Here I will be looking at some really good free responsive WordPress themes and cool WordPress plugins. The themes and plugins have all been installed on my site and tested in the past.
With the wide variety of mobile and desktop devices available to access the internet, it is important your website or blog looks good on all of them. If you are choosing a new theme for your WordPress website or blog, make sure is it responsive. You can check this by visiting this mobile friendly test by Google.
I have been using WordPress for a while now and can recommend some very good and usable free WordPress themes. The themes I have selected from the directory are simple, clean and look good.
Everyone will have their favourite free themes they like in the directory but with over 4500 to choose from, it is handy to have a shortlist. The free themes I have picked out are useful for blogging, news websites and for small business sites.
One thing I will mention when you change your theme on WordPress, I recommend running a speed test on it to ensure it loads quickly. You can test your website load speed here for free.
Please find below a list, in my opinion, of the best free WordPress themes available from the WordPress directory (in no particular order):
Best Free Responsive WordPress Themes
Iconic: Very good page speed
This theme loads very quickly and has a nice clean layout for a blog. One thing I did when I installed it was change the fonts with custom CSS to Arial. It looked slightly better with a different font. I like the sidebar headings on this theme which make it look nice and clean.
GridBox: Great for bloggers
I really like GridBox. The reason being is that you can choose the number of columns for your content on the front page. If you are a keen blogger then you will be interested in this theme for sure.
Hueman: One of the most popular magazine style themes
Hueman is a very popular free theme. There are many customizations to be made which is great for a free theme. If you are looking for a nice magazine style theme, I would give this one a try for sure.
Appointment Orange: Best for small businesses
I have installed Appointment on 5 of my friend’s websites who have small businesses. The Appointment theme is really good and very easy to customize for your own needs with many different homepage sections available. If you want a free, professional and modern looking theme, I recommend Appointment. The theme comes in a number of different primary colours but you have to choose the colour you want from the directory, not from within the theme itself. You can choose from Green, Red of Blue as well as the Orange version. This theme is one of my favourites to work with.
Weblog: Another great blogging theme
Another nice looking blogging theme is Weblog. If you are looking for a news ticker as a function on a theme, Weblog includes one. This theme is very nice and easy to use. Definitely worth a try if you have a lot of blog posts.
ColorMag: Popular WordPress magazine theme
One of the most popular magazine themes on WordPress is ColorMag. It has many options available to make it your own design. I have used ColorMag in the past and it is a very good theme indeed.
Free WordPress Themes Summary
So, there you have it, a handful of really good free responsive WordPress themes available to you from the WordPress directory. Perfect for blogging, news websites and small businesses alike. If you use one of the free WordPress themes available in the directory then please let me know and I will feature it in this article.
If you are on the look out for the best WordPress plugins, you may be interested in this article.
If you are looking for high quality premium themes, you may be interested in visiting Theme Forest*.
Best Free WordPress plugins
Find out about some very popular and “must have” WordPress plugins here.
I have been using WordPress for over 5 years now and I have to say, I love it. It is very easy to use and you can add many useful and free plugins to your WordPress website to enhance performance and add varied functionality to it.
So firstly: What is a WordPress plugin?
Basically, a WordPress plugin it is a small piece of software that is added to a WordPress installation.
The software adds additional functions to the website. Plugins can come with options that the user chooses and some work straight out of the box so to speak.
Below, I am going to share with you my list of best WordPress plugins and what they are used for.
If you are new to WordPress, this article may be of interest to you especially if you are looking for performance improvements.
I have tested a lot of free WordPress plugins in the past and have a selection of “must have plugins” installed on all of my sites.
Best WordPress Plugins
Please find my list (in no particular order) of must have and recommended WordPress plugins to use on a WordPress website.
The plugins I list are all available for free in the WordPress directory. Some of them do have paid upgrades available for your information.
Best All-In-One Plugin
Jetpack is a plugin with a lot of powerful features.
Here is the official plugin description:
“Jetpack enables you to connect your blog to a WordPress.com account to use the powerful features normally only available to WordPress.com users”.
It adds a wide range of functions to your website such as social share buttons, optimizes images, enhances your engagement and online presence, adds statistics to your website and a lot more.
You have to sign up for the free plan and attach your website to Jetpack. Follow the instructions once installed to connect to jetpack.
If you require any help please contact me.
Best SEO Plugin
The best WordPress SEO plugin in my opinion is Yoast SEO Plugin.
