Getting started with WordPress plugins
If you’re a DIY WordPresser, plugins are your best friend. These bits of code let you add features to your WordPress site–often with a just a couple of clicks.
Need social sharing buttons on your blog posts? There’s a plugin for that.
Want to display customer testimonials on your home page? There’s a plugin for that.
Wondering how to back up your WordPress website? There’s a plugin for that.
You get the idea…
Oh, and the best part: you don’t have to touch a single line of code.
Can you say, hallelujah?
Even if you hire a professional to build your website, someday you’ll want to add functionality…without having to call your developer. After all, websites are dynamic, ever-evolving creatures. It’s only natural that you’ll want to tweak over time.
That’s where plugins come into play. Plugins let you expand your WordPress site without having to call for help about every. single. thing.
So, without further adieu…let’s dive in.
Installing Plugins on WordPress.org
First things first: this tutorial is for self-hosted wordpress.org installs only.
If you use wordpress.com, you cannot install plugins on your blog or website. WordPress.com has some of the most popular plugins built in. You cannot install extra plugins.
Not sure which type of WordPress you’re using? Here’s a quick and easy way to check:
- Go to the Sucuri SiteCheck scanner.
- Insert your domain name and click Scan Website.
- When the scan completes, click the tab that says Website Details.
- Look for Web Application Details.
Three Ways to Install WordPress Plugins
Now that you’ve confirmed that you’re using wordpress.org, let’s get down to it.
There are three ways to install WordPress plugins, but you’ll use one method most often. I’ll go over all three methods, but we’ll start with the most important one first.
Search and Install
The easiest way to install a plugin is to search for and install it through the WordPress dashboard. You can use this method to install any plugins that are in the WordPress Plugin Directory. The Plugin Directory has only free plugins. You will not be able to install premium plugins using this method.
There are a few premium (paid) plugins that I use, but many of the best WordPress plugins are free. I find myself using this method 99% of the time.
Use When: You want to install WordPress plugins from the Plugin Directory
1.Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
2. In your main menu, click on Plugins > Add New.
3. Search for the plugin you want to install by typing the name in the search box. If you don’t know which plugin you want, you can search for a feature like “SEO” instead.
4. Find the plugin you want in the search results and click Install Now.
5. WordPress will install the plugin and display a success message when it’s complete. The plugin is now installed on your site, but you must click Activate Plugin to turn it on and start using it.
Congrats! You’ve installed and activated your plugin.
Upload and Install
Sometimes you’ll need to install premium plugins that aren’t in the Plugin Directory. You can’t install these with the search and install method. To install these plugins, you need to upload them to your WordPress website.
Use When: You want to install a premium plugin
1.Buy and download the plugin. You should have a zip file.
2. Log in to the WordPress dashboard.
3. In your main menu, click on Plugins > Add New.
4. Click Upload Plugin.
5. Select Choose File. Then locate the zip file on your computer. Once you have selected the zip file, click Install Now.
6. WordPress will install the plugin and display a success message when it’s complete. The plugin is now installed on your site, but you must click Activate Plugin to turn it on and start using it.
That’s it! You’ve installed and activated your plugin.
Sometimes you might have trouble with the other install methods. Different hosting environments can cause conflicts with WordPress. In these situations, you’ll need to install your plugin via FTP.
Of all the ways to install WordPress plugins, the FTP method is the least beginner-friendly. You’ll rarely (if ever) have to use this method, but it’s helpful to have in your arsenal anyway.
This tutorial assumes you’re familiar with FTP and have an FTP client installed. If you need help getting to this point, let me know in the comments. I’ll be glad to help.
Use When: The other install methods aren’t working.
- Download the plugin from the Plugin Directory or from a premium source. You should have a zip file.
- Extract the zip file on your computer.
- Open your FTP client and log in with your FTP username and password.
- Find the path to /wp-content/plugins/.
- Upload the extracted file into the plugins folder.
- Once you’ve uploaded the file via FTP, log in to your WordPress dashboard.
- In your main menu, click on Plugins > Installed Plugins.
- Find the plugin you just uploaded and click the Activate link.
- You’re done!
What to Do After You Install a Plugin
Some plugins will work straight out of the box, but most need configuring through a settings page. Each plugin puts its settings page somewhere different. Here are a few common places to look:
- Some plugins create a new menu item in your main menu.
- Check under Tools or Settings in the main menu.
- Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins. Many plugins include a link to the settings page from here.
For tips on configuring your plugin, refer to the documentation. You can find this by going to Plugins > Installed Plugins. Then select View Details or Visit Plugin Site. Here you can see installation instructions, FAQs, and screenshots to guide you.
If you have questions about configuring a specific plugin, ask me in the comments below. I’d be happy to point you in the right direction!