Shiny New Toys: A Weekly Report of New WordPress PluginsThis past week the WordPress Plugin Directory added some full-featured new plugins including Pagelines Platform 5, Facebook Instant Articles formatter, Simple Google Experiments, and more.

The WordPress Plugin Directory added 123 new plugins this past week — an average number for what we’ve seen this year so far.

There was also some interesting updates made to plugins we previously covered:

  • Rachel Carden’s “Show me the Admin” got some CSS love and improved role-based settings.
  • John Jacoby continues to enhance his new “Spider Cache” plugin.
  • The “Shiny New Toys” plugin (aka “New Plugins“) added a Beta Testing tab. This lets you see the plugins that are currently being considered as “Feature Plugin Candidates” — meaning they could be incorporated into WordPress Core in the future.

Alright, let’s jump into this week’s offering.

Pagelines has just released their free pagebuilder tool. It’s extremely robust with lots of additional functionality plugins. It’s hard to categorize this into any of the other “page builder” categories that we often think of. In many ways it’s going into the direction that Beaver Builder has gone in the sense that there’s a theme framework and additional modules and plugins to enhance it’s abilities.

I think one thing that sets this apart is it’s own custom front-end “Customizer.” I’m a little confused on why they went the route they did. It seems like they couldn’t decide between doing live editing, or using the Customizer. It doesn’t use the native Customizer, and it doesn’t support inline editing. Instead it’s a mix of a point-and-click builder (not drag and drop) that you then edit in their own custom fly-out editor rather than on-page. The live reload is really smooth though so changes are obvious and immediate.

Another really striking feature is their in-app marketplace. It’s clear that this free plugin is meant to be a massive sales funnel. By going to “Pagelines > Extend” you see a wide range of available free and paid plugins and themes. It’s definitely a smart move to put their paid add-ons visible directly from the WP Dashboard.

If you are looking for a very robust page building tool you should definitely give this a look. Someone should do a side-by-side to compare this with Beaver Builder’s whole suite of themes and Pro version as well.

The idea behind this plugin stuck out to me immediately: An easy way to implement Google’s “Content Experiments” directly into your WP site. But when I saw that Brandon Dove and Jeffrey Zinn were behind it as well I got really interested. These guys know what they’re doing and continually provide value to the broader WordPress community.

If you aren’t familiar with Google’s Content Experiments, this is a good guide. They are basically a way to marry Google Analytics with A/B testing to determine how your content influences conversions.

Quite honestly, A/B testing is a wide-spread industry standard that folks within the WordPress space seem to be a bit behind the curve on. While Content Experiments aren’t the only way to do that, it’s encouraging to see a plugin like this released from reliable and professional developers.

This approach differs quite a bit though from a tool like Optimizely, or Ingot (another new WordPress plugin). Optimizely allows you to change the elements of your page without creating whole new menus or entire new pages. In contrast to Ingot, Simple Content Experiments will display the conversion rates for each test you run, but it’s up to you to analyze those results and change your site based on those results. Ingot, on the other hand, analyzes the results and automatically chooses the option that produces more conversions for you.

Definitely, check this tool out. It’s a great way to get started with A/B testing on your website.

You might have heard the buzz around Facebook’s “Instant Articles.” They are a new way for content publishers to leverage Facebook to render their content very quickly within the Facebook mobile app. This was released to high-trafficed publishers like the New York Times and Buzzfeed mid-2015 but it’s not slowly rolling out to more and more general publishers.

If you or your client are lucky enough to be approved for Instant Articles already, then you’ll want this “set it and forget it” plugin. The biggest requirement for Instant Articles is a particular markup for your RSS feed. This plugin does that for you. Just install and auto-magically you have a new RSS feed at http://yoursite.com/instant-articles which is perfectly formatted for submission to Facebook.

Chris Flannagan is a WordPress developer you should get to know. I shook his BBQ-stained hand at WordCamp Miami and am better for it.

Chris just released a beta plugin that takes HTML forms and converts them into Gravity Forms forms. Seriously!? That’s magic right there. I need to do some more testing on it, but I like the process overall and it’s quite simply a feature that MANY users will find invaluable.

I’d love to see this forked for CalderaForms and NinjaForms as well though. Hey Chris! What about a “GoFundMe to Give forms” converter!? You opened a pandora’s box here, buddy.

Other Notables

Even More Shiny New Toys!?

We’re cooking up some ideas to enhance this series. Maybe a podcast ala WPBlab. A fun theme song reminiscent of REM, or an ongoing dynamic chart of all the plugins we’ve reviewed each week ala GoDaddy’s Hot 100. Would love your input or ideas for other ways you’d like to hear about the latest Shiny New Toys.

Matt is Head of Support and Community Outreach at WordImpress.com. He's the author of many free WordPress plugins, a popular blogger at his website, an admin of the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, co-organizer of the San Diego WordPress Meetup, and a frequent WordCamp speaker and attender.

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