How to use wordpress plugins

How to choose, install and activate WordPress plugins

 Alright, you recently installed wordpress and got a cool looking theme. You are now ready to use those sweet sweet plugins. But now the question arises… How to use WordPress plugins?!

But let’s step back a little and let’s ask ourselves the question. What exactly is a WordPress plugin?

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that adds functions to a WordPress website. Without plugins you would need to write in the coding language PHP to add functions to your website. While WordPress has a bit of a learning curve, it is quite easy to use. PHP for sure isn’t!

So luckily there are some awesome developers that made plugins. And there is almost a plugin for anything on WordPress.

Like a plugin that speeds up your website or a simple plugin that duplicates posts. There even is a plugin that pops up random unicorns on your pages…. Well you get the picture.

Let’s get to it!

In this blog I’ll tell you:

Things you need to know before choosing a plugin

Like I said there is almost a plugin for anything, but that doesn’t mean you should use a plugin for everything!

There are some ‘dangers’ to using WordPress plugins. You should really consider if you need a plugin.

Here are 5 important things I always ask myself before choosing a plugin (and so should you, before you ask “how to use WordPress plugins” 😉 !)

1. Do I really need this plugin?

Too many plugins SEVERELY slow down your website. This is bad for your SEO and for the user experience of your website.

I’d say always check if you or your pagebuilder can fix the problem without the help of a plugin.

2. Is this a leightweight plugin?

Managed to keep the amount of plugins to a minimum?

This isn’t always enough! Some plugins single-handedly slow down your website by a few seconds.

How to check if a plugin slows down your website?

Go to gtmetrix.com, fill in the URL of your website.

Check speed of plugins with GTMetrix

Go to the ‘Waterfall’ tab.

Go to waterfall in GTMetrix

Now mouseover the elements till you found your plugin, it is possible that it shows up on more than one line!

Check the plugin speed in the waterfall

Add up the time it takes to load and consider if it’s worth to keep the plugin. I personally dump anything that’s above 300 ms.

3. How is the plugin rated?

There are so so many plugins, but there are also a lot of bad functioning plugins. Some promise you the world, but end up giving you a lot of headaches.

Before installing a plugin, always check the ratings and amount of active installations. As an extra measure I like to check if the plugin has an extra community. This is always useful when running into problems when using the plugin.

4. Is the developer still active?

This one is important! Especially when going for a little less popular one.

WordPress itself and themes constantly update their software.

This means developers should update theirs plugins as well. If they don’t the plugins could stop functioning. You can imagine the hastle this brings when you just build your entire website around a plugin.

Stay away from plugins that haven’t been updated for months.

And check the changelog for the update frequency. You do this by clicking on ‘more details’ and navigating to the changelog.

Check changelog from plugins

5. Is this the best plugin for the function I need?

With so many plugins in the WordPress plugin directory it is rare to immediately find the best one. I usually do a quick Google or YouTube search to find out if it’s the best one.

Beware though, a lot of bloggers and YouTubers are affiliates to paid plugins. This doesn’t mean they have bad intentions. It’s just good to be aware of the fact that they benefit by you choosing a paid plugin through their link.

Installing a plugin through the wordpress search

Alright, you are now really ready to install the plugin. Installing a plugin through the WordPress plugin directoty is quite straightforward.

You navigate to: ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add new’ > ‘Type your plugin in the searchbar’ and hit enter! > Click on install and you have just installed your first plugin.

Install a plugin wordpress directory

Installing a downloaded plugin

So you probably found a paid plugin through your research. Most likely there is a .zip file in your downloads folder, right?

Do not unpack the zip file! You install the plugin by uploading it entirely to WordPress.

Navigate to ‘plugins’ and ‘add new’ again. But instead of searching you choose ‘upload plugin’ on the top of your screen.

Upload a wordpress plugin

Drag your file in the box or choose ‘choose file’, click on ‘install’ and you installed your plugin!

Upload your wordpress plugin

Installing a plugin manually through FTP

Somehow it is not possible for you to choose one of the two options above! Rare, but possible for some WordPress websites.

This option is a little harder.

You will need the plugin file, this time you will have to unzip the .zip file. You now created a new file with the same name as your zip file.

After unzipping the file you will have to login to your FTP/ File manager. With some hosting providers this process is quite straightforward, for others it’s a little bit harder. (If you can’t figure it out, try contacting your host.)

When in the filemanger navigate to:

Public_html> wp-content>plugins and choose the upload option. Upload your plugin file and your plugin is installed!

How to use WordPress plugins [after installing]

Done with installing plugins in the wordpress plugin directory?

Activating your plugin should be a breeze. Navigate to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Installed plugins’. Your fresh plugin should be in this list.

How to activate WordPress plugins

Click on ‘Activate’ and congratulations, you just activated your plugin.

Every plugin works differently. Some require you to set some settings, others do their job in the background.

Some settings can be found in the ‘Installed plugins’ area. For some other plugins you will have to navigate your menu bar to set the right details.

Don’t panic when the plugin is in neither, some can be found in dropdown items like ‘Settings’ or ‘Media’. Do some browsing, when you still can’t find one, try checking out the forums or details of the plugin itself.

I hope this arctivle helps you out, if you have any question feel free to contact me!

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