Hi friends, true story – It never fails, month after month, I get emails and social media messages asking me for tips and resources on learning WordPress. So I’ll be taking it way back to the basics here on the blog and I’m starting a series of WordPress 101. First up, plugins! In this quick WordPress plugin tutorial we will talk about what they are and how to add them.
WHAT ARE PLUGINS
Before we ever jump into favorite plugins, which ones you should have, etc. [coming soon!], let’s talk about what plugins are to begin with.
From WordPress themselves –
“Plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionally that already exists in WordPress”
By design, WordPress is lean and lightweight. With just enough functionality to get you going but without on those extra features that would just be extra baggage if you don’t use them.
The thing about WordPress is that its user base varies widely – from universities to large corporations to small businesses to mommy bloggers. There is no good way to add some fancy functionality to the WordPress core that would absolutely fit the needs of all of those users without bloating it and weighting it down.
Plugins are the solution.
Through plugins you can add the functionality that you need – nothing more, nothing less. This allows you to have a website that runs exactly like you want it to without unnecessary baggage.
WHAT CAN PLUGINS DO
Think of something you’d like your site to do, anything at all. Chances are there’s a plugin for that. Everything from contact forms, eCommerce functionality, social sharing, to even book rating can and is covered by existing plugins.
WHERE TO FIND PLUGINS
One of the things that makes WordPress such an incredible system, is that it is open source. This means that updates and creation is driven by the WordPress community.
When it comes to plugins this means that literally anyone with enough know-how can create one. Which means there’s hundreds of places to find plugins. However, you always want to be careful on where you find your plugins – you don’t want to add something that will damage your site by injecting malware.
The main places to find plugins are –
- The WordPress repository
- Developer’s Websites
WORDPRESS PLUGIN TUTORIAL – HOW TO ADD A PLUGIN
I almost feel bad making a WordPress plugin tutorial because adding a plugin is SUPER easy. There are two main options depending on whether or not the plugin you’d like to install is on the WordPress Repository or not. I’ll run through both of them very quickly but if you prefer video tutorials, check out the video below for my WordPress plugin tutorial.
From the WordPress Repository
The easiest way to add a plugin is if the plugin you wish to add to your site is part of the WordPress repository.
First, from your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins -> Add New. Then search for a plugin. Once you find the one your want, click “Install Plugin”. Then click “Activate Plugin”.
Uploading A Plugin
If the plugin isn’t on the WordPress repository, say you bought it directly from a developer, you’ll need to upload it. From your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins -> Add New. Click the “upload” button. Then browse your computer for the plugin file, click “Upload”. Then click “Activate Plugin”
One thing that sometimes trips people up – you’ll need to make sure the plugin is in a .zip file. If you’re on a Mac, depending on your settings, it’s possible that the file unzipped automatically upon download. If this happened just select the plugin folder, right click, and select “Compres [folder name]” and upload as described above.
LAST THOUGHTS ON PLUGINS
Before closing this out I thought I’d mention a couple of things. First, try to avoid overloading your WordPress installation with a lot of plugins. I see this all the time: 30-40 plugins installed but the person isn’t even using half of them – and then they wonder why their site is running slow. If you’re not using it, delete it. Don’t just deactivate it – delete it.
Second, but definitely not least, make sure you keep up with your updates! You can install the best plugins, but if you don’t update them, you’re opening yourself up for security threats. It takes less than a minute and all you have to do is click the “Update” button. DO IT.
So those are the basics about plugins! You can truly have your website do just about anything with the right plugins. So go forth and do magical things!