My List of WordPress Plugins for Starter sites

Website developers are constantly experimenting so we’re bringing up new sites, both for clients and for experimentation purposes, quickly.

While I won’t go into my process this week, (which involves using backup buddy from iThemes as well as desktop server) I wanted to at least give you my list of wordpress plugins that I start with every time.

So here is my list of wordpress plugins, with brief descriptions, that I use as of now.

Note that it’s great to start with ones you’ll use repeatedly, even when experimenting, so you can check for potential conflicts.

List of WordPress plugins

Ajax Heartbeat Tool

ajax heartbeat tool list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

I’ve had performance issues with some sites due to the WordPress heartbeat taking too many resources when I and/or someone else is logged in as an admin.

There are no settings, but what it does is

  • Disables admin-ajax.php except on the posts, post edit & quick edit page
  • Disables heartbeat autostart
  • Sets the heartbeat interval to 60 seconds

iThemes Backupbuddy

backupbuddy list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

This is an awesome plugin not only to port your sites, but to do automatic backups at regular schedules. It’s not free but well worth it.

TinyMCE Advanced

tinymce advanced list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

What I normally use is the WYSIWYG editor with this plugin that enhances it, and then I edit the HTML directly for fine tuning and tweaking.

Black Studio TinyMCE Widget

blackstudio tinymce widget list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

I often do special layouts of pages using widgets in various combinations, and this gives me the easy ability to have a WYSIWYG editor for the widgets.

EWWW Image Optimizer

ewww image optimizer list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

I wrote a post recently on the usage of this plugin: Speed up your website – Optimize your images.

It’s a great tool to not only minimize your images, but also will thus reduce the size of your database.

Typically I’ll run it in batch mode when getting ready to launch a site, then when I do any additions or updates I’ll run it when convenient.

I did have a site go down once when using it, with a Bluehost account (which I don’t recommend as I’ve had LOTS of trouble with sites there). Turns out the plugin stalled in the middle of optimizing a set of images and something corrupted the .htaccess file. I restored it quickly and the site was back up and running in no time.

Consistent backups are critical!!!!

Gravity Forms

gravity forms list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

Gravity Forms is a premium plugin but well worth it. I use it here for the easy contact form and on to do a detailed intake form.

iThemes Security Pro

iThemes Security Pro list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

iThemes Security Pro is a paid plugin (you can get a pretty good version for free in the WordPress repository) and highly worth it.

I don’t configure it until I’m locking down a site, but it is installed at the get-go since I’m going to be using it anyway.

iThemes Sync

ithemes sync list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

This provides awesome capability for managing your WordPress sites, including checking for uptime and the ability to update plugins quickly and easily. They are constantly adding features.

Simple History

simple history list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

While I don’t need this at the beginning, I use it on client sites to track changes that are made so that in case of any problems, I can deduce the potential cause.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

wordpress seo by yoast list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

This makes it easy to get some type of SEO optimization for your posts and site. While proper SEO is complex, this certainly helps you set it up.

I like it better than AIO SEO since it helps me on the posts to give me an idea if I have enough keywords in the post and I’ve created the meta description correctly.

WP Example Content

wp example content list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

When designing, it’s great to have some content already there. This plugin provides various types of posts so you can see what your design will look like, and then when you’re ready, it will delete ONLY those example posts.

I had to modify the posts to set the Featured Image since some of the work I do utilizes those images. That’s a modification I’d make to the plugin.

WP Optimize

wp optimize list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

WP Optimize does what it says: optimizes your database. It removes post revisions, spam comments, and a few other things, all in one swoop.

Generally I use this before delivery the site to a client, as well as it’s part of our monthly maintenance packages.

Before you do this, however, please backup your site.

WP Mandrill

wp mandrill list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

WP Mandrill will help improve the deliverability of the emails automatically generated by your WordPress site so that your emails don’t end up in someone’s Spam folder.


zencache list of wordpress plugins thedavebraun

This is the easiest caching plugin to use. It doesn’t perform the best, but it really helps site speed.

I don’t enable it until the site is deployed and doing final performance testing.


There are other things I add in to my starter site, such as a very basic theme and remove some of the standard WordPress themes and plugins.

I also make some CSS changes to handle responsiveness, but that’s for a later post.