Though good theme is most important in building a WordPress site, plugins are additional pillars holding the theme and provide completeness to your site. In reality it is not possible to find a single theme satisfying all your needs. For example, themes generally do not provide caching or backup option as a built-in feature. Hence you need to look for quality plugins to enhance your site’s capabilities. In this article, we will discuss types of WordPress plugins and how to install plugins in WordPress from various third party developers.
WordPress Plugins Availability
Many users think where to find quality plugins for their WordPress site. There are two ways to find a plugin:
- WordPress plugins repository
- Downloading from plugin developer’s site
Plugins can be completely free, partially free, trial basis or premium and all repository plugins are of first three types. Most of the plugins offer limited free features and ask you to upgrade for premium services.
Installing Plugins from WordPress Repository
Installing a plugin from WordPress repository consists of the following steps:
Login to your WordPress admin panel and navigate to “Plugins > Add New” menu. You can see featured plugins are arranged in a titled manner as shown below:
- Quick navigation menus provide easy way to look for the featured, most popular and favorite plugins.
- Search box is the place you need to enter your keyword to search the required plugin.
- Plugin panel shows various details like rating, number of downloads, last updated time and the compatibility of the plugin with the current installed WordPress version.
Note: Favorites section shows the marked plugins under your wordpress.org user account.
For example if you want to find a XML Sitemap plugin for your site, then enter the keyword “XML Sitemap” in the search box and press enter. You will find all related plugins – find out the best one suiting your need and click on “More Details” link shown below the “Install Now” button. You will see the popup screen showing all relevant details of the plugin.
Below are the most important points to note before you installing a plugin in WordPress.
- Check reviews of the plugin to understand other’s opinion.
- Check the last updated date and compatible version of WordPress.
- Visit plugin site’s URL and see the demo if any.
- Check the screenshots and the support forum.
Once you are happy with the plugin click on “Install Now” button and click on “OK” in the popup to install the plugin.
Note: It is always recommended to test the plugin on your test site or localhost before directly installing on live site.
The plugin will be installed and click on the “Activate” link to activate the plugin. You can also activate or deactivate plugin anytime under “Plugins > Installed Plugins” menu.
Note: If the plugin replaces WordPress core functionality then you can see it under “Drop-ins” category. For example, most caching plugins will install “advanced-cache.php” as as drop-in plugin which you can see under “Drop-ins” section.
Depending on plugins, the settings and other navigational links will be inserted either as an independent menu or under Tools / Settings menu.
Updating Installed Plugins
Plugins installed like above will get update information showing under “Dashboard > Updates” menu and as a number beside “Plugins” menu. You can see plugins pending for update will be highlighted in the red color and click on “Update now” link to get the latest version of the plugin.
You can also click on “Enable auto-update” link to update your plugin automatically without any manual action. However, we recommend not to use this option as it can result in unexpected result without your knowledge. Some caching plugins like WP Rocket will disable the automatic update function to keep your site safer.
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Installing External Plugins
It is not necessary that all plugins should be available in WordPress repository. Especially the premium plugins will be offered from plugin’s site on payment basis. You can also download repository plugins from wordpress.org site. Once you have the .zip downloaded plugin file then navigate to “Plugins > Add New” and click on the “Upload Plugin”. Upload your .zip file, install the plugin and activate it in the same manner as explained above.
View demo on how to install plugin ZIP file downloaded from external sites in WordPress admin dashboard:
Alternatively, you can also upload extracted plugin folder directly under “/wp-content/plugins” directory using FTP or “File Manager” option from your hosting account. Remember to upload the extracted folder and not the compressed .zip file.
Issues and Troubleshooting with Plugins
The problem with plugins is the conflict with other plugins or the theme itself. Any small issue needs lot of time to analyze and find out the problematic plugin. Moreover you will end up in losing on or other function which you love to use on your site and look for new plugin providing equal features. Since WordPress itself updates the version frequently, plugin owners should update their plugins to ensure the compatibility with the latest WordPress version.
More the plugins you install more the possibility of conflicting issues you will start facing. Below are some of important points to remember:
- Avoid using plugins not compatible with your WordPress version.
- Ensure the plugin is compatible with your theme.
- jQuery version mismatch is one of the frequent problems faced with plugins.
- Especially newsletter plugins will not trigger emails when security and caching plugins are installed.
- Do not play with plugins in live site, always install and test it on testing site.
- Avoid installing many plugins and delete inactive plugins.
- Attractive gallery plugins will create lot of unnecessary thumbnails which will increase your hosting account file count.
- Deactivated plugins will make the source code visible in a live site. For example if you use shortcode plugin, your source shortcode will be displayed instead of the content if the plugin is deactivated. Hence avoid using shortcode plugins inside the content.
- Any modifications done on the plugin’s core files will be over-written every time you update the plugin. So ensure to add the required modifications after each update or avoid updating core plugin files.
- You can edit core plugin php files under “Plugins > Editor”.
If you see any problem in your site then as a first thing deactivate all plugins and start checking the issue after activating one by one.
WordPress Plugin Management
Below is the infographics showing steps of effective WordPress plugin management: