Another post in our series on Creating Azure (hosted) WordPress Websites without knowing PHP or MySql!

Plugins are PHP scripts or small software apps that can be uploaded and installed on a WordPress website to extend and expand the functionality of the WordPress site, without having to know how to change the core code and learn PHP. WordPress was designed to be extended by plugins – modular programs that add functionality to a WordPress website. There are more than 40,000 free Plugins available on WordPress.org and thousands of Premium (not free) plugins that will deliver just about anything you want to add to your website.

For us, that means that we don’t have to learn PHP to add the specific functionality that we need on our custom websites – we just need to find the ‘right’ plugins. The caution in using plugins, is that they must be updated and tested for the latest WordPress platform version, play well with your website’s theme and other plugins you’re using, not slow down your website, nor contain ‘infecting’ code to cause security breaches.

We determine what additional functionality is required on the WordPress website, then research plugins online and test for the right plugins to do the job(s) we need. We use a combination of free and premium plugins on all of our websites, choosing current, high-rated, supported plugins.

We’ve discovered that simpler is usually better – avoiding the ‘swiss-army-knife-type’ plugins that deliver more functionality than required. The plugins we use in our websites all work well together, are all current as of the writing of this document, all were tested prior to being installed on production sites and are currently in use on our production websites.

We try to keep the number of plugins on a website to a minimum, for security and performance optimization issues. Trolling through the thousands of available WordPress plugins on wordpress.org or google.com takes time – we search on Google and WordPress.org by keyword(s) to get a shorter list of possible plugins for a specific functionality.

Before choosing a few plugins to download and test, for each plugin, look at:

  • the number of downloads
  • read through the plugin features
  • compare plugin ratings
  • read through the reviews
  • check the support threads for the plugin
  • look at any screenshots posted about the plugins
  • check the FAQs provided on the WordPress.org page for the plugin.

Then we download the plugin(s), do a backup of the test environment’s content and database, check the current website loading speed and then install and begin to configure the plugin. Besides how well, fast and consistent it performs its function, we also look for compatibility issues of the test plugin with our theme and other currently installed plugins. Then we check how well it does what we need it to do on the website, and what customization settings come with the plugin, and note any errors. Finally, the chosen plugin is installed on the production website.

Our 18 Favorite WordPress Plugins

Read  all of the other posts in our series on Creating Azure (hosted) WordPress Websites without knowing PHP or MySql!