If you like to have lots of functionality on your site but are weary of finding and installing third-party plugins, there is one plugin you need to get: Jetpack.
Actually, Jetpack is not one plugin but a suite of plugins that you can access by simply connecting to your free account at WordPress.com. Once connected, you can access a whole menu of plugins created by the folks at WordPress.
Best of all, Jetpack plugins work.
Jetpack offers 30 plugins. So I’m not going to introduce all of them, just the ones I use the most.
If you want to have a glimpse of your traffic while working on your site, Site Stats is the way to go. It offers a chart of views for day, weeks and months, plus modules showing Referrers, Search Engine Terms, Top Posts and Pages, Clicks and Subscriptions.
Site Stats is nothing close to what Google Analytics offers, but it’s a quick view of what people are consuming on your site. In fact, Jetpack stats are thought to be more accurate than Google, which undershoots traffic, as well as your server, which overshoots it.
And, when you are making design changes, it will show you under Referrers how many hits came from the WordPress Dashboard so you don’t confuse your own traffic with that of the worlds.
You want to customize your site, but are loathe to create a child theme in order to protect your changes, use Custom CSS. It appears as Edit CSS in the Appearance drawer somewhere between Theme Options and Edit.
This is a place where you can put code and read it apart from the barrage of code in your style.css file
But remember, Edit CSS – and all Jetpack plugins – are all dependent on your connection with WordPress.com. And, WordPress.com requires a visible site in order to work. So, if you activate a cloaking plugin to hide your site during development, WordPress.com will get disconnected and all of these plugins will be deactivated.
And, if you switch themes, your Edit CSS styles will be lost, so be sure to keep a copy.
This is a handy widget for your sidebar that allows you to grab subscribers and store them in the WordPress.com database. This data can be easily downloaded in a csv file and saved elsewhere.
And, the alerts that Jetpack sends to your subscriber list have the shiny HTML look and feel of a third-party service.
Publicize and Sharing
If you want to shoot a post alert to your social media accounts, Publicize is a good way to do it. It will automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumbler, Google Plus and Path. And the settings are quite easy and do not require API keys.
Sharing has settings on the same page as Publicize and it offers all the usual social media outlets whose icons are drag and dropped in a Share This field. Share This icons can be set to appear in posts, pages, media, etc on your site. It comes in very handy if your theme doesn’t offer sharing icons as a built-in feature.
Extra Sidebar Widgets
This gives you a bunch of widgets you would otherwise have to source and load separately, like RSS Links, Twitter Timeline, FacebookLikes, and Image.
The Twitter Widget is uncommonly easy, shooting you to Twitter to create it and then entering the resulting URL. The Facebook Widget works similarly easy. With RSS Feeds you can also post your site’s Feed. And who doesn’t need to post an Image in the sidebar once in a while?
This handy tool allows you to control the visibility of all of your widgets – Jetpack or third-party – to fine tune where they appear. Because sometimes you want a widget, sometimes you don’t.
Yet More Jetpack Plugins
Those are just a few of my favourite Jetpack plugins, but there are so many more to explore, as described by WordPress:
“Notifications: Monitor and manage your site’s activity with Notifications in your Toolbar and on WordPress.com.
Jetpack Comments: A new comment system that has integrated social media login options.
Likes: A way for people to show their appreciation for content you have written. It’s also a way for you to show the world how popular your content has become.
Post by Email: Publish posts to your blog directly from your personal email account.
Carousel: Transform your standard image galleries into an immersive full-screen experience.
Spelling and Grammar: Improve your spelling, style, and grammar with the After the Deadline proofreading service.
VaultPress: Realtime backup and security scanning for your WordPress site.
Omnisearch: A single search box, that lets you search many different things
Gravatar Hovercards: Show a pop-up business card of your users’ gravatar profiles in comments.
Google+ Profile: Show a link to your Google+ in the sharing area of your posts and add your blog URL to your Google+ profile.
WP.me Shortlinks: Enable WP.me-powered shortlinks for all of your Posts and Pages for easier sharing.
Tiled Galleries: Create elegant magazine-style mosaic layouts for your photos without using an external graphic editor.
Shortcode Embeds: Easily embed videos and more from sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and SlideShare.
Mobile Theme: Automatically optimize your site for mobile devices.
Beautiful Math: Mark up your posts with the markup language, perfect for complex mathematical equations and other über-geekery.
Mobile Push Notifications: Receive notifications on your mobile device.
JSON API: Allow applications to securely access your content through the cloud.
Enhanced Distribution: Share your public posts and comments to search engines and other services in real-time.
VideoPress: Quite possibly the easiest way to upload beautiful videos to your blog.”
Funny, in the short time in which I’ve compiled this list, I’ve thought of ways to use more Jetpack plugins.
While not every one of them is perfect, the ease in which they load and the functions they combine make Jetpack a great way to start building your WordPress site.
Do you use JetPack plugins, and if so, which are your favourites?