What Is a Plugin?
WordPress Plugins are pieces of software that extend the core capabilities of WordPress. They let you do more.
Since WordPress is open source software, these are all third party tools that add-on to what WordPress can do.
They’re easy to download and install. Some are premium (there is a fee to purchase them) and others are free. You may want to read the “Getting Started with Plugins” e book available from iTheme Premium.com. This 21-page (free) guide gives you the best practices you should be using when working with
Plugins can do things like improve your search engine optimization (All-in-One SEO Pack), display related posts in your sidebar (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin), do complete backups of your WordPress site (Backup Buddy) or create stunning web forms quickly and easily (Gravity Forms). You can add just about any functionality to WordPress with plugins.
The WordPress Plugin Directory is a repository of free plugins that have been (somewhat) vetted. There are currently more than 18,000 plugins in the WordPress directory, so there’s a lot to choose from.
It’s easy to add new plugins to WordPress. Go to Plugins > Add New and you’ve got several options. Search & Install
Your first option is to search the WordPress Plugin Directory right here. You can find a plugin and install it from here. Once the plugin is installed, just click ‘Activate.’
You may need the login information for your site’s host to automatically install plugins. You can get this information from your web host and it’s likely the same info you needed to set up WordPress. Download & Upload
The second option is to download a plugin from a third party source. It will usually come as a .zip file. At the top of the Plugin page click on “Add New”, then “Upload” and you can upload that .zip file. Once it’s uploaded and installed, just click ‘Activate.’
We also recommend using the Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades plugin. This will make it easy to upload your plugins without fear of losing any data. This is a free plugin from iThemes, provided through the WordPress.org Plugin Directory.
You can also add plugins manually by uploading them with FTP software. This is more complicated and not for the novice user. You’ll need to download a plugin to your computer and unzip it. This will give you a folder on your
computer with all the plugin files. Then, using an FTP program, upload the plugin folder to the wpcontent/ plugins folder on your site. Then go to the Plugins screen and you can find your new plugin in the list. Click ‘Activate’ to get started.
(Some hosts allow you to upload the zip file to the wp-content/plugins folder and then unzip from
within that folder.)
With so many plugins out there it’s helpful to understand a little about how they’re organized and how the process works. First off, the WordPress Plugin Directory is the best source for free plugins. These plugins have been vetted by the WordPress community to ensure there are no malicious plugins or nefarious code. But that doesn’t mean every plugin in the directory works perfectly. Some will even break your site. But they are free…and sometimes you get what you pay for.
Keep this in mind as you browse the directory. Some plugins might be several years old and haven’t been updated. They may work just fine. Or they might cause all sorts of problems. Just be aware of what you’re installing and don’t be surprised if you need to delete a plugin and find a new one.(It’s also a good idea to install one plugin at a time and check your site after each installation.
That way if your site breaks, it’s easy to know which plugin caused it and you can go back and delete it.) While many plugins are free, the person who created them put a lot of time and effort into developing them. So keep that in mind when you use a free plugin. It’s good practice to consider making a donation to the developer when you use one of their free plugins. This is a good way to say thanks and help them continue their development work.
If your free plugin isn’t working the way you like, remember what you paid for it when you ask for help. The developer is not obligated to help you out. Be reasonable when you ask for help and be thankful for what you get. If you do end up needing and getting support from a developer, that’s another good time to make a donation and show your appreciation. Don’t be a moocher.
Since there are so many plugins out there, it’s important not to overdo it. It’s easy to keep tacking on plugins to your site, but each one slows your site down. Some plugins will even overlap, with different plugins doing the same job. Try to minimize your plugins and only use the ones you really need. If you find you’re not using one, deactivate it and delete it.
While there are loads of free plugins out there, there are also premium plugins. These are professionally designed plugins you pay a fee for. In many cases, you’re not really paying just for the plugin, but for the professional, quality support that comes with it. With so many free plugins, why would anyone pay for plugins? Sometimes you get what you pay for.
While free plugins are often great, they may not do exactly what you want, they may not be completely up to date and they may not offer the support and help you need.
Plus many premium plugins are full-blown powerhouses, supercharging WordPress in ways you’d never expect. Some of these plugins make WordPress so much more than a blogging platform thatcit’s no surprise you need to pay for them. Things like turning your site into a full blown e-commerce solution with Shopp or Cart66.
It took someone a lot of time to write that code and keep it up to date with each new WordPress release, and it’s only fair that they get paid for it. In some cases that plugin might be someone’s livelihood.
In the end, you need to find the plugins that work for your site, whether they’re free or premium.
One of the plugins that we recommend for every blog is our own premium Backup Buddy plugin. Backup Buddy allows for easy backup, restoration and migration of your site. Everybody has heard horror stories where a computer died and someone lost everything because they didn’t have a backup. The same thing can happen to your website. But Backup Buddy offers peace of mind. It’s a good investment to protect the time and effort you put into your WordPress site.