What are plugins in WordPress and how to use it

Most likely you are familiar with WordPress, the famous platform that has become a significant portion of websites on the internet today. However, as we’ve come to expect in life, nothing is perfect. Also, the WordPress platform lacks many features in its default state. When you initially install the system, you only get a basic blog. So where do the WordPress sites we see daily with their extraordinary features come from?

The secret behind that is the use of plugins.

If you don’t know much about WordPress, I advise you to read the following article before continuing. What is WordPress, and how do I get started with it?

What is a plugin?

question image

From its name, it’s evident to us that it’s something additional, and this thing can be called an “add-on.” Remember when you used to play the game (PES) on your computer? Most likely, you were using the keyboard, but what if you were playing with a friend? You would need an add-on, in this case, a “joystick,” so you’d connect it to the computer and enjoy the multiplayer gaming feature with your friends.

The situation isn’t much different with WordPress plugins; they are applications that allow you to add new features and functionalities to your WordPress site, much like how apps work with your smartphone.

What can plugins do in WordPress?

WordPress plugins are small software applications that integrate and function on top of the WordPress platform. This allows you to create almost any type of website using WordPress, not just blogs.

Here are some famous examples of plugins:

  • Building an e-commerce store using the WooCommerce plugin.
  • Creating a job board using the Job Manager plugin.
  • Adding e-learning functionality to your site.
  • Building a coupon website like RetainMeNot.
  • Creating a photography portfolio website using the Envira Gallery plugin.
  • Setting up a podcast website.

The above examples are just a drop in the ocean, as there are countless WordPress plugins available. Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish on your site, if the feature isn’t available in WordPress by default, there’s likely a plugin available for it.

Plugins can be small, offering just one small feature like adding a WhatsApp chat button. Or they can be very extensive, functioning as a platform of their own, such as e-commerce plugins or membership plugins.

There are plugins for search engine optimization, performance enhancement, adding contact forms, social media sharing buttons, creating galleries, and much more.

How do you use plugins in WordPress?

You can browse and search for plugins, both free and paid, on the official WordPress website:

There, you’ll find over 59,600 plugins to elevate your website idea and make it professional.

plugins from wordpress

Each plugin contains informative and detailed information such as:

  • Version number
  • Last updated date
  • Number of installations
  • Supported WordPress version
  • Supported PHP version
  • Supported languages

Additionally, there’s a section for reviews and ratings for each plugin. It’s advisable to use plugins with high ratings and a large number of installations. It’s not recommended to trust any plugin you find online blindly.

Now you can choose the plugin you want and download it to use on your website or modify it.

There’s an easier way if you want to use the plugin directly on your website, and that’s through the WordPress dashboard. Go to the “Plugins” menu and select “Add New.” You’ll see a screen like the image below:

plugin from wordpress control panel

Here, you can search for the plugin you want and view all its information before installing it. If you want to install it, click the “Install Now” button, then click “Activate” to activate the plugin on your site.

You can also upload a plugin file directly from this interface. If you want to purchase a plugin online, you’ll receive a file for it. Click on the “Upload Plugin” button at the top of the page, then choose the file you have to install it.

It’s good practice to only use the plugins you need. If you install a plugin and don’t like it, it’s best to delete it. You can do this by going to “Installed Plugins” and searching for the plugin you don’t want. Deactivate it first, then delete it.

Free or Paid Plugins?

New users often wonder about the best choice between free and paid plugins. There’s no definitive answer to that question. If a free plugin helps you accomplish your tasks without any shortcomings, then stick with it; there’s no need to switch to a paid plugin.

Many plugin developers offer a free plan for their software. It’s nice to try out the free plan yourself and decide: Is it sufficient for me? Do I need the features of the paid plan?

The main point to consider in this comparison is that free plugins are offered as-is, without guarantees and without promised support. A plugin developer can stop working on a plugin at any time.

If you feel you’ll need a lot of support and want regular updates, then paid plugins perform much better in that regard.

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