This list represents my goto common plugins most sites will use. I don’t always install all of them, of course, but within their various categories I reach for these.
The list is always changing as I test different plugins against each other and find issues and try new things etc.
Theme & Design
Visual page builder. Link on marketplace.
Use Beaver Builder to visually build templates and template parts. This is an alternative to having to create a lot of template files in the theme folder. Helpful for “global” header and footer parts, but also parts can be set to show up only for certain user groups and only on certain pages. Other filters are available too. Themer is a for-pay plugin.
Clean starter theme with various options in Customizer and built to be used with Beaver Builder and Themer. There is also a child theme starter so get both and make your edits in the child theme.
If I don’t use Beaver, I’ll use my copy of Oxygen, it was purchased with a lifetime license for unlimited sites so I like to use it for some clients so they never have to worry about my license expiring. And it’s pretty good too. There is no theme needed, the entire theme system is disabled, Oxygen itself is used to create your templates.
This is a starter theme with a generator. The generator helps create all the function and class names and file names so it’s quick to get started. It follows best practices for coding a WP theme, and you can always strip out bits you don’t need.
I like Zurb Foundation so if I’ll be leaning on it for a project I’ll use this one.
Create custom post types, fields, settings pages, and extend other built-in post types.
When Pods is used for custom post types and fields, this connects Pods data with Beaver to output custom data within Beaver modules.
ACF is a classic, paid version even better. Integration with Oxygen which isn’t yet supporting Pods.
Malware scanner and various other tests, optional firewall connector. The main feature for me is malware scans and it can check file diffs to see if core files change.
Backup & Recovery
Backups to local and/or remote sources. The paid Pro version has some pretty helpful tools as well.
SEO stuff, XML sitemap, breadcrumbs, page analysis.
Google Analytics connection and other tools.
Find/replace URLs. Typically used after a migration and then removed, it’s not needed to keep installed.
Hide areas of admin from users (pods and beaver admin etc).
Automatic cleanup of the DB, MySQL optimize.
Select which JS to load Async to prevent render blocking. There is an option if using other tools to combine/compress JS sources.
Compress and resize images and other media automatically
I happen to have a license with a certain number of credits per month, so I used this on dev projects and later remove. I’ll typically leave EWWW or SG Optimizer (for SiteGround sites) after I’m done with ShortPixel.
If host doesn’t have its own advanced caching, I use this one. One nice feature is setting browser cache settings which other free cache tools don’t do. I’ve found this one (free) has the most features.
Puts text in the admin bar to show you chain of loaded template files.
Continuously look for broken links with ability to change them immediate without editing each page. It’s checking links internal to the site, not monitoring incoming 404s.
Migrate site to another host with WordPress already installed.
Migrate site to another host when WordPress is not already installed.