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How and Why to Add Plugins to Your WordPress Site

WordPress Plugin Guide

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WordPress plugins are additional apps you can install on your site to extend what your website can do. For new WordPress users, the term can be confusing (“what else do I need to add to my site?” – “Is this going to cost more money?” – “I understand I need them, but  how do I get them on my site?”

These are all valid questions, and don’t worry; we’ll talk about them in this post.

How and Why to Add Plugins to Your WordPress Site

What Plugins Do You Need?

Some plugins automatically come with your site; anything else will depend on what you want your website to do.

Are you selling products? Then, you may need to install the popular WooCommerce plugin so you can add buying options and take payments directly from your customers.

If you want to get email signups on your site, an excellent plugin like Ninja Forms can help you do that with ease.

Ultimately, you have to think about what you want to offer and the best (and customer-friendly) way to get those offers out there.

How Much (More) will This Set Me Back?

Honestly, most plugins are free or at least come with a free trial or basic option. Most free plugins work brilliantly without you having to upgrade unless you’re expanding your site or want more out of them.

Costs can vary; some plugins are priced at hundreds of dollars a pop, and some you’ll have to renew monthly or yearly.

My advice? Start with the free plugins and then decide if you need more from there.

How Do I Get Them on My Site?

As far as getting them onto your site, you could download plugins for free from the WordPress Plugin Directory at https://wordpress.com/plugins. You can buy plugins from a variety of different places including CodeCanyon.net or directly from developers.

When you click on the Plugins link in the admin area of your WordPress site, you’ll see all the plugins that are installed. The number of plugins you see will vary from site to site, and includes all active and inactive plugins.

This is what it will look like:

To view only the active or inactive plugins installed on your WordPress, click the Active or Inactive link at the top, as shown below.

If you’ve recently deactivated a plugin, another option will appear – Recently Active. This column will show all the plugins you deactivated in the last seven days.

Bulk Actions

If you select one or more plugins on the plugin admin page, you will have the option to use the Bulk Action dropdown. From this dropdown option, you can choose to activate, deactivate, update, or delete all the plugins you selected at once.

Individual Plugins

For each plugin listed on the plugin admin page, you can activate, deactivate, delete, view details, and see the plugin developers’ information.  Some plugins add a setting or documentation link. Also, note that the delete option will only appear only after a plugin has been deactivated.

Some examples of what you may see are below.

Clicking on the Developer link will take you to the developers’ website for more information. If you click on the View Details link, a pop up will appear displaying all the information WordPress has for the plugin.

Add New Plugin

Adding a new plugin is super easy although finding the right plugin might take a little research since there are so many to chose from.

To quickly install a plugin, click on Add New under the Plugins admin menu or from the top of the plugin listing page.

This will take you to the WordPress Plugin Directory, also found at https://wordpress.org/plugins.

From here, you can search for the plugin you need. If the plugin you want to install is not in the directory, then you can click the Upload Plugin button at the top of the page to add it yourself (instructions below).

To install a plugin from the WordPress Plugin Directory:

  • Find the plugin you wish to install by a search or by using the filter options at the top for Featured, Popular, Recommended, and Favorites plugins. Once you have found the plugin, there are a couple of things to check before clicking on the Install Now button.
    • Before installing any plugin, you need to check to make sure it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. You’ll see this at the bottom right corner of the plugin block.
    • Also, look for when the plugin was last updated. If a plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year, then it’s most likely that the developers have abandoned it.
  • After you’ve confirmed compatibility with your WordPress site and that the plugin has been updated recently, click on the Install Now button to download the plugin to your WordPress site. Please note that this does not turn the plugin on. It directly downloads the plugin files to your WordPress site.
  • Once the Install is complete, the Install Now button will change to an Activate button. When you click on the Activate button, the plugin will be turned on, and you’ll now be able to start using it on your WordPress site.

Upload a New Plugin

To install a plugin not found in the WordPress Plugin Directory, you’ll have to upload the plugin .zip file. If you didn’t get a .zip file from the plugin source, head on back to the source to get the correct data.

  • From the Add Plugins page, click on the Upload Plugin button at the top.

  • When you click on the Upload Plugin button, a new section will appear, allowing you to choose the plugin .zip file to upload. To select the file, click on the Choose File button. This will open up a file finder on your computer.
  • Select the plugin .zip file. Once the correct .zip file has been selected, click on the Install Now button. This will upload the file and then unzip the contents on your WordPress site.

  • After you’ve installed the plugin, you’ll see a Plugin installed successfully message like in the screenshot above.
  • The next step is to click on the Activate Plugin button. This will turn the plugin on and then return you to the Plugin listing page or the plugin settings page, if available.

Plugins may add new menu options to your WordPress site, so it’s essential to know what the plugin’s purpose is and how you can configure its settings to get the best results.

The Plugin Editor

There’s also an option under the plugin admin menu called the Plugin Editor.

This area allows you to directly edit your plugin files.

Does editing your plugin files sound like a good idea to you?

Um, no, not unless you know what you are doing!

Editing plugin files can break your WordPress site. I highly recommend not editing any plugin file unless the plugin developer authorizes you to do so (with instructions).

And, if you do edit the files, be sure to make a backup of your site first.

Here’s what the plugin editor looks like:

Well, that’s plugins in a nutshell. These magical apps can significantly improve the functioning of your site, but you don’t want to install anything you don’t need. In fact, the fewer plugins you have running on your website, the better.

Lastly, remember to update your plugins whenever new releases come out so that you continue to have a beautifully functioning site that will keep attracting your ideal customers.

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