Another month is over, and that can mean only one thing: the next edition of WPExplorer’s premium plugins of the month series! 2014 might be gone, but let’s start 2015 the right way and make sure our websites are as good as possible by adding some awesome functionality to them.
I have checked out the best of what CodeCanyon has to offer so that I can introduce you to some of the best plugins I encountered in December. They cover a range of functions to make them as universally accessible as possible, so I hope there’s something you can consider for your website in the list. Let’s get started, shall we?
Video & Parallax Backgrounds for Visual Composer WordPress Plugin
Parallax scrolling seems to be everywhere these days, and with good reason: it’s one of the coolest visual effects around, and, when executed well, it is visually stunning. This has seen a huge number of parallax WordPress themes hit the marketplace — for those of you unfamiliar with the term parallax, it’s when the background images scroll at a different speed to the foreground, which creates an intriguing visual effect, as can be seen in this parallax WordPress theme demo (just scroll down to see it in action).
Generally speaking, most WordPress users rely on their theme for parallax scrolling; however, if you want to add a parallax effect to a non-parallax theme, you should check out the Video & Parallax Backgrounds for Visual Composer WordPress plugin, available from CodeCanyon for $12.
The plugin supports full-width and normal-width backgrounds, with the parallax effect working in all four directions. You can upload your own images to use as a fixed image background, or you can simply use a solid colored block background. You can choose to activate smooth scrolling to ensure top performance, and you can disable parallax for mobile devices. The intuitive interface makes it easy to set everything up, and you can specify the direction and speed of the parallax scrolling effect with just the click of a button.
As well as a parallax effect, the plugin can also be used to add a video background, with videos from YouTube or Vimeo easily embedded — simply add the URL to embed. This is another great way to create an eye-catching website that visitors find memorable.
LayerSlider Responsive WordPress Slider Plugin
What is your website’s first impression like? A good first impression encourages visitors to stay, but a bad one means you could lose visitors, potentially forever. This is why many websites choose to use a highly visual image slider above the fold on their homepage, which is also great for directing visitors towards your best or latest content — they add color and imagery, plus they make it easier to navigate your website.
LayerSlider Responsive WordPress Slider Plugin is one of my favorite slider plugins, and is available for a competitive $17. LayerSlider lets you build beautiful, responsive image galleries and content sliders — you can also embed audio or video from YouTube or Vimeo. This is nothing new, but LayerSlider’s main selling point is the huge number of transition effects and skins available, which gives you plenty of flexibility when building the type of slider you want.
The plugin also uses a user friendly WYSIWYG slide builder, which lets you simply drag-and-drop your slides into place. The interface displays a timeline view for setting your transition intervals, and allows you choose from a staggering 200+ transition animations, 13 skins, and three navigation types. To see the impact of the changes you make, the live previewer allows you to view your slider in real time. For more customization options, the plugin also supports over 600 Google fonts.
If website performance is an important issue for you — hint: it should be — then LayerSlider also supports lazy loading; later slides are only loaded as and when they are needed, rather than loading them all upfront.
wpDataTables Responsive WordPress Tables Plugin
It might not be glamorous, but data and statistics matter, and displaying real life data can persuade customers to invest in your product or services. Unfortunately, adding data tables in WordPress is notoriously difficult, to the point where many webmasters will simply use a screenshot of an Excel graph. Using images in this way works well enough, but if data changes, or is added to, an image can’t be updated at the click of a button.
wpDataTables is arguably the best WordPress tables plugin around, allowing you to build interactive data tables to add extra credibility to your website. It is available from CodeCanyon for $28.
wpDataTables is fully responsive, ensuring your data tables can be viewed in all their glory from any device. Your data tables can be built and managed entirely from within the WordPress dashboard, and the plugin supports four data sources: Excel (including CSV files), MySQL query, XML, or JSON.
With the plugin supporting sophisticated data tables — they can run for thousands of rows — it can get a little complicated to use, but wpDataTables includes comprehensive documentation to help you get the most from the plugin’s features. You can also customize your tables by selecting fonts and colors. A great plugin for an underserved function.
Special Recent Posts PRO Edition WordPress Plugin
After reading one of your articles, what do your visitors do next? In an ideal world they become paying customers, though this can take time, which requires them to stick around on your website to read more of your content. If you want this to happen, you need to help them move around your website by making it as easy as possible for them to find and read your other material.
This is why you will see many websites displaying their latest posts below their content or in the sidebar — it encourages click through, and visitors tend to prefer newer content over older content. Special Recent Posts PRO Edition is an advanced WordPress plugin that allows you to link to your latest articles complete with thumbnails. The plugin supports recent post links below content and in any widget area — though it is most suited to a sidebar.
The plugin supports plenty of customization options, with the most notable being the size and style of thumbnail. This allows you to display big chunky thumbnails below content, or smaller ones in the sidebar area, where space is more limited. There are also three different layout options: multi-column, single column, and single row. As well as this, you can choose the font type and color for your recent posts area. In total, there are over 120 customization options to get your recent posts area exactly to your liking and in keeping with your website’s design.
The plugin can display posts, pages, and custom post types. You can configure which posts appear in the recent posts widget by specifying categories and tags to include/exclude, giving you full control of the content that appears in your recent posts area, as well as how it looks. The plugin can be purchased for just $12 from CodeCanyon.
So that’s it for premium plugins in 2014, but I’m excited to see the great plugins WordPress developers have in store for us in 2015. I’ll be back again at the end of January with four more premium plugins to add extra functionality to your WordPress website, but, until then, have a fantastic New Year everyone! With thousands of plugins available on CodeCanyon, it would be impossible to cover each one. Let us know what you think of these plugins in the comments section below, and feel free to add your own recommendations!