What are WordPress plugins?
These are like small engines or PHP scripts that extend the functionality and perform certain roles in your website, such functions include sharing posts on social media, caching, optimize and speeding up and WordPress Sites, WooCommerce for an online store, block editors, photo gallerries, contact forms, booking appointment, Spam control, SEO, Data import and export among many other website needs. Plugins reduce coding time and gives your website tools.
WordPress Plugins enhance the features of WordPress, or add entirely new features to your site. Plugins are often developed by volunteers, and are usually free to the public. Plugins are available via the WordPress Plugin Directory.
There are thousands of free and paid plugins available for WordPress blogs/website and they keep developing them for new uses. Below is our step by step guide, on how to install, and uninstall a WordPress plugin.
Note: Although plugins you find here are thoroughly tested and considered safe to use, they are of varying quality and are often works in progress.
How to Find Plugins
You can browse and search for plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Each plugin listed there is available for download as a zip file you can upload to your WordPress site.
An alternative way to find and install plugins is from within the WordPress admin screens. Navigate to Plugins > Add New, and you can browse and search for plugins from within your dashboard. Each plugin listed there has an “Install Now” button so you can easily add it to your site.
How to instal WordPress Plugins
There are 3 ways to install WordPress plugins.
- Automatic Plugin Installation. Any plugin available on the WordPress Plugins Directory can be installed via the built-in plugin installer.
- Upload via WordPress Admin. You can easily add a new plugin by uploading a zip archive of the plugin from your local computer.
- Manual Plugin Installation. In some cases, you may need to manually upload a plugin directly using the Cpanel or FTP client like FileZilla.
1. Automatic Plugin Installation
This is the simplest method of installing a plugin. 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.
2. Manual Upload via WordPress Admin
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 installation is complete, you’ll see “Plugin installed successfully.” Click the Activate Plugin button at the bottom of the page.
3. Manual Plugin Installation via CPanel or FTP
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.
Warning: this process may put your site at risk if you install a WordPress plugin incompatible with the current version or from an unreliable source. Back up your site completely before proceeding.
- If your plugin is in the form of a zip file, unzip the contents. You should see a single folder named after the plugin.
- Look in the plugin folder for a readme.txt file. Read the file to confirm that this is the correct plugin, and to look for any special instructions.
- Connect to your WordPress server with your SFTP client.
- Copy the plugin folder to the wp-content/plugins folder in your WordPress directory. This installs the plugin to your WordPress site.
- Navigate to your Plugins admin screen and locate the newly uploaded plugin in the list.
- Click the plugin’s “Activate” link.
- If there is one, click the plugin’s “View details” link to learn more about the plugin.
How to safely update a WordPress Plugin
WordPress Plugin developers update their plugins occasionally, and those updates will be visible to you on your site’s Plugins page, you have to be careful because some plugin updates can break your website.
Here are a few of the reasons it’s important to update WordPress plugins:
- Out-of-date plugins may experience compatibility issues with WordPress’ core being that WordPress updates core files regularly to fix bugs, and with other themes and plugins.
- Newer Plugin versions often fix bugs or issues that were present in the old version. Alternately, they may provide new features and functionality that include security, faster coding scemes and to be in tandem with core WordPress updates.
- Keeping your plugins updated is very vital for ensuring that your website or blog stays secure.
o find any plugins installed on your site that need to be updated:
- Click the “Plugins” link in the left nav of your site’s dashboard.
- Look down the list of installed plugins for any that include a line reading “There is a new version…”
- Click the “View version…” link in that note to view details about the plugin’s update.
- Click the “update now” link to update the plugin.
If you want to protect your site and ensure that everything goes smoothly, you’ll need to follow some general guidelines.
Simply follow these best practices to ensure your updates don’t cause any issues:
- Back up your site before you begin. A new update may be coded poorly, or cause conflicts with WordPress’ core, plugins, and themes. The risk of an update error is fairly low, but you’ll still want to have a backup in place so you can revert to the old version if necessary.
- Update one plugin at a time. If you have a lot of plugins, it can be tempting to update them all at once. WordPress enables you to do this, and we’ll explain how in the next section. However, unless you’re confident in your plugins’ reliability, it’s best to update them individually. That way, if something goes awry you’ll know which plugin caused the issue.
- Test plugin updates on a staging site first or a sand box wedcite. If you don’t already have a local testing sandbox or staging site, you might want to set one up. This way, you can make sure the updates will work properly before you install them on your live site.
- Carefully strategize before setting plugins to auto-update. Enabling your plugins to auto-update saves you some time, but it is safe if only done for tested and reliable and dependable plugins.
- Always perform your website or blog updates at off-peak times. This will give you engough time to launch restore from back up or fix bugs should the updates do end up causing an issue, it’s best to schedule them for a time when your site traffic is low. This way, you will impact as few visitors as possible.
- Consider waiting to install new updates. Some bugs and conflicts only become apparent once an update is released to the public. You might want to wait a week or so to install non-priority updates, until the developers have had time to work out all of the kinks. Keep an eye on the plugin’s forum if possible to see if other users are having issues with the new version. However, if it’s a security update, you’re probably better off installing it immediately.
Finally, this is a good time to note that you’ll want to keep an eye on how often your key plugins are updated.
Look out for active plugins that haven’t been touched by the developers in a long time, the chances are higher that they’ll cause conflicts or become vulnerable to security threats. It would be good to always contact the developer to ascertain whether an update is on the horizon is a good first step. Otherwise find alternative plugins that offer the same functionalities with regular updates