What are WordPress plugins specifically?
WordPress plugins and WordPress widgets offer you different ways to customize your site. You can imagine plugins as upgrades to your site allowing you to enhance the default functionality of your website. A great example of this would be Elegant Themes’ Monarch plugin: A brand new WordPress website does not have beautiful social media sharing buttons built in. So when you want to add this functionality, you would need to use a plugin to accomplish this task. The great thing is that there are thousands of plugins available to do all kinds of things from adding sharing buttons, all the way to accepting payments for products.
What are WordPress widgets specifically?
WordPress widgets are similar to plugins, but they are really intended to be a part of the interface. You can think of widgets as an additional way to display information (usually on the WordPress dashboard or sidebar). They can also add additional content to search bars, menus, and categories. For the scope of this article, we will focus mostly on plugins.
Free plugins | What are WordPress Plugins
There are so many free plugins out there that it can be overwhelming. There are two ways primarily for finding and adding plugins to your site. First, the easiest way, is to be logged in to your site and navigate to your WordPress Dashboard. Once logged in, hover over “Plugins” on the sidebar to the left and click “Add new”. Here you will see featured plugins available for your site. To find a new plugin, start by typing what you are looking for in the top right search area.
Lets try an example:
Type in “SEO by Yoast” in the search:
You can see it came up and has a button to install it on your site:
Click “Install Now” and then click “OK”. Wait a second for it to install the files and you should then be greeted by the activation screen. It is important to click “Activate Plugin” to finish the installation process:
Once installed, you should see a new link on the left side bar that says “SEO”:
You can take your time later to explore all the new features that the plugin added to your site.
Be aware: There is no standard for where plugins put their settings. This can make using some plugins difficult because you might end up finding the plugin’s options in the default WordPress settings menu vs in its own separate menu:
If you are having a hard time finding a plugin’s settings, first look for it in your WordPress sidebar area to the left, then in sub-menus (such as appearance, tools, settings, etc), and if all else fails, try going to the “Plugins” section of the sidebar, then “Installed Plugins”:
Look for a “Settings” link under the plugin name. You can also consult the plugins WordPress page by clicking the “View details” link to the right of the plugin name.
Another way to install plugins | What are WordPress plugins
The second way to install plugins is to head over to the plugin directory of WordPress.org’s site and browse for plugins that way.
If you end up finding a plugin you want to install, click the plugin name, then click the download link, and download the ZIP file to your computer.
Without touching the file, you can go back to your WordPress site after logging in, hover over “Plugins” on the left sidebar, and click “Add New”. At the top left next to “Add Plugins” title you will see the link to upload a plugin. Then, it is just a simple matter of browsing for it on your computer, uploading it, and activating it.
Uninstalling plugins or temporarily deactivating them | What are WordPress Plugins
What if you are having problems with a particular plugin or just don’t like it? Head over the “Plugins” section on the left sidebar again and click the link for “Installed plugins”. Here you can find the plugin in question and click “Deactivate” under the plugin name to temporarily disable it. If you want to delete it altogether, first deactivate it then click “Delete”.
Its good to deactivate and delete any WordPress plugins you are not actively using. Installing plugins can add a lot of functionality to your site, but the more plugins installed, the slower your site tends to be.
Premium WordPress plugins | What are WordPress Plugins
So why pay for plugins when there are so many free ones available? Usually the quality and support of a paid plugins far surpasses free plugins. Also, you might not be able to find a plugin that accomplishes what you are trying to do for free. A lot of independent WordPress developers offer paid plugins that you can install either through their websites or on marketplaces like Codecanyon. I personally like Codecanyon because it is one of the safest and easiest ways to get premium plugins. Buyers can rate plugins or widgets, which will help you determine if spending the money is worth it.
Now you should have a good grasp on what WordPress plugins are and how to install them. Did you run into any trouble? Reach out in the comments below for guided help.
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