The thought of installing WordPress plugins freaks people out. And for good reason! While plugins can bring very cool functionality and features to your site, many don't know how they work or even how to properly add them to their site.
While in reality it takes only a few clicks to install or update a plugin -- there are resources and considerations you need to cover before you add any plugin to your site.
Let's talk about all the things you need to think about when considering adding plugins to your WordPress site.
Before installing any plugins, you want to do a bit of investigating. There are the open source plugins that are free and available through the WordPress Plugin Directory.
"In the directory you can find, download, rate, and comment on all the best plugins the WordPress community has to offer."
You can also search for plugins from within your WordPress Dashboard too (Plugins > Add New). Whether you are in the Directory or searching on your site you want to check that the plugin is compatible to the version of WordPress you are currently running.
Installing a plugin that is not compatible could cause your site and/or theme to break. (That's why you backup everything before installing or updating your plugins!) The user rating will give you a good idea as to the quality of the plugin and the author's support levels.
Review, Review, Review!
Reviewing the support forums for a plugin can also be helpful in making you aware of any conflicts identified with a particular plugin and what options you may have. Don't forget about this great resource! You also want to make sure any plugin that you are interested in using is compatible with the current version of WordPress. Installing out-of-date plugins could pose serious security issues.
There are also Premium Plugins where the the developer charges a fee for their plugins and offer more support options. Many of these plugins have a free version but offer "Pro" versions for more features and/or support. The premium versions are only available on the author's site and are not listed in the WP Directory.
How to Install WordPress Plugins
Before installing anything on your site, you always want to do a quick backup of everything -- just in case. My article How to Do the Mother of All WordPress Backups can help you get a system in place.
Here are the three simple steps involved in installing WordPress plugins:
- Once you've reviewed a plugin and decided you want to try it on your site, click the red download button in the right sidebar. Make note of where you download that file on your hard-drive.
- Click on Plugins > Add New > Upload
- Find the Zip file you just downloaded and upload it to your WordPress site.
If after activating a new plugin you find that your site is different or something is not working right -- you have a conflict. This can happen and nothing to panic about (and why you want to make sure you always back up everything before installing or updating anything).
When a conflict occurs, all you have to do is deactivate the offending plugin to solve the problem and try another plugin that has similar functionality.
A final consideration is the number of plugins you should have on your WordPress site. While there is no definitive number, plugins do use resources and the more you have, the more you increase your chances of a conflict. I try to stick around 20.
Some quick tips:
- Do not install multiple plugins that do the same thing. If you don't like what a plugin does, delete it before adding a similar plugin.
- Only install plugins that you know are important to enhancing the features and functionality of your site. (Not just because you read about it somewhere and think you need it.)
- Immediately Update your plugins when WordPress notifies you that an update is available. (Did I mention you need to backup before updating?)
See? That's not so scary is it? Just be sure to take the time to review and backup, and update when prompted, and you'll be able to take advantage of all kinds of neat plugins to enhance your WordPress site!
At your service,