Exploring WordPress – 12 Lesser-Known Developer Tools and Plugins

WordPress developers know most of the tools and plugins available to improve and optimize their site. It is impossible, however, to know every single one, or what is out there that you’re not yet using. Below is a list that aims to shed light on the lesser-known, useful and efficient WordPress developer tools and plugins.

1. Team WD

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With the Team WD plugin, you can easily list your business or organization’s employees and/or team members. You are also enabled to let site visitors contact them directly. Team WD lets you customize your team’s profiles by adding images, bios, social media links, availability and more. Categories and subcategories can make navigating the staff page easy for anybody.

The Team WD plugin comes with interactive designs and layouts so that this page of your site can be completely customized. It’s also fully responsive and mobile friendly.

2. Smart Icons for WordPress

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Smart Icons For WordPress is a lesser known but fun and useful plugin that includes an astounding 519 icons from Font Awesome. WordPress developers can add these icons to posts, pages or custom posts in just a few clicks. Smart Icons For WordPress comes with default shortcode that can be customized. Additional fonts that can be loaded from CDN and CSS effects (radius, shadow etc.) allow the icons to be further customized.

All of the icons in this plugin are 4K display friendly and compatible with the last two releases/updates of every major browser. A professional version of the plugin that has exclusive features and the option to add SVG icon packs is also available.

3. WordPress Hooks Directory

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Hooks are given by WordPress to allow a plugin to ‘hook into’ the rest of WordPress; that is, to call functions in your plugin at specific times, and thereby set your plugin in motion. There are two kinds of hooks: Actions (Codex Action Reference) Filters (Codex Filter Reference). The importance of hooks for making WordPress a functional, plugin-compatible platform is generally unacknowledged. For this reason, the WordPress Hooks Directory is one of the most useful tools available for plugin development.

4. Debug This

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Debug This is a WordPress plugin that gives WordPress admins an easy way to further investigate the front-face of a WordPress installation, via the admin bar.

Debug This includes 49 debug modes including post attachments, cron, cache, menus, widgets, sidebars and more. This plugin is an alternative to browser-side development tools or writing additional code for your needs. Debug This displays all page’s information from any installation and comes with an API to extend functionality.

5. WordPress Gear

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WordPress Gear is a collection of concise and detailed information about a particular subject – WordPress plugins and tools. This community-driven website has a massive collection of links to additional resources including base tools, debug tools, PHP Boilerplate, meta fields and themes. The information on this site is free to access, easy to understand and continually helpful to any WordPress developer.

6. Theme Test Drive

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Theme Test Drive is a WordPress plugin that lets a developer test drive any theme on their blog as admin, while their site visitors use the default theme. This happens completely transparently without any website responsiveness impact. A new theme can also be previewed by adding “?theme=xxx” to your blog URL.

7. WordPress Codex

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The WordPress Codex is essentially an encyclopedia (or, Wikipedia) for WordPress developers. It proclaims itself “…the online manual for WordPress and a living repository for WordPress information and documentation.” It’s an invaluable tool that is easily accessible and ever-growing. Many WordPress users fail to utilize this tool, its guides, and references, and so it has been relegated to this list of lesser-knows.

8. Developer

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WordPress touts its Developer plugin as “a plugin which helps WordPress developers develop.” Yet a number of developers out there are still not using this plugin. This is a smart plugin – once installed it helps a developer expedite the development process by suggesting a number of necessary or at least very useful plugins, based on the type of environment it’s released in. It’s easy to install and lends itself well to developer productivity.

9. Theme Unit Test

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It is strange how underused or underrated WordPress’s own resources are. Tools and plugins created to be used, yet overlooked because they are not the most popular. Especially helpful in creating a theme testing environment is Automattic’s downloadable data (XML) that can be imported into any new WordPress installation. This Theme Unit test installs a long list of circumstances for testing with images of different sizes, post types, etc. This testing would take hours or days normally, therefore Theme Unit Test tool is hugely convenient and time-saving.

10. Usersnap

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Usersnap is a screenshot and bug tracking tool for WordPress developers. Screenshots and bug reports as well as other post and browser information get sent directly to the admin’s dashboard. This plugin lets you annotate and record feedback based on your site visitor’s comments or reviews. It also can help to communicate about issues and/or share feedback between developers, visitors, customers, etc. Once the Usersnap widget is added to a site, a little feedback form or popup is made available for all who peruse the site to leave their feedback.

11. FAQ WD

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Never underestimate the importance of a website’s FAQ section. If readers or customers can’t find the answers to all of their questions easily, they will not stay on your site long. The FAQ WordPress plugin is designed to create Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sections for a website. The FAQ WD plugin allows developers to create an unlimited amount of questions, and then assign the questions to categories. It’s designed to use space efficiently and assist the user in navigating to the relevant question. A search box option is also available.

12. Spider Catalog

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Spider Catalog is a convenient WordPress customizable plugin designed to help display products in an easy to look at and navigate catalog format. This plugin allows developers to create wholly unique and personalized products catalogs with categories, subcategories, and multiple view options. It has a responsive design, HTML compatibility, standardized search parameters and more. Customers can search and find exactly what they are looking for easily, and that is money in the developer’s pocket.

So there you have it: twelve lesser-known tools and plugins to aid any business using WordPress. More are out there, waiting to be discovered, updated and released and that’s what’s so great about being a WordPress developer.

Web developer Richard Sutherland has been working with WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other content management systems for over a decade. Graduating from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Richard has held a number of prominent website development roles at major companies such as Samsung, ASDA and Prudential.

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