Welcome to the part III of our WordPress tutorial series in which we are going to show you how to install plugins using the main four methods. The process is very similar to the theme installation we covered in the earlier part of the tutorial. Aside from the installation methods, we will include some useful tips that will be helpful for you.
What are Plugins?
That will be the first question that arises if you are not familiar with them, which could often be the case for someone who is reading this article.
Plugins are extensions designed to enhance the capabilities as well as add additional functionalities to the core WordPress system.
That is the definition given for plugins by WordPress. That definition is great, but can you provide me with some examples? Sure, will do 🙂
Let’s say you want to add a contact form to your newly built site. A contact page is a typical page that most sites have. The easiest way to do that is to use a plugin like “Contact Form 7” and create a form using it.
Another example would be the use of a plugin like “W3 Total Cache“. Caching is not a feature that is available in the core WordPress system. Anyone can quickly improve their site’s performance by using a caching plugin.
As you can see in the above two examples, those plugins add new functionality to the core WordPress system that was not in the original system. Apart from some of the essential plugins (even these can differ) like SEO, caching, image optimization, etc., the user can decide what the additional functionalities required are and get plugins accordingly. However, remember not to overload your site with unnecessary plugins.
I have shown you a couple of typical examples of plugin usage. There is a plethora of plugins, both free and paid, available for use. That is one of the greatest advantages of using WordPress. There are many individuals as well as companies who do plugin development. We have listed some of the essential plugins that could be valuable when you are starting your website.
Installing a Plugin in the WordPress Directory
Like themes, WordPress also has a directory of plugins. Not like themes, the plugins directory is very useful and works well. Another fact is that apart from paid ones, most of the free plugins, even the free versions of the paid ones, are found in the directory. That makes our lives much easier when it comes to their installation.
Installing a plugin in the directory is straightforward. Go to Plugins > Add new. Use the search box in the upper right-hand corner to find the plugin you want. You can search by keyword, author or tag. Once you start typing, it will auto-suggest the plugins based on your input. If not, just press enter once the typing is completed.
Find the plugin you need within the search results and click ‘install’. It will take few minutes to complete the installation process depending on the size of the plugin. Wait until it finishes and hit ‘activate’. So, that is it. You can easily install a plugin using the default method without any hassle at all.
Installing a Plugin Via Uploading
Again, like we did in installing themes, there will be situations where you should upload plugins and install. That happens when the plugin is not found in the WordPress directory. You should then download the plugin from the third-party developer’s site and upload it using the option provided in the dashboard. Make sure it is in zip format. Once uploaded, hit ‘activate plugin’ in the message window.
For the next two methods, we will show you how to do it using cPanel or a FTP client. You may not need to use these, but it is nice to know them as backups if the above methods do not work.
Installing a Plugin Using cPanel
We should follow the same steps as we did in theme installation. The only difference is the upload location. Go to wp-content >> plugins. Upload the plugin zip file, extract it and remove the zip file after the process. Then activate the plugin in the dashboard.
Installing a Plugin Via FTP Client
If you are not familiar with how to use an FTP client like FileZilla, please read our basic FileZilla tutorial first. Also, I recommend that you go through the FTP section of the theme installation guide as well.
Navigate to ‘/wp-content/plugins’ folder and copy the folder which contains the plugin files to it. You should then activate the plugin in the dashboard.
Those are the ways you can install a plugin. You may rarely need the latter two. Nevertheless, they are useful to know. In the next sections, we cover topics related to plugin management.
Wrapping it Up
We’ve discussed all the possible ways you can install WordPress plugins, though as mentioned, you will rarely need the last two methods. We have covered the essential list of plugins that most of you may have to use on your site. Remember to use only the plugins you need and avoid installing any unnecessary ones. At times, plugins may slow your site down, especially when they are not coded properly.