The thought of installing WordPress plugins can be nerve wracking. While plugins can bring very cool functionality and features to your site, many don’t know how they really work or what is the best approach to properly add them to their website.
While in reality it takes only a few clicks to install or update a plugin — there are things you need to consider before you jump in. From backups to reviews and even if you really, really, even need that plugin.
Adding WordPress Plugins
Let’s talk about all the things you need to think about when considering adding plugins to your WordPress website.
Before installing any plugins, you want to do a bit of investigating. Basically there are three levels of plugins:
- Free: Free to use on as many websites as you like.
- Freemium: Certain functionality is only available on an upgraded “Pro” or “Premium Version”. With that goes an annual fee to receive updates and support.
- Premium: Annual fee based on number of websites your license can be used on.
Free open source plugins are available through the WordPress Plugin Directory.
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That’s a lot of plugins, right? But not all plugins are created equal. And while WordPress does it’s best to jury plugins and remove those that do not meet the stated criteria, the onus is on you to do your due diligence.
You can search for plugins from within your WordPress Dashboard too (Plugins > Add New). Whether you are in the directory on WordPress.org or searching on your site, you want to check that the plugin is compatible to the version of WordPress you are currently running. (Which should be the current version.)
The key criteria is to make sure any plugin that you install has been tested and is compatible with the current version of WordPress. Beyond conflicts, installing out-of-date plugins could pose serious security issues too.
Review, Review, Review
Next, check out the posted user ratings. These ratings will give you a good idea as to the quality of the plugin and the author’s support levels.
Reviewing the support forums for a plugin provides an insight to the level of support you can expect. It will also be helpful in making you aware of any conflicts that have been identified. As well as any fixes or options you may have.
It can be overwhelming when perusing the directory. This is where looking at number of installs, ratings and if the plugin is up-to-date with WordPress can weed out more risky choices.
I tend to gravitate towards Premium Plugins where the the developer charges a fee for their plugins and offers more support options. Premium plugins/versions are only available on the developer’s site and are not listed in the WP Directory.
For even more plugin choices, you can check out Envato’s WordPress Plugin Marketplace. You’ll find different and unique plugins there too. Just be sure to apply the same review process as you would for any other plugin before making your decision.
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 simple steps involved in installing WordPress plugins:
- Once you’ve reviewed a plugin and decided you want to try it on your site from within your WP Dashboard, click the “Install Now” button. Then “Activate”.
- If you’ve downloaded a plugin off-site, make note of where you downloaded the plugin’s Zip file on your hard-drive.
- In your WordPress dashboard click on Plugins > Add New > Upload
- Find the Zip file you just downloaded and upload it to your WordPress site. Then activate.
If after activating a new plugin (or when updating plugins) you find that your site is different or something is not working right — you may have a conflict. Conflicts happen. There is no way every possible combo is going to work smoothly all the time.
Try not to panic. I know — easier said than done. But that’s when you’ll be glad you took my advice and backed-up everything before installing or updating anything.
Don’t want to deal with the constant back-ups, updates, security and performance analysis required for a healthy WordPress website?
White Glove Support to the rescue.
When a conflict occurs, the first thing you do is deactivate the plugin you just installed. That will generally resolve the issue. For more on resolving conflicts, check out my article How to Troubleshoot and Recover Your Broken WordPress Website.
A final consideration is the number of plugins you should have on your WordPress website. While there is no definitive number, plugins do use a ton of resources.
Too many plugins and your website’s performance degrades and the more you increase your chances of a conflict. I try to stick around 20 — give or take a few.
Quick WordPress Plugin Tips
- Do not install multiple plugins that do the same thing. If you are not happy with a plugin, delete it after 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. Not because you think it’s cool. Because it will enhance the user experience or your business objectives.
- Update your plugins when WordPress notifies you that an update is available. Most updates also remedy bugs and include security hardening.
See? Updating and installing plugins is not all that mysterious is it?
Just be sure to take the time to review and backup, and update when prompted. With this approach, you’ll be able to take advantage of quality plugins that can enhance your WordPress website and your bottom line.
At your service,
P.S. Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” Read my full Affiliate Disclosure Statement here.