Using Plugins with a WordPress Site
WordPress, one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) available, can be extended and modified to include new functions or features using plugins.
WordPress plugins are PHP scripts that either add some function or feature to an existing WordPress site or change the way that site functions in particular circumstances. There are plugins built to improve search engine optimization, add enhanced forms, and integrate third-party software solutions — to name just a few possible categories. Some plugins must be purchased, but many are free.
Every WordPress plugin may be manually installed assuming that the user has the necessarily technical skills and knowledge, but you don’t need to be a developer to use WordPress or install plugins most of time. Rather there is a relatively easy-to-use interface in the WordPress administration panel that allows users to find, install, and activate plugins.
Locating Plugins from Within the WordPress Administration Panel
You can look for WordPress plugins in Google or Bing or even directly from the WordPress website. But WordPress also allows users to find plugins from within the WordPress administration panel.
To look for plugins, first select the “Plugins” link typically found in the left hand navigation of a standard WordPress administration panel.
The WordPress Plugins page should open. At the top of this page near the title is a link — it may look like a button in some WordPress administration themes — that reads “Add New.”
Selecting the “Add New” link from the Plugins page opens a third page — titled “Install Plugins” — from which users may upload plugins saved to a local hard drive, search for plugins, or use tags to help locate available plugins.
Search results will be displayed within the context of the user’s own WordPress administration panel. Each of the results offered will include a link to more details about the plugin and a link to immediately install the plugin.
Installing WordPress Plugins from the Administration Panel
After locating the desired plugin on a plugin search results page, installation can be as simple as clicking a single link, “Install Now.” Once clicked, WordPress will use an alert box to confirm that he user does, in fact, want to add the new plugin.
Depending on how WordPress is configured, the user may be asked to enter an FTP hostname, username, and password. This should be information readily available to most site administrators.
WordPress will then automatically install the selected plugin.
Once a plugin has been downloaded, the user should see a link to “Activate Plugin.” Clicking this link effectively turns the plugin on and makes it available for use with the site.
Some plugins may require an extra step to complete the activation. For example the Jetpack plugin — which adds many enhancements to a standard WordPress site — requires a user to set up an account before being able to take advantage of the plugin’s features. Similarly, some plugins require the user to provide payment information — although payment may also be made before the plugin is installed.
Plugins that do require an extra step usually try to make that step as obvious as possible. For the majority of plugins, just clicking the “Activate Plugin” link will have been enough.