If you’re new to WordPress (WP), you might be wondering how everyone adds those nifty features and functions to their pages. Some might have turned their WP pages into a fully functioning e-commerce store, while others may have a job board or forum going on in there.
The secret is in the site plugins. These allow them to customize their WP pages and add specific features. Whatever your needs are, there’s always a plugin for that. But what exactly is a plugin in WordPress?
What Is a WordPress Plugin?
A plugin is a piece of software that allows you to customize the features and functions of your website depending on your needs. They can either add new features or extend your website’s existing functions.
Plugins are essential building blocks of a website and work like apps on your smartphone. They’re written in PHP programming language and are “plugged into” the website. They are designed to work seamlessly with your site, although you can encounter compatibility issues, among other things, which we will discuss later in the article.
There are over 48,000 free and open-source plugins hosted by developers and made available on WordPress.org’s plugin repository. Other premium or paid ones can be purchased from the WordPress Premium Plugin Directory.
Premium plugins have a full range of features that are not normally available to the free versions. Some even come with additional support from staff or tutorials. A team of support staff and developers can help you when you encounter problems like compatibility issues.
Some third-party developers sell plugins from their websites or a third-party marketplace. If you need something more customized to fit your business or organization’s special needs, you can hire a freelance plugin developer. These professionals normally charge around $30 to around $100 per hour for their services.
The more complex the plugin, the more time the developer needs to build it and maintain it. So, expect complex projects to cost more.
How To Install a WordPress Plugin
People who don’t know even a line of code can still use plugins to extend their site's functions. You can install and activate plugins with just a few clicks.
Paid and premium ones even have a team of staff or developers that offer tutorials and tons of support. If something goes wrong, such as your plugin refusing to work properly or is causing issues to your site (or other plugins), they can help you troubleshoot.
Of course, you need to get to know the plugins before you download them. You can go to the plugin repository and type in keywords into the search tab. Say you’re looking for something to start an e-commerce site, you can type in “e-commerce,” and you’ll see a long list of plugins you can use for your online store.
Click the plugin's name so you can read the full description, reviews, versions, and other details about the plugin. A separate tab on top will take you to the plugin’s installation information. Here you’ll see the minimum requirements and what to do so you can install.
There are two main ways to install a WordPress plugin: automatic installation or to upload a plugin you downloaded or purchase (manually).
1. Automatic Installation
The easiest way to install plugins is to let WordPress handle them.
Log in to your WP dashboard, and find the Plugins menu on the right side of your screen. Open this, then click Add New. You’ll see a search field where you can type the name of the plugin or even just a keyword.
Once you’ve found the one you need, you can click Install Now, and WP will download this for you. When you’re done downloading, click Activate to use it. The last step will make the plugin go live on your site.
2. Upload A Plugin You Purchased
If you’ve downloaded a plugin from a plugin website, you will need to upload this from your computer onto your WP on your own.
To do this, you need to go to Plugin again and then click Add New. But instead of using the search field, you will have to click Upload Plugin on top of the screen. Then you can click Choose File. After choosing the file, you can click Install Now.
Again, once it’s installed, you’ll be asked to activate the plugin so it can go live. If you don’t want to activate it right now, you can always visit your Installed Plugins list. Here you can see the status of your plugins. You can deactivate them, activate them, or delete them from here.
Most Popular WordPress Plugins
There are so many plugins to choose from that you’d probably be dealing with a few dozen pages of plugins when you make a keyword search. This is why you can consult lists like this one about the best plugins to secure your website from hackers, for example.
On the other hand, this article has a list of the best chatbot plugins that can strike up a conversation with visitors to your website. If you need to grow your mailing list, you can go through the best newsletter plugins to use.
You don’t have to go through the list of plugins in the repository one by one. You can read articles that list the best ones depending on your needs, ask your contacts for recommendations, and read forums to see what most people are using.
WordPress Plugin Conflict
Sometimes you may find that a plugin adds problems to your site instead of new features. You may encounter compatibility issues that several things could cause. For example, a new plugin may cause compatibility issues with your WP theme or the current WP version you are using.
Other existing plugins in your site may also not be compatible with the new one. They might not work well together because they were developed for different WP versions, or some of their functions overlap. In some cases, new plugins don’t work properly with other plugins in your site because it’s just poorly coded or designed. This happens when the developer doesn’t follow WP development best practices.
If you’re encountering problems with your site right after activating a new plugin, start by deactivating it. If you are not sure which plugin is causing problems, you can manually deactivate plugins one by one, then activate them one by one to find which is causing errors on your site.
Once you’ve found the one causing conflict, go to the Support Tab in the plugin’s WordPress Page. Here you can look for other users who have encountered the same problem and what they did to resolve it, or post your concerns by creating a topic. If you paid for the plugin, check if there’s a support team who can help you troubleshoot.
There’s A Plugin For That
WordPress plugins extend your website’s functions and add new features that can be customized depending on your needs. There are thousands of free ones you can download, but premium plugins offer more features and support.
When choosing the best plugin for your website, it’s best to read as much information as you can about the plugin. Go through forums online and ask for recommendations from other people. Getting to know a plugin before mixing it in with others in your WP will make sure you don’t encounter compatibility problems in the future.
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