After you have selected your theme you will want to add some plugins. These plugins help to protect and make the theme more functional. Plugins can be found in the plugin repository located on the WordPress.org website.
In addition to plugins you will want to add an SSL certificate from the cPanel or whatever backend you are using that you want to add to the theme. These include an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate such as Let’s Encrypt or one that you buy. Some hosting companies provide SSL certificates as part of the plan. SSL certificates provide security to your site and to your users and are signified by the lock symbol to the left of the URL. These certificates also help your site rank higher in Google Searches.
The first type of plugin and the most important is security. Most security plugins offer both free and paid versions. In a lot of cases, the free version offers adequate security. If you have an eCommerce site you may want to look into paid versions, which generally offer more features. When constructing your website live on your hosting account you will want to add the security features just after downloading WordPress and your theme. This post describes the theme selection process.
Most website owners want to have an idea of how many and the characteristics of people visiting the site. This is where Analytics comes in. These plugins can show the number of visitors and their characteristics. A lot of these plugins relate to Google and include Google Analytics, Google Analytics Dashboard, and Exact Metrics. There are some open-source analytics plugins available that include Matomo Analytics, Plausible Analytics, and Koko Analytics. The open-source versions tend to be more focused on the privacy of users.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO plugins provide tips on helping your site rank higher on Google searches. For instance, in writing this post, I am using Rank Math, which provides color codes showing how well the post would rank in a Google search. Another popular SEO plugin is Yoast. Both of these plugins have a free and a paid version.
Caching plugins help speed up your site by making your code more efficient and getting rid of code and database items that are no longer needed. Examples of these plugins include Litespeed, W3 Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache, WP-Optimize, and a few others.
This type of plugin would be added when you are working on your site. Page Builders include Gutenberg, Elementor, Beaver Builder, and others. Gutenberg is the native builder within WordPress. Some examples of plugins related to page builders include Gutentor, Getwid, Kadence Blocks, Quebly, Beaver Builder, Elementor, and many more. You can also get a Gutenberg Block that incorporates Elementor within it.
ADA Compliance Plugins
A number of plugins are available to help your site’s ADA compatibility. One that helps in designing your pages and posts is WP ADA Compliance Check. This plugin provides a check in the right sidebar that shows if your page or post complies with WCAG 2.1 AA standards. When you save or publish your site it show if you any errors such fixed text size, color contrast, heading, or links errors.
There are also plugins such as Userway that can be added to your site that provide “a skin” helping people with disabilities with your site. However, a lot of accessibility experts have stated these types of plugins do not help disabled users if they even use them at all. It is best to make your site ADA compatible from the start rather than having to adjust it.
Besides Plugins there are a number of “backend” additions for your website. These include SSL certificates, email accounts, and PHP versions.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate
SSL certificates are added from the cPanel and provide security for your site and for users. The presence of an SSL is signified on the site by a lock symbol to the left of the URL. An SSL also helps your site rank higher in Google searches.
Some hosting companies provide SSL certificates through their plans. If you do not have one or have not bought a certificate, you can use Let’s Encrypt, which is freely available. You especially want an SSL certificate if you are doing eCommerce.
Email accounts are also setup from the cPanel. These accounts can be setup before or after your site is finished. It looks a lot more professional if you have an email account coming from your website, than from a site such as gmail, hotmail, or Yahoo.
While you are on the cPanel, you will want to check to see if you are running the latest version of PHP or Hypertext Preprocessor. Sometimes when you open an account it defaults to the lowest version. Upgrading your site to the most recent version now 7.x, but soon going to 8.x will help your site’s speed and security. Just make sure that the theme and any plugins you have are compatible with the version you pick. This article gives more information on WordPress and PHP versions.