Like many graphic designers I’ve settled on WordPress as my CMS of choice. I’ve heard developers talking about the core code being bloated and messy, but to be honest, I never look that deeply – to me it’s flexible, intuitive, and does what I want (most of the time). Clients also love the admin back-end, which is also very easy to customise and adapt.
Over the past couple of years I’ve developed my own starter set-up that I use when building a theme/site and thought I’d share it with you.
Obviously the most important thing is WordPress itself. You can download it directly from WordPress, or some hosts provide an auto-install through fantastico.
Starter Theme – Bones
Why create your custom theme from scratch when there are many excellent ‘naked’ starter themes you can use as a starting point. Using a naked starter theme really speeds up the development process, providing all the standard template files with a smidgen of styling that’s easy to adapt to your needs. Features can vary from theme to theme, but I would choose one that at least has all the basics set up, such as custom menus, widgetized areas, featured image etc.
My starter theme of choice is the excellent Bones by Eddie Machado (@eddiemachado on Twitter). It’s based on HTML5 Boilerplate and has a ‘classic’ (fixed width) and responsive version. In my opinion it also includes just the right amount of markup and styling to help me get my projects up-and-running quickly, but not so much as to get in the way of my designs. Also, Eddie is great at responding to support requests, which is always an added bonus for a free resource.
While I like to provide as much functionality as I can in my functions.php file there are times when there’s really no reason (or time) to not use a plugin. Let’s face it, there are some fantastic ones out there. Naturally each project is different, but I find myself usually using the same core set of plugins every time, and here they are:
If you value simplicity and flexibility, Contact Form 7 is a great choice. It allows you to flexibly design forms and email. You can manage multiple contact forms as well. In addition, it supports many features including AJAX submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering, file uploading, etc.
This plugin intercepts form submissions from Contact Form 7 and saves a copy of the data in your database. An administration panel allows you to see the form submissions and export the data to various file formats. The plugin also provides shortcodes that you can use to place submitted data on your own pages and posts.
An oldy, but a goody – DBC Backup, is a simple way to schedule daily database backups using the wp cron system. You can select when and where your backup will be generated.
Duplicate Post is a small plugin for WordPress which allows you to copy a post/page (with all its fields) to a new draft.
This plugin generates an XML-Sitemap compliant sitemap of your WordPress blog – the format supported by Ask.com, Google, YAHOO and Bing.
HeadSpace2 is a powerful all-in-one plugin to manage meta-data and handle a wide range of SEO tasks.
This plugin adds an HTML (Not XML) sitemap of your blog pages (NOT blog posts) by entering the shortcode [html-sitemap] into the page content.
Meteor Slides makes it simple to create slideshows with WordPress by adding a custom post type for slides. Easily create slideshows and publish them with a shortcode or widget. The slideshows are powered by jQuery Cycle and have over twenty transition styles to choose from.
Pushup is an effort to push the web forward by helping users upgrade their outdated browsers.
Secure WordPress is a free WordPress plugin that helps secure your WordPress blog by reviewing key security functions.
So there you have it, my WordPress essentials. Of course these aren’t necessarily required for all sites, but serve as a useful set of starter considerations. Let me know what your own set-ups are like, I’m sure there are many other great naked WordPress themes/frameworks and plugins out there that I don’t know about yet.
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