I suspect most WordPress designers have a default set of plugins they like to install on pretty much every site. Here are mine:

Example of MainWP dashboard widget on available updates

An example of updating functionality in MainWP

MainWP

I plan to give more of an overview for this in a future post, but for now the quick version: this is a great tool if you manage lots of sites in order to maintain them all from one place instead of needing to log in to each one separately. You can manage backups, update WordPress core as well as themes and modules, and it is expandable so you can add even more functions.

UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus gives lots of options for backing up both the file system and the database into various cloud services, other FTP sites, a file for local download, and more. Some services are held back to only being in the Pro version, but a lot of the most common ones are free.

WP Accessibility

Accessibility is important. This plugin won’t fix every accessibility issue, especially if there are some problems built in to your theme, but it can take care of a few big ones regardless of your theme, such as adding a label to your search widget and adding a toolbar that allows visitors to change the font size and the contrast.

Jetpack

Jetpack is made by WordPress and integrated to WordPress.com sites, but they also make it available as a plugin for WordPress.org (self-hosted) sites. It has a lot of tools, but my favourites:

  • Automatically share posts to social networks
  • Monitor for downtime
  • Viewership stats tracking – not as in-depth as Google Analytics, but enough for a lot of people
  • Security tools
  • Related posts: a box at the bottom of each post to show the user other content, which helps visitors get caught in a loop finding more interesting things
  • Widget Visibility: only show some widgets on certain pages, which may not be as advanced as blocks in Drupal but it does go a long way to being able to build a site that meets your custom needs

Broken Link Checker

Don’t leave broken links on your site. It frustrates your users and can hurt your search engine optimization. Broken Link Checker helps by doing what the name suggests: looks for broken links on a regular basis. It doesn’t automatically fix them, but it does breaks them down in a great interface by error type, making it convenient for you to sort through them by priority and either fix or remove them.

Tag Tools

Tags and categories can sometimes get pretty messy. Tag Tools is a great option to clean them up, with the two key functions being the ability to move an item between taxonomies (tag to category or vice versa) as well as to merge items. The latter is incredibly valuable for scenarios like realizing your site has a lot of duplicate tags but spelled slightly differently. You can quickly merge them together without having to retag every post.