My Two Favorite WordPress Plugins

Favorite Wordpress Plugins

I recently finished up a development project for a friend.  And, this project solidified two WordPress plugins as my absolute favorites: Gravity Forms and Visual Composer.

The project that I just finished up included simple contact forms (Gravity Forms), user registration (Gravity Forms), user activation (Gravity Forms), user editing of login information (Gravity Forms), e-commerce (Gravity Forms) – maybe you’re noticing a trend.

As far as design, the entire project consisted of three phases.  Each phase had new elements and new styling.  As a result, the entire site was built around Visual Composer.

Why I love Gravity Forms

Simply put, I haven’t found anything remotely like it.  It is an amazing form builder with built in fields for just about any need – dates, paragraph, single line text, file upload, password, and many more.

In addition, Gravity Forms is a very capable plugin to do simple ecommerce.  For the current project I was working on, I needed to sell copies of a book.  When selling a single product, Gravity Forms is an amzingly simple option.  With just a little bit of customization (check out Gravity Perks), we were able to put in a quantity field, add tax only for a specific state, add multiple shipping charges (US and Canada all in multiple quantities).  We were able to tie into Stripe for payment processing straight out of the box.  Of course if you need more complex ecommerce handling – live UPS quotes, multiple products, complex product variations, etc. – you’ll want a true ecommerce solution.  But, I found Gravity Forms to be a very capable, simple, and effecient way to create simple ecommerce functionality.

I also used Gravity Forms for user management.  Gravity Forms created a very simple user registration form that included a CLICK HERE to activate email.  I also used Gravity Forms to create the ability for users to edit and update their information.  Finally, I used Gravity Forms to create a simple login form for pages that required a user to be registered and logged in.  All of this was done via Gravity Forms.  I never exposed the WP-ADMIN to any users.  It was easy and yet robust at the same time.  All steps had custom email notifications with HTML and images included.

I also used Gravity Forms to add users to mailchimp mailing lists.  Again, it’s basically built into Gravity Forms and is incredibly easy.

Finally, I used Gravity Forms to provide Excel files of all purchases, sign ups, etc.  Gravity Forms’ built in ability to download entries as CSV files that can be quickly formatted is another amazing tool.

I haven’t found any form plugin remotely close in terms of usefulness and functionality.

Why I love Visual Composer

For my last project I used Visual Composer.  But, the truth is that there are many plugins similar to this one:

  • Visual Composer
  • King Composer
  • Beaver Builder
  • Live Builder

The list could go on for quite a while.  Each plugin has certain advantages.  Personally, I like King Composer and Visual Composer.  Visual Composer won the fight for my most recent project.

I know that many will think that tools like Visual Composer are cheap alternatives to learning to right solid code.  And, if that’s what you think, you are right.  But, the reality of many projects is that the deadlines dictate what I can and can’t do.

Tools like Visual Composer allow me to develop very complex, responsive layout quickly.  I often find myself copying some of the code and pasting it directly into WordPress templates as raw HTML.  It’s just quick, easy, and very powerful.

For projects that have a clearly defined, non-changing layout, it might be better to develop a complete theme.  But, often that’s simply not the case.  I can utilize a starter theme – for this project I chose Understrap – and then build a complete theme on top of this utilizing Visual Composer.  Menus, headers, footers, content areas – everything is put together using Visual Composer.  I found myself saving layouts as Visual Composer templates so that I could quickly replicate parts as needed.

As the project went live I found myself amazed at how quickly I was able to pull together a really-nice, fully-responsive WordPress layout.


Gravity Forms and Visual Composer, my two favorite WordPress plugins – at least for this past project.  What about you?  What tools have you found to be useful in your projects?

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