Here we are at the middle of the month, a new WordPress Release Candidate waiting in the wings and lots of new plugins hitting the repository. Gotta love summer! Before we dive into the deep end in search of the coolest new plugins, please remember to always install these on a staging site or development area before you take any of these plugins to a live site. It helps mitigate your risk and makes sure that you won’t lose your cool if two plugins get a little too hot working together into the same space. These are bite-sized samples of the newest and most recently updated plugins and in no way represent my personal endorsement or recommendation. OK, Let’s get plugged in!
Presstagram is a new plugin that integrates with your Instagram feed. While I’ve seen other plugins out there that use Instagram images as part of your Media Center, this particular plugin instead populates your WordPress site with a new post for each of your new Instagram postings. Your #hashtags get converted into WordPress post tags automatically. There are a few other post type configurations that can be altered as well.
Contact Form 7 Customizer helps users of Contact Form 7 to create a better aligned more visually controlled form than what is available “off the shelf”. Often times I’ve been torn between CF7 and Gravity Forms for the sites that I have developed. CF7 has a lot of flexibility for a free plugin but is quite limited when trying to edit the styling to make it conform to your theme’s look and feel. This plugin helps to bridge the gap by allowing variable type sizing for both main and field content areas, custom field width, stylization of drop down menus and nicer button creation options that take you beyond what is typically included with a stock plugin installation. If you end up using this plugin to customize your existing forms, please shoot me a before and after screenshot of your form! I’d love to see what enhancements can be done to provide a virtual makeover of existing CF7 forms.
Sticky Social Bar presents a “hover” sidebar on the right side of your WordPress site that displays your social homes. When you hover over each social icon, the full site name appears. Very nice functionality with very little hard back-end coding. This worked well with several different themes that I tried it on. I liked this application because it managed to keep itself out-of-the-way from my main content areas, which is a problem that I’ve had in previous Social home plugins. It did have a bit of an issue when viewing on a responsive device, probably because my test theme changes in framework once mobile is detected. This is why we test on staging sites! Otherwise my impression of this plugin is quite favorable. Quite a simple, lazy plugin to get great looking social presence icons to display on your site in a nicely flowing and attractive sidebar.
Shopper Rewards for WP-eCommerce is an interesting add-on plugin for WP-eCommerce that allows you the opportunity to add a rewards program for your customers. With more and more retailers taking advantage of Shopper Rewards, it’s nice to see WPEC have the same functionality. This plugin allows you to set up various point systems and rewards for shopping based on overall spending. Rewards are a great way to retain a client with incentive to keep purchasing. The plugin allows the customer to check their rewards balance, access their complete purchase history with a running total of the reward points earned and even transfer points to fellow shoppers. Multiple currency options can help to set up different point values based on the currency being used. Additional ways to earn points include Tweeting or Following, viewing specific products/pages, Facebook likes and shares, creating an account and other doorways to points. Some features are available via their premium version, which is only $20 for a license. Excellent execution and a great add-on for designers who would like to provide extra oomph to eCommerce sites under their administration.
Simplify Admin Panel gives us the ability to tweak the Admin Panel in our WordPress dashboard. Some of the modifications that can be altered from the standard display include the options to change or remove menu links, submenu links, and dashboard widgets from the Admin Panel. This is a nice hand-off procedure to carry out for those who design sites for others who might be just dangerous enough to mess up the site if left to the owner with free reign. There are other times that I want to get rid of annoying plugin “top-level” menus that implant themselves, and this just might do the job.