How to Install a Plugin on Your WordPress Site

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Learning how to install a plugin on your WordPress site is among one of the first things you should learn if you’re building or maintaining your own website.

Plugins are simply essential for having an effective, fully functional website.

What ARE Plugins and What Do They Do?

Let’s first make sure we all know what the heck we’re talking about. A WordPress plugin is sort of like an app for your website. It’s an additional piece of code that “plugs into” the WordPress core code to add or extend a function to your website.

Plugins not only improve what your website can do, but they can be used to improve both the look and efficiency of your site, as well. For example, there are plugins that allow you to add contact forms, ecommerce, and member communities. There are others to help you manage broken links and to keep your site secure.

Why Do We Need Plugins?

One of the top reasons WordPress is the best platform for creating your website (besides the fact that it’s free) is that over 50 thousand plugins have been written by developers! This allows site owners to add the functions they need, depending upon the type of site or business they have.

The added benefit of plugins has to do with what core WordPress lacks: The code to accommodate every need under the sun. If core WordPress included every possible function, it wouldn’t run efficiently. Instead, site owners simply grab and install plugins à la carte to suit their needs.

Are Plugins Also Free?

Yes, but sometimes no. Maybe. Okay, it depends.

For many of the functions you want to add to your site, you can probably find a free plugin. There are tons of free plugins available, especially for basic functions such as optimizing content for SEO. Others, particularly those that add robust functionality like ecommerce, online communities, and learning management (e.g., for an online course) tend to come with a fee.

Also, some plugins have a free version and a premium version, which offers additional features. Paid plugins might cost you a one-time fee or they may require an annual subscription fee.

Sometimes, premium plugins offer better features than their free counterparts, but don’t assume that a paid option is better. Do your research.

In short, you’re not likely to end up spending a fortune on plugins.

Where Do I Get Plugins?

Of course, before you can install a plugin, you need to find the one that adds the functionality you’re looking for. The simplest way to find a plugin, especially for anyone who’s a beginner at WordPress, is to search for one directly from your WordPress dashboard.

However, there are additional sources of plugins on the market. Code Canyon, a massive directory of premium WordPress plugins, is another source for finding exactly what you need. And just like everything else in today’s world, you can “Google it” and find a variety of other third-party developers offering free and premium plugins.

Finding Your Plugin in WordPress

To get started installing a plugin on your WordPress site, follow these steps:

  1. Sign into your dashboard,
  2. Hover over “Plugins” on the left-hand navigation menu
  3. Select “Add New” from the submenu that appears.

Next, type in the name of the plugin or the feature you’re looking for in the search bar, near the top right of the page. WordPress will serve up a list of plugin options that offer what you’re looking for.

You’ll see that each plugin in the search results includes:

  • Its name
  • A short blurb about what it does
  • The entity that developed it
  • The number of users who have installed it
  • Users’ ratings of the plugin (out of five stars)
  • How recently the developers have updated the plugin
  • Whether it’s compatible with the version of WordPress you’re using

Those items alone are often enough to allow you to assess the quality of the plugin for your site. However, clicking on a plugin’s thumbnail will provide you with additional information, including specific user reviews.

Installing Your Plugin

If you happen to be reading this and toggling over to your WordPress dashboard to follow the steps, you’ll see that it’s pretty simple to figure out how to install plugins from the directory in WordPress. There’s a fairly obvious “Install Now” button on the top of each plugins’ thumbnail. Simply click on the button and wait a few seconds for the plugin to be installed on your site.

Plugin Powers, Activate!

You have one more step before the plugin is officially working with your WordPress site – not to mention any additional configuring required, based on the plugin’s function and features. (For example, if you added an ecommerce plugin, it didn’t magically import your items for sale, their descriptions, and prices!)

Once the plugin’s installation is complete the button that said “Install Now” will change from gray to blue and read “Activate.”

After you click on Activate (and again wait just a second or two), WordPress will take you out of the area where you can find and add new plugins and drop you into the area that shows all the plugins installed on your site. 

A Final Note about Plugins and Your Website

Just like your website design and content, plugins are not “set it and forget it.” Developers routinely update the plugins to keep them current with core WordPress code. That means that you have to update your plugins to ensure you’re using the latest version created by the developers.
If your plugins aren’t up-t0-date, your website can be more vulnerable to hackers trying to break in. That is, failing to keep plugins updated can compromise your website’s security.
Plus, having old versions of plugins installed on your site can cause loss of functionality. You could lose important features or your site could stop working completely. That’s not good for your business, and it creates a ton of hassles for you to get everything running again.
You can learn more about how to update your plugins properly to avoid these potential problems by reading When to Update Your WordPress Plugins (and When to NOT)
Or schedule a call with us to learn about our Care Plans and never have to worry about your plugins again!

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