Installing WordPress Plugins
Just like a WordPress theme is a collection of files working together to help you accomplish something (in the case of themes, a coherent, site-wide design), a WordPress plugin is a set of files that can help you extend the functionality of your WordPress site.
The core WordPress installation was designed to be lean and mean, maximizing flexibility while minimizing the amount of code necessary to run a site. Plugins offer you the ability to add custom functions and features to your WordPress blog, enabling you to tailor your site to your specific needs.
My wife says, “Huh? Stop talking gibberish! What is a plugin and what does it do?”
In layman’s terms, a plugin lets you add cool, useful features to your WordPress installation so your site:
- Looks better
- Runs smoother
- Is easier for you to manage
Plugins integrate seamlessly with WordPress. This means you don’t have to worry about making any changes to the actual WordPress blogging system itself. Since they reside separately from WordPress, you simply “plug them in” as needed.
And just like WordPress themes, plugins are available for free, or for sale as “premium” plugins. The official WordPress Plugin Repository is where you will find most of the free ones. And with nearly 31,000 plugins to choose from, you’re almost guaranteed to find something to meet your needs…
- Click on “Plugins” in your left WordPress admin panel
- Click on the “Add New” link below it
- Enter some keywords into the search box
- Press the “Search Plugins” button
Your plugin search results will look something like this:
Once you find a plugin you’d like to use, simply click on “Install Now.” The plugin will then automatically be downloaded to your site and installed. At this point, you will then be prompted to click on the “Activate Plugin” link:
That’s it… activate your plugin, and you’re ready to go!
Tips for Finding and Installing Plugins
Don’t forget to adjust your plugin’s settings
Each plugin usually has its own settings and options. Look for your new plugin in the left WordPress admin panel. If you don’t see it initially, it may be listed under “Settings” or “Tools.” You may need to tinker with the settings and test your site to make sure it’s operating properly.
Stick with reputable plugins
Only install established plugins that have positive reviews/ratings, and at least 10 ratings. Avoid old, outdated plugins that haven’t been updated in a while. They probably won’t work and will probably cause you more trouble than they’re worth.
Install/update one plugin at a time
Plugins have a habit of not playing nicely together. A good way to prevent plugin conflicts is to install or update plugins one at a time. Install your plugin, set the options, test your site. If all is well, proceed to the next plugin. If you install too many at once, it will be a tediously mind-numbing task to try and identify the culprit.
My Favorite Free WordPress Plugins
Whenever I install a new WordPress site, whether for myself or a client, there are always a handful of free plugins that I know I can count on to help get the job done. Here are a few of my favorites…
WordPress SEO by Yoast – Helps you optimize your WordPress site so you’ll get more visitors from Google and the other search engines (are there others?). Even though WordPress is well-coded and SEO friendly out of the box, WordPress SEO by Yoast will help you do even better with your SEO. (BTW: in case you didn’t know, SEO = search engine optimization, the art and science of setting up a web site to rank high in the search engines.) WP Super Cache – Once you start getting traffic, you’ll want to take a look at page caching. With a caching plugin such as WP Super Cache, your site will generate static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. After a static html file is generated, your server will deliver that file instead of having to process the more resource intensive WordPress PHP scripts. iThemes Security – (formerly Better WP Security) It is estimated that 30,000 websites are hacked every day. This plugin basically makes it more difficult for naughty people and malicious scripts to hack, damage or wreak havoc on your site. Provides you with more than 30 ways to secure and protect your WordPress site. Admin Management Xtended – This plugin adds AJAX-driven options to your WordPress admin pages. Will help you work more quickly and efficiently. Duplicate Post – This simple, yet useful plugin enables you to clone any existing post or page, creating a new draft out of the original. Dynamic Widgets – Using this plugin, you’ll have full control over how your widgets are displayed. Dynamically show or hide widgets on WordPress pages based on the settings you specify. Disqus Commenting System – Monitoring comments on a web site can sometimes be a pain. Disqus helps make it easier, replacing your regular WordPress comment system with comments hosted and powered by Disqus. Also offers additional exposure and advertising revenue opportunities.Bottom Line: With the right plugins, you’ll be able to customize your WordPress site or blog so you can do almost anything you can imagine!