We’ve worked on hundreds of WordPress sites, and with that we’ve had experience with a great number of WP plugins, as well as written our own.
Over the years we’ve come to trust certain plugins and we end up using them on almost every installation. This is a list of our go-to plugins that we can wholeheartedly recommend to others:
Written by our own security expert, Josh Stoik, this plugin is a powerhouse. It has brute-force login protection, minimum password requirements, a history of log-in attempts, email notifications for logins from new locations, and a slew of other security-minded features. It’s the first plugin we install when we set up WordPress.
Look-See Security Scanner
Another plugin by the inestimable Josh Stoik. This plugin acts as a scanner over your WordPress installation to try and detect any malicious or unexpected code. It also analyzes your site and alerts you to measures you can take to batten down your WP installation even further.
Yet another from Josh Stoik, this plugin gives you a variety of options for blocking SPAM comments, such as honeypots, speed tests, maximum number of links in a comment, and more. SPAMbots plays well with Akismet for even more SPAM fighting power.
W3 Total Cache
This plugin is a must-have for a blazing fast WP site. It has both object, page, and data cache, as well as options for minification and CDNs.
Post Thumbnail Editor
Sometimes the automatically cropped images that WordPress generates are just not quite right. This plugin let’s you manually recrop any image for any particular image size. A godsend for anyone with a particular sense of art direction.
Force Regenerate Thumbnails
If you’re working on an existing installation and add new image sizes, WordPress doesn’t automatically go back through old images to crop them accordingly. This plugin forces all image sizes to be regenerated, so you can be sure all your images, old and new, are properly cropped.
It also deletes image sizes that no longer exist, clearing up some space on your server. One thing to note is that it will blow away any manual crops made with Post Thumbnail Editor. For that reason, we don’t recommend running Force Regenerate Thumbnails on a production environment, only during the development phase when specific art direction crops aren’t likely to have been set up yet.
Advanced Custom Fields Pro
THE WordPress plugin that makes leveraging WordPress as a robust and flexible CMS easy as pie. Add custom fields to posts, pages, taxonomy, attachments, almost anything you can imagine. Add that to the variety of field types, as well as all conditional rules you can establish and you have an indispensable plugin. More than anything else, ACF Pro is our desert island plugin.
Simple Page Re-Ordering
If you’re using
menu_order to order any of your post types, this plugin allows you to re-order those posts by simply dragging and dropping the posts in the desired order. Super simple and incredibly useful.
Admin Menu Editor
Admin Menu Editor gives you tools to customize the admin dashboard menu. You can add custom links, or hide existing ones. We find it useful for hiding development-related menu items from clients and cleaning up the menus of unecessary clutter.
This plugin lets you customize columns to post listings in the backend. You can hide existing columns or add new ones, with options like featured image, word count, custom fields, and more. It also has an ACF Pro add on so you can easily map ACF fields to the columns.
Admin Collapse Subpages
If you have a lot of subpages, this plugin is a must. As the name might imply, it provides the ability to collapse subpages so only top-level pages are immediately visible. It makes it much easier to navigate a subpage-heavy backend.
Improves the WordPress search by allowing you to customize exactly where a search looks for matches. You can add search support for custom fields, custom taxonomies, attachments, and more.
While we use other plugins as necessary, we try to keep plugin use to a minimum on any given project to avoid conflicts and instability. The plugins listed here always make the cut because of how useful and reliable they are.