It’s been seven months since I last shared some great plugins to help your church website. In that time WordPress has added over 1,000 new plugins into its database brining the total to 4,245 and counting. That’s a lot of extra features people are adding to WordPress every day. Many of these are wonderful, many don’t work very well and some are downright harmful. Here are a few that I use in sites that I design for clients as well as my church’s website.
Events Calendar: I’ve looked at lots of event calendar possibilities for WordPress. Right now I am recommending Events Calendar by Luke Howell. I have recently used the Events Manager plugin and I really do like it’s feature set, but it is rather complicated to deploy. There are lots of code variables to adjust in order to make the information you want to display to show up like you want it to. If you are comfortable with php or you’d like to learn, this might be a great plugin for you. My other issue with it, is that it creates information outside of the post system within WordPress.
What I like so much about the Events Calendar plugin is that you can easily create events and choose if they become posts or not. If you’ve ever had to move a WordPress site, you know that it’s not that hard to do if all your data is inside WordPress’ posts and pages. These can be exported. There is nothing you can do for the data stored by Events Manager, but the data from Events Calendar goes with you. Plus if you use posts for events you can then use other plugins or theme features to refer to the events. On my Mountain View theme as well as the a2 website, I use a new ticker to let visitors know about coming events. If I were to run the Events Manager, then I would have to create a separate post to use in the ticker. Duplicate data is generally a bad idea.
You can use either of these plugins, plus many others. My sites, I’m going with Events Calendar for now.
Simple:Press Forum: Many churches would like to have a forum where people can ask questions, engage in discussions or do all kinds of community things. Really it’s not a bad idea, but going about it can be tough. I have plans to add a forum to Organized Themes and I plan to use phpBB because it is very powerful and stable. But it is a challenge to integrate into a WordPress site. If you’d like to see how to go about this I recommend a screencast from CSS-Tricks to learn how. It requires a pretty hefty understanding of WordPress, plus CSS and XHTML. There is an alternative called Simple:Press Forum which is a plugin for WordPress that takes care of the form for us. They have comprehensive directions for how to use this plugin on their site. If you are looking for a plugin this would be a great way to go.
Podcasting: I used to recommend the PodPress plugin, but the author has stopped developing it further. So now I’m using the Podcasting plugin on my church sites as well as for the screencast here at Organized Themes. I like this one because it is simple to use and deploy. It allows your user to download the file as well as listen to it in your post if you choose. Plus, it has an easy to use way to submit the podcast to iTunes. It’s hard to beat simple and effective.
TinyMCE Advanced: As a developer it’s easy for me to forget that people still have to create lots of content after they get the theme up and running. For most of us this means lots of time in the post and page write panels creating copy and uploading images. To make that task easier, the TinyMCE Advanced adds many features that probably should be included with WordPress by default. With this plugin you can easily pick a new CSS style for parts of your post, have more control over images, choose different web safe fonts, create tables and much more.
CForms II: This contact form is really flexible. It allows you to do everything from simple contact forms to complicated multi-page questionnaires and sign-ups. In its basic form it is easy to use and style, but it can get a bit complicated with the more advanced features. Fortunately there is lots of help on the CForms website. I now only use this plugin for contact forms on all my personal sites as well as client sites. One note, this plugin is updated often. That’s great in a way, but if you are obsessive about keeping your plugins updated, this one may drive you nutty.
Have you discovered any great plugins? If so leave a comment and share them with the community!