Hidden Gems: Underrated WordPress Plugins

Walk through a curated list of powerful, yet underrated WordPress plugins running on Pantheon sites. 

A few weeks back, we released a list of the most popular plugins on Pantheon, based on actual installs on the platform. That list doesn't match the list of most popular plugins from WordPress.org, so this week I dug into some notable divergences.

If you haven’t seen that post yet, take a peek. You never know when you’ll discover your new best friend ... err I mean plugin. 

Underused Plugins

I polled some of our most experienced WordPress folks and asked them which plugins they love that are missing from that top 10 list. The following plugins pack a punch, but they all ranked lower than expected. 

WP-CFM

This plugin is one of my favorites — it's the jelly to Pantheon's peanut butter.  But it came in all the way down at No. 72! 

No one likes to manually duplicate configuration changes between environments. It’s a classic error-prone task … and WP-CFM lets you automate it. Export that configuration to a yaml file, commit it to your version controlled repo, and deploy with confidence. Check out our docs for instructions on installation and getting started.

The plugin hasn't been tested against the past few versions of WordPress core, which may steer people away — hopefully it continues to be maintained, as it adds critically important functionality to anyone working across multiple environments.

WCAG 2.0 form fields for Gravity Forms

Since Gravity Forms appears at No. 5 on the Pantheon most popular plugins list, I wanted to highlight this plugin as well (currently appearing at No. 41) — it makes GravityForms more accessible, by adding aria-describedby attributes, improving form validation, and more.

Timber

Timber (No. 76) brings Twig templating to WordPress — and it’s compatible with Advanced Custom Fields, the third most popular plugin on the platform. Twig templating helps you separate the logic layer from the presentation layer, which will speed up theme development. 

The best part is you can integrate Timber without throwing out your existing theme, so you can improve your dev process without an expensive & time-consuming rebuild.

Pantheon HUD (Heads Up Display)

Sales Engineer Chris Charlton says Pantheon HUD is his new jam! Why? The Pantheon HUD plugin (No. 106 on our list) provides situational awareness of the Pantheon platform from within your WordPress dashboard. It reminds you which environment you're in, and it provides quick links to navigate back to Pantheon's dashboard or to interact with your WordPress installation via the command line. It really shines when it’s included as part of a Custom Upstream, as it helps teams easily move between projects.

TypeRocket

Pantheon Engagement Manager Doug Cone thinks TypeRocket is underrated — and it doesn’t even appear on the original list of popular plugins, so I have to agree. If you’re big into how Laravel works, TypeRocket brings many of the same MVC operations into WordPress. It also adds 27 custom fields, custom post types, and more. 

Elementor

Elementor came in at No. 53. This page builder is extremely popular in WordPress, but it shows up on only 643 sites on Pantheon. Pantheon Sales Engineer Kyle Taylor loves this plugin as a page builder that plays well with cloud environments like we have here at Pantheon. If you're looking for a Page Builder, the lightweight structure, level of control, and extensibility provided by Elementor can be incredibly useful.

Content Views

Developer Advocate David Needham says Content Views (No. 462) is on almost every WP site he builds. He compares it to Drupal's Views module — it creates lists and grids of your WordPress content, without making you write a single line of code. Fantastic for customizing your content. 

Which plugins do you think should have made this list? I'm always looking for new technical material to support our developer community — if your curiosity is piqued by any of these plugins, let us know!

Hero image from Stephen Phillips via Unsplash.


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