Plugins are now an essential part of the WordPress content management system ecosystem, which is deemed to be essential in terms of bringing in the needed functionality on your WordPress sites and blogs. In this guide, we will try to explain how WordPress plugins works do and how to handle them.
What are WP plugins?
WordPress plugins are actually apps which allow the website developers to add features and functions to the websites as the same way how apps add-on functions to your smartphone. There are about 48,000 plugins now available for the WP developers to use at the WordPress.org directory. There are a lot more plugins available at the third-party directories too like Github. Apart from these free plug-ins, there are also thousands of premium plugs too available at other website and from individual developers.
Back in 2003, WordPress was started as a simple blogging platform, but over the next several years, it had slowly evolved as one of the most powerful and functional content management system (CMS) and app framework with these mighty plugins to achieve any imaginable web functionality.
As mentioned above, WordPress plugins are actually software applications which can integrate and run on the WordPress framework. These allow the users to create websites for any types of use on WordPress platform.
Say for example, by using adequate plugins; you can:
- Build an online store with WooCommerce plugin
- Create a career site with the Job Manager plugin
- Make a business directory website with business WordPress plugins
- Create a coupon site
- Use the Envira Gallery Plugin to create a photography website
- Create a Wiki-model website with the plugin of Knowledge Base.
- Start a podcast website of your own and tons of such options.
The most popular saying the in the WP community goes like “There is a plug-in for that.” No matter what you want to achieve with a WordPress site, it is possible now. If you don’t find a default option for something on WordPress, there could certainly be a plugin for that. There are plugins for various functionality also like SEO, performance boosting, contact forms, social media integration, gallery creation and so on. Some handy plugins may be for small features like adding a sidebar or image whereas some others are large enough to handle the entire functionality like e-commerce plugins. Features plugins also have add-on plugins under them to extend functionality.
How do plugins work?
WP plugins are coded in such a way that others can edit the codes to customise it to meet their specific needs. WordPress plugins API offer a handy set of filters and hooks which will let the developers and branding services to custom modify WordPress functionalities to extend those or add new. WordPress also lets the developers store the app data in the WP DB. The add-on plugins can use the content types, custom fields, taxonomies, etc., which lets the users store various custom content to the database than just pages and posts. Each plugin you install on the site will get registered to the WordPress database, which you can activate or deactivate anytime.
Choosing between free and premium WP plugins
As we have seen above, there are tens of thousands of free plugins available for almost all purposes. You can find multiple plugins to offer the same functionality, by different providers. It is always good to use the free and customisable plugins if you find a handy one for your purpose. However, you need also to keep the fact in mind that the free plugins are offered as such with no warranty and no customer support. The author may also stop working on a particular plugin as they wish.
However, when it comes to premium plugins for higher functionality, you may get dedicated support and also regular updates, which will be of help if you are working on a serious business website on WP. Most of the successful WP developers use an ideal combination of both paid as well as free plugins based on their requirements. In fact, there is support available through WordPress support forums too for free plugins, where you can post your query and get the experts to answer it from any part of the world.
Installing a WordPress Plugin
After installation of the WordPress platform for development, now the first thing developers tend to do is to identify and install WordPress plugins. In fact, you cannot use plugins if you use the WordPress.com, but need to upgrade to the business plan to avail the plugins. However, it is possible to install WP plugins as you want at your self-hosted WordPress.org site. Let’s explore how to install WP plugins.
Using WordPress plugin search
One of the best ways for beginners to install a WP plugin is through plugin search. However, the only limitation of this option is that the plugin you prefer must be there in the plugin directory of free plugins. To initiate this,
First, you can go to the WordPress admin panel and click on the Plugins tab and select Add New. Search for the plugins at the admin area, and you can pick the appropriate plugin from the provided listing. Click on the ‘Install Now’ button to download and install the plugin to your site. Once it’s done properly, you can see the success message with a link for activating the plugin. The plugin will not work until you activate it. Once on getting activated, you can custom configure the plugin settings.
Using WP Admin plugin upload feature
The premium plugins which are not listed at the WP plugin directory cannot be installed through the method mentioned above. For this, WordPress also has an Upload mode to install premium plugins. For this,
First, you have to download the appropriate plugin from its sources like third party websites or Github directory, etc. Once it’s downloaded in a zip format or so to your machine, you can next go to the WordPress admin panel and go to Plugins and Add New option. You can next go to the Upload Plugin field and select the plugin you downloaded. Once it’s done, you can click on the Install Now option. WordPress will start uploading the new plugin from the local destination, and you will get a success message once if it’s installed successfully. Similar to the previous option, you can next activate the plugin and then start using it.
Hope this overview of plugin usage and methods to install plugin has helped as a WordPress beginner. Starting this way, you can further move on to advance plug-ins customisation options to achieve almost any functionality as you wish with the help of plugins.