This is my favourite SEO plugin to use on a WordPress site. It is simple to use, effective and the traffic light system gives you immediate visuals of how your website’s SEO is doing.
If you would like more information on how to use the plugin, please read my other article relating to SEO.
This plugin enables you to add titles and descriptions to every post and page which helps search engines find your content. Yoast also provides a sitemap function to inform search engines of your page and post structure.
I fully recommend this plugin for SEO as it helps you improve your website’s performance. If you require any assistance on configuring the plugin, please let me know.
Best Contact Form Plugin
I have been using Contact Form by BestWebSoft for a long time now and it works very well.
The good thing about the contact form is that you can also add Google CAPTCHA by BestWebSoft to it for free. This really does prevent spam contact emails.
You can see the contact form in action here.
Best Google Analytics Plugin
You can find out which landing pages are being visited, the search queries and so on. For your WordPress website to work with Google Analytics you need to install a plugin to allow the tracking code to be inserted.
My plugin of choice for this is the Google Analytics by MonsterInsights. It works very well and I have tested that is working by using an SEO checker.
It confirmed that the analytics code was installed. Easy to install and all you have to do is add your Google Analytics tracking code into the plugin.
Best Table Plugin
You can easily create a nice looking table and install it into any page or post by a simple shortcode.
You can see a live form in action on this post. I use it to list football stadium names and addresses for budding football fans!
Best WordPress Security Plugin
I have not configured it in any way other than using the default settings. If you want to protect your website, choose this security plugin.
Best Page Builder Plugin
Well, here is your answer.
Install this very good page builder. You create a new page or post, click on Page Builder then add rows. Choose how many columns in the row and add widgets to the columns. You can add text, images or any widget you like. The world is your oyster with this plugin.
Here is a screenshot of where the page builder button is when creating a new page (look to the right of the image):
This screen shows you how to add a row, all you do then is click one of the blue boxes and add a widget, then repeat the process.
Choose the text widget to add your words etc:
This is by far the easiest way to create unlimited page layouts and templates.
Simple drag and drop page creation tool. Well worth installing.
Best Image Optimisation Plugin
I installed WP Smush and my images were reduced in size dramatically. If you have a lot of images taken by an iPhone or iPad and they are over 1MB im size, then this plugin will not work unless you upgrade. You are better off reducing them by 50% in size first, then letting the plugin smush them!
This is a very good plugin as it optimizes your images automatically when you upload them. Definitely worth installing this one!
Best Website Speed & Cache Plugin
This plugin has helped me achieve 94% page speed for my website. I have spent a lot of time tweaking the settings in this plugin and all I can say is “it works”!
If you are new to cache plugins, if you change too many settings in the cache plugin your theme may start acting up and not look right.
You just need to go through the settings slowly one at a time and regularly check a speed test tool to check the difference in performance.
If you require help on using this plugin feel free to get in touch.
Best Forum Plugin
I have installed every forum plugin there is in the directory in recent times. The one I recommend is Forum – wpForo.
The forum looks nice, is easy to configure and you can customize the colours. It is relatively new to the directory but is growing very fast by all accounts.
If you are on the look out for a good forum for your WordPress website give this one a try.
Best Delete Revision Plugin
This plugin is a gem.
Each time you change something on your website like delete a word, add more text etc on a post or page, a new version is saved.
The previous version of the post or page is added to your database. If you make a lot of changes (like me), all of those changes are stored in your database slowing it down.
This plugin safely removes the revisions and can optimize your database.
Here is my current count of redundant revisions:
I recommend this plugin to keep your database clean.
Best WordPress Slider Plugin
The best plugin in my opinion for image slide shows etc is Meta Slider. Once installed it is easy to create a new slider. There is a good choice of slider styles to choose from which look very modern and clean.
Make sure you add metadata to your slides to help with SEO. Not much more to be said about this plugin, it is a good one.
Best Share Buttons Plugin
There are a lot of share button plugins to choose from in the WordPress directory, however, I recommend Simple Share Buttons adder.
The reason being is that there are plenty of options to choose from and button styles. The plugin is pretty lightweight too when added to your site.
Final Word for WordPress Plugins
So there you have my take on the best WordPress plugins to install.
My advice is to ensure you install recently updated plugins and read the comments of other users.
Choose plugins with at least 4 out of 5 stars and a lot of installs for piece of mind.
If you have a favourite WordPress plugin you use and it is not featured above, let me know and I will add it to the list.
Thanks for reading!