

Jetpack: Bells & Whistles

This is a plugin pack produced by the folks at WordPress and it is PURE SEX. I use it for all sorts of things all over the place: gorgeous galleries on the Offbeat Bride Tribe, contact forms on my personal sites, pretty gravatar comments, so many other things. It's very actively under development, and very actively sexy. Cost: Free

Multisite Comments: Moderation

This is a custom plugin my developer Jennifer M. Dodd made for me that does one very simple thing extremely well: it shows me all the most recent comments from across all four Empire sites on one page. Other than gmail, this is my most-visited page on the internet. Cost: Free, but not available publicly… YET