A Guide To Using WordPress Plugins

What you should know before moving your WordPress website

What is a Plugin

Plugins provide a way to extend the functionality of any WordPress site by adding additional bits of code designed to perform a single set of actions. If you are a skilled developer you can make your own plugins. However, for the most part, they are specifically created by developers who want to add an action that doesn’t exist in the WordPress Core. A lot of these developers understand that the functionality they have added may be of use to others. So they add them to an existing library of plugins for us to use.

Many plugins are free! There is usually a gotcha though. In most cases, you will be able to download and use a plugin for free and that may or may not give you all the functionality you need. If it doesn’t you can always look for another one that does. Or you can read more about the plugin you have installed to see if it offers you exactly what you want when you buy the licenced version. If it does you can then pay a small fee to cover the licence.

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Choose Your Plugin Carefully

There are a few things to watch out for when deciding on a plugin. If you are searching for a plugin using the Automatic Installing from the Admin area in WordPress. Firstly, I would suggest that you try several searches using different keywords.
When you find something you think might fit the bill then check to see how many downloads its had. Compare that to others that may be available.

Also, you see when it was last updated. It’s important to know that this plugin is still active. If, for example, it was updated 4 weeks ago then you can safely say that it’s still active and the developer is making it better. However, if you see that it hasn’t been updated for 4 years then it may break your site, so be careful.

Another important factor is to make sure that it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. If it says that it’s Untested on your version of WordPress’ then its advisable to leave it alone. It doesn’t mean that you can’t install it and it may work but not necessarily the way it should.

If your version of WordPress is a very recent update then it may be worth waiting for a while to give the developer chance to update it so that it is compatible.

Also, check “More Details” before you install. There you will find a description of what the plugin will do as a free version. Plus, details of what you get if you buy the licenced version. You could go a step further and check on YouTube where you may find details on how to use it and lots more.

How to install a New Plugin

There are 3 ways to install WordPress plugins.

Automatic Installation
Any plugin available on the WordPress Plugins Directory can be installed via the built-in plugin installer.
To add a plugin using the built-in plugin installer:

  • Navigate to Plugins > Add New.
  • Use the search form in the top-right to search by keyword, author or tag.
  • On the search results that appear, click a plugin’s title to read more about it. This page may contain installation notes, plugin documentation or other useful information.
  • Click the Install Now button to install the plugin.
  • Click Activate to activate the plugin.

Manual Plugin Installation. 

In rare cases, you may need to install a plugin by manually transferring the files onto the server. This is recommended only when absolutely necessary, for example when your server is not configured to allow automatic installations.

This procedure requires you to be familiar with the process of transferring files using an SFTP client.

Plugin Updates – WordPress 5.5 and upwards now comes with the ability to automatically update plugins. Take care, do you really need this feature? When an update for a plugin is available then WordPress notifies you so there’s no reason and no real difficulty in clicking an update link manually. This way you get a chance to read what’s included with the update. It also means that you can wait a while to see if there are any conflicts that need to be iron out on the latest update. Without mentioning any names, some of the most popular plugins have made mistakes which have proved costly to some website owners.

Note – The process of adding a plugin can put your site at risk

When you install a WordPress Plugin that is incompatible with the current version of WordPress you are using or where the plugin is from an unreliable source. Back up your site completely before you proceed.

Uploading via WordPress Admin. 

You can easily add a new plugin by uploading a zip archive of the plugin from your local computer. If you have a copy of the plugin as a zip file, you can manually upload it and install it through the Plugins admin screen.

  • Navigate to Plugins > Add New.
  • Click the Upload Plugin button at the top of the screen.
  • Select the zip file from your local filesystem.
  • Click the Install Now button.
  • When the installation is complete, you’ll see “Plugin installed successfully.” Click the Activate Plugin button at the bottom of the page.

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