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Beginner's Guide to WordPress Plugins

Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Plugins

In 2003, WordPress started as a simple tool to help you start a blog. Over the years, it has evolved into a powerful content management system and application framework, thanks primarily to plugins.

What is a WordPress Plugin?

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that extends the functionality of the WordPress website.

WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. Plugins are usually user-friendly and designed to be used by people who have no experience in technology or WordPress at all.

Plugins allow you to create almost any kind of website with WordPress (not just blogs). Plugins will transform your WordPress website into an online store, business directory, portfolio, learning management system… anything you can imagine!

How WordPress Plugins Work?

WordPress is written to allow other developers the capability to add their code into the application.

If there is one cardinal rule in WordPress development, it would be this: Do not touch WordPress core. In other words, do not edit core WordPress files to add functionality to your site, because WordPress overwrites core files with each update.

Plugins allow you to greatly extend the functionality of WordPress without touching the WordPress core itself.

If you install WordPress using the manual ‘famous five-minute install’, then you will find that it comes with two plugins preinstalled:

  • Akismet, which is useful and prevents spammers from attacking your site through the comments.
  • Hello Dolly, which adds some text to your admin screens.

You can activate and deactivate them at any time you want.

Each WordPress plugin installed on your website is registered in your WordPress database.

Upon each website visit, WordPress connects to the database, loads the core software, and then loads the active plugins into your website. All this code is processed on your server and then sent to the browser.

How to Find WordPress Plugins?

There are thousands of pre-developed plugins available for you for WordPress. However, be careful to choose where you download the plugins for your website. Plugins released by untrusted developers may harm your website.

There are a few places where you can get WordPress plugins. You can find WordPress plugins depending on whether you want free or premium (paid) plugins.

The official WordPress plugin directory(https://wordpress.org/plugins/) is a safe place to find free plugins.

Here are two marketplaces that provide premium plugins; Code Canyon (https://codecanyon.net/) and MOJO Marketplace (https://www.mojomarketplace.com/).

Free vs. Premium WordPress Plugins

With free plugins, you can install and use the plugin without paying anything, though sometimes certain features are locked unless you pay money. Please keep in mind that free plugins are offered as they are, with no warranties, and no promise of support. The plugin author can stop working on a plugin at any time.

However, most good plugins offer limited free support for their plugins through the official WordPress support forums. Simply visit the plugin page and click on the support tab to post your question.

If you feel you will be needing support, and regular updates, then premium plugins would be a better choice.

With premium plugins, you will have to pay a one-time fee or subscribe to a membership. Premium plugins offer more features than the free plugins and are usually higher quality (coded better) and compatible with a greater number of other WordPress plugins and themes.

There are thousands of free plugins and there is a good chance you can find a free plugin offering the same functionality as a paid plugin, but the most valuable feature of a premium plugin is support and future updates.

Many marketplaces sell premium plugins, but you can also find companies and individuals who retail plugins on their own website. There are tons of free and premium plugins available, waiting to be discovered.

How to Install WordPress Plugins

Plugins allow users to add more features to their websites. In this part, we will show you the three methods of installing WordPress plugins.

Installing WordPress Plugins from the Official Plugins Directory

You can install free plugins from your WordPress admin screen, without having to upload or download any files. For premium plugins, you will need to upload a file, but you can do this from your admin screen.

Start by going to Plugins > Add New.

Then use the search box to find the plugin. You can either type in the name of a plugin if you know which one you want, or type in a description of what you need and then pick from a list of suggestions.

Enter “Version Info” into the search bar and you will see the plugin Version Info – By alpipego.

Click on the “Install Now” button. Once the plugin is installed, the “Install Now” button will change to an “Activate” button.

Click on the “Activate” button to activate the plugin (the plugin will not work unless you activate it).

Next, scroll down to view the footer. The plugin added the current versions for; WordPress, PHP, Web Server and MySQL in admin footer.

Installing WordPress Plugins from a Third-Party (zip file)

If you are installing a plugin you bought from a third party instead of from the plugin directory, then you will need to upload the zip file. When you buy the plugin, you will be emailed a zip file or a link to download the zip file.

To see how this works you need to download a zip file from the official WordPress plugin directory (https://wordpress.org/plugins/).

Enter “check email” into the search to find the plugin.

Then click on the “Check Email” to view the plugin description.

Click on the “Download” button to download the zip file and save the file to a folder on your computer. Note: Remember the location where you saved the zip file.

Go to Plugins > Add New. Click the Upload Plugin button at the top of the screen.

This will take you to the plugin upload screen.

Click on the “Browse” button and upload the zip file from your computer.

Click the “Install Now” button. You will then be given the option to activate it.

Once you activate the plugin, it will work in the same way as if you installed the plugin from the WordPress plugin directory.

Once the plugin is installed, you will be able to view the plugin on the Plugins page. From this page, you can activate and deactivate plugins, see more information about them, and in some cases access settings screens.

Some plugins will add extra menu items to the WordPress admin menu on the left-hand side, but others will add a menu item under the menu Tools or Settings.

Go to Tools > Check Email and test the plugin.

Installing WordPress Plugins Manually (ftp)

In some cases, your WordPress hosting provider may have file restrictions that could limit your ability to install a plugin from the admin area. In this situation, your best bet is to install the plugin manually using FTP.

You will need to download the plugin source file (zip file). Next, you need to extract the zip file on your computer. Extracting the plugin zip file will create a new folder with the same name. This is the folder that you need to manually upload to your website using an FTP client.

You would need to access your host through the FTP manager. If you do not have your FTP username and password, then contact your WordPress hosting provider and ask them.

Open the FTP client on your computer and connect to your website using the login credentials provided by your web host. Once connected, you need to go to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your website. Upload the folder you extracted from the zip file to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your web server.

After uploading the files, you need to visit the WordPress admin area of your website and click on Plugins in the admin menu. You will see your plugin was successfully installed on the plugins page, but you will need to click on the Activate link below the plugin before you can use the plugin on your website.

How many Plugins should you have?

Technically, the number of plugins installed will not affect your website performance. However, poorly coded plugins may cause errors or slow down your site.

One thing to remember: everything you add on your website will use your disk space. Therefore, if you install a vast number of plugins, you may run out of storage space.

Conclusion

Plugins are an important part of the WordPress ecosystem, and are essential for building great websites using WordPress.

There are thousands of pre-developed plugins available for your WordPress website. You can find WordPress plugins depending on whether you want free or premium plugins.

Whatever plugins you choose to install, it is important to check for compatibility with your version of WordPress.

With thousands of options to choose from, WordPress plugins allow you to add all the features and functions you need to build a unique, fully customized WordPress site.

If you absolutely cannot find a plugin to fit your needs you can always write your own.

Writing your own WordPress plugin is not that difficult if you are a web developer with basic PHP skills.

The only thing you will need, coupled with your PHP skills, is some direction, some resources, a little information on how WordPress expects your plugin to behave, and most importantly a great idea.