The first plugin I add to any fresh WordPress install…
is Bulk Plugin Installation. This plugin allows you to install any plugins you like simply by typing their names or download URLs in a textarea. I keep a few text lists handy for my projects so I have a working site with all the necessary plugins ready in a couple of minutes.
One-Click Child Theme – Never ever make changes to your theme’s files directly as you will lose all the modifications with the next update (the same goes for plugins as well). I highly suggest you start using child themes, feel free to read more about this in my Learn page. This plugin is a time-saver as it will create a child theme for you in a second.
Jetpack – A great all-rounder built by Automattic, the team behind WordPress.com. The modules that I always enable are: Publicize (this will auto-post to Facebook and Twitter when publishing new posts), Stats, Widgets Visibility, Spelling and Grammar as well as Enhanced Distribution. I’d sometimes turn on Carousel, Tiled Galleries, Extra Sidebar Widgets, too, depending on the project’s needs.
WordPress SEO by Yoast – This plugin will greatly improve your blog’s SEO. I also love that you can customize SEO titles, keywords etc. on a per page/post basis.
WP Super Cache – My favourite caching plugin, it will speed up your site while also reducing the server load, making it rank better by the search engines. If you’re editing a lot on the live server I recommend you to install Busted which will force browsers to load the most recent file if modified.
Akismet – Another plugin by Automattic, included by default in the WordPress installation. It does a great job removing spam from your website.
Wordfence Security – My favourite WordPress security plugin. Compatible with network (multisite) installs, it does a deep server-side scan of all the files and compares them to the Official WordPress repository for core, themes and plugins. And if you ever get locked out of WordPress because of Wordfence, this is the solution.
Broken Link Checker – An absolutely crucial plugin that will check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, allowing to edit them from the dashboard.
WP-DB-Backup – A simple plugin that will back up your database tables.
Contact Forms 7 – My go to plugin for contact forms or any kind of submissions. I’d install Flamingo from the same author as well so that all of your submissions are saved in your WordPress Dashboard.
Gravity Forms – A premium plugin worth every penny (as of today the price for a single site licence is $39). I’ve used it with great success building an application submission solution for a music festival with complex double-layer if-else statements. By default, however, Gravity Forms plugin doesn’t include tooltips so Gravity Tooltips add-on is a must.
GPP Testimonials Widget – Beautiful testimonials shortcode plugin, completely customizable via CSS
Images / Portfolio
Soliloquy Lite – responsive image slider
WP Gallery Custom Links – enables you to set custom links for WordPress gallery images (e.g. for a gallery of your sponsors).
Some Of The Best WordPress Portfolio Plugins by ElegantThemes – a list of the best free and premium portfolio plugins out there.
Audio Player plugins
GigPress – Perfect for touring musicians.
The Events Calendar and Facebook Events ($30) by Modern Tribe – I used this combination for a music organization website to import all of their Facebook Page events into The Events Calendar and display them beautifully.
Events Manager – I used and modified this plugin on GuitaristNews for front-end festival and concert submissions, where anonymous visitors of the site can add their own events to the platform.
Extend WordPress functionality
Code Snippets – Instead of changing your theme’s functions.php file you can simply install this plugin and add all of your snippets there.
MailPoet (75 Eur per year if more than 2000 subscribers) – I’ve tried some other other WordPress plugins as well as Mailchimp before MailPoet was released, but was continuously disappointed. This plugin, on the other hand, works a treat and I’ve really enjoyed using it. Features I like the most: Easy to use, well designed interface, you can drag & drop your existing WordPress posts and images directly into the newsletters, nice statistics that tells you who opened and clicked your emails.
Popups, notification bars
OptinMonster ($49 for 1 site) – easily the best popup plugin outthere, works with my newsletter plugin of choice, MailPoet, as well.
Coming soon plugin, maintenance mode
MarketPress – Available both in free and premium version. Market is my ecommerce solution of choice here on urosbaric.com. It’s very feature rich and supports multisite (network installs). Right off the bat the default store looks quite ugly but you can quickly customize it as I did with my Shop page (using CSS changes as well as two free add-ons: MP Floating Cart and MP Anywhere Cart). The premium Marketpress version that I’m currently using will cost you $19 per month, but you can do as I’ve done for months now – pay this amount once, cancel the subscription and pay again when a major update is ready (provided you won’t need support of course).
WooCommerce – the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It’s really easy to use and your product pages will looks great as soon as you activate the plugin, however I found the plugin to be far less customizable than MarketPress. In addition, using Woocommerce as your ecommerce solution can get pretty expensive when you need extra functionality (single extensions cost at least $49 each).
Easy Digital Downloads – From what I’ve heard and tested this plugin is great if all you’re selling are digital products. Similar to WooCommerce, though, the add-ons don’t come cheap.
Drag & drop page builders
Page Builder by SiteOrigin. However, if you prefer this functionality in a theme instead of a plugin, check Divi 2 by Elegant Themes or Make – they have completely different approaches but are both amazing.
WordPress Duplicator (for single installs)
Blog Copier (for Multisite, to duplicate existing sub-sites to new sub-sites – excellent for creating a template and then using it to build websites faster).
Multisite / Network essentials
Network Shared Media – Allows you to use media from other blogs in your multisite installation.
WordPress MU Domain Mapping – Necessary for using custom domains for any blog on your network.
User Role Editor – Enables you to change any WordPress user role easily.
User Switching – Instant switching between user accounts in WordPress admin.
Network Plugin Auditor – I finally came across this one recently, it allows me to see on which site each plugins in installed.
Blog Copier – To copy blogs within multisite (great for making templates for clients).
WP Smush.it – It reduces image file sizes and improves performance.
WP-Optimize – Simple but effective plugin allows you to extensively clean up and optimize your WordPress database.
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded – It allows commenters to sign up for e-mail notifications of subsequent replies.
Less known gems…
Display Posts Shortcode – lets you display a listing of any number of posts, e.g. of a certain category, anywhere on your website.
Jarvis – type “/” in your dashboard and access anything in WordPress back-end quickly by typing the first few letters.
Editorial Calendar – A neat plugin that makes it possible to see all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog. Love it.
Color My Posts – allows you to style WordPress posts in the administration depending on many criteria.
Awesome Color Palettes – A neat way to display color palettes on your WordPress site.
Device Mockups – a collection of shortcodes to display screenshots, videos, or any content within a responsive device. An ingenious idea!