S2F-6 Choosing Plugins
What is a plugin?
“Plugins” are extensions ( or add-ons ) that are built to expand WordPress’ capabilities, adding features and functions to your site that don’t come built-in.
They’re shortcuts to getting your site to do what you want to, without having to build the feature from scratch.
You can use plugins to do everything from adding photo galleries and submission forms Like on your Contact Page, to optimizing your website and creating an online store. and more importantly these days, to secure your site from hackers.
If you have installed your chosen theme first, you will more than likely already have some plugins added when you did this.
Many good themes come with their own installed plugins. These themes have been built with these extra plugins and have been designed around them, so ensure they are installed or that you install them if asked to do so.
To start installing plugins, go to “Plugins -> Add New” and simply start searching.
Keep in mind that there are over 25,000 different FREE plugins, so you’ve got a LOT to choose from! Not all are good plugins. See which are popular and try them first.
Installation is easy – once you find a plugin you like, just click “Install”.
BUT – before you go and install every single one, I suggest you to read this article: Things you need to know about using WP plugins.
After installing WordPress, every beginner needs to learn is how to install a WordPress plugin. Plugins allow you to add new features to WordPress such as add a gallery, slideshow, etc. There are thousands of free and paid plugins available for WordPress. In this step by step guide, we will show you how to install a WordPress plugin.
Before You Start
In order to use plugins, you will need to use self-hosted WordPress.org . So if you have a domain name and hosting, then you are using WordPress from WordPress.org
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
There are three methods to installing a plugin: installing a WordPress plugin using search, uploading a WordPress plugin, and manually installing a WordPress plugin using FTP.
Install a Plugin using WordPress Plugin Search
The easiest way of installing a WordPress plugin is to use the plugin search. The only downside of this option is that a plugin must be in the WordPress plugin directory which is limited to only free plugins.
First thing you need to do is go to your WordPress admin area and click on Plugins » Add New.
You will see a screen like the one in the screenshot above. Find the plugin by typing the plugin name or the functionality you are looking for, like I did. After that, you will see a bunch of listings like the example below:
You can pick the plugin that is best for you. Since in our search, we were looking for Floating Social Bar which happens to be the first plugin, we will click the ‘Install Now’ button.
See Below On Comparing Plugins – Which One to Download?
WordPress will now download and install the plugin for you. After this, you will see the success message with a link to activate the plugin or return to plugin installer.
A WordPress plugin can be installed on your site, but it will not work unless you activate it. So go ahead and click on the activate plugin link to activate the plugin on your WordPress site.
Thats it. You did it, you have successfully installed your first WordPress plugin.
The next step is to configure the plugin settings. These settings will vary for each plugin therefore we will not be covering that in this post.
Install a Plugin using the WordPress Admin Plugin Upload
Paid WordPress plugins are not listed in the WordPress plugin directory. These plugins cannot be installed using the first method.
That’s why WordPress has the Upload method to install such plugins. We will show you how to install WordPress plugin using the upload option in the admin area.
First, you need to download the plugin from the source (which will be a zip file). Next, you need to go to WordPress admin area and visit Plugins » Add New page.
After that, click on the Upload Plugin button on top of the page.
This will bring you to the plugin upload page. Here you need to click on the choose file button and select the plugin file you downloaded earlier to your computer.
After you have selected the file, you need to click on the install now button.
WordPress will now upload the plugin file from your computer and install it for you. You will see a success message like this after installation is finished.
Once installed, you need to click on the Activate Plugin link to start using the plugin.
You would have to configure the settings to fit your needs. These settings will vary for each plugin therefore we will not be covering that in this post.
The 3rd way is Manually Installing a WordPress Plugin using FTP
In some cases, your WordPress hosting provider may have file restrictions that could limit your ability to install a plugin from the admin area.
In this situation, your best bet is to install the plugin manually using FTP.
The FTP manager method is the least friendly for beginners.
First you will need to download the plugin’s source file (it will be a zip file). Next, you need to extract the zip file on your computer.
Extracting the plugin zip file will create a new folder with the same name. This is the folder that you need to manually upload to your website using a FTP client.
You would need to access your host through the FTP manager. If you do not have your FTP username and password, then contact your WordPress hosting provider and ask them.
Open the FTP client on your computer and connect to your website using the login credentials provided by your web host. Once connected, you need to access the path
Next, upload the folder you extracted from the zip file to the
/wp-content/plugins/ folder on your web server.
After uploading the files, you need to visit the WordPress admin area and click on the Plugins link in the admin menu. You will see your plugin successfully installed on the plugins page.
You need to click on the Activate link below the plugin. Upon activating, you may need to configure the plugin settings. WordPress plugins come with their own settings which differ from one plugin to another so we will not describe them here.
Comparing Plugins – Which One to Download?
Once you have found a couple of plugins, you can open these plugin pages in new tabs to compare them. WordPress plugin page contains information about the plugin, what it does, how to use it, etc. You will need to use this information to decide whether or not this plugin is the best fit for you.
The sidebar on plugin page contains useful information about the plugin. The first section in the sidebar shows the minimum WordPress version required to run the plugin. It will also show compatible up to WordPress version. If it doesn’t show the most recent version, then there is no need to freak out. Although plugin authors check their plugin with each update, they only update the plugin if it needs it.
Below this you will see the date this plugin was last updated and the number of times it has been downloaded since first uploaded to WordPress plugin directory. The number of downloads is a good indicator of a plugin’s popularity.
In the sidebar of plugin page, you will also be able to see plugin ratings. The number of stars indicate ratings where five is the highest and one being the lowest. You should always keep in mind that a lot of WordPress users use the plugin without rating it. It is possible that a plugin downloaded by thousands of people may still not have enough people rating it.
When a user rates a plugin, they are asked to write a review for their rating. You can see these reviews by clicking on the rating bars. For example, if someone has given a plugin one star then you can click on the 1 star link to read their review. Another thing to notice here is the total number of ratings. For example if a plugin only has one or two people rating it, then it is really not a significant number. However, if those one or two people left a good reason for their rating in the review, then this would make their rating significant for others.
The support section of the plugin page’s sidebar will give you a quick overview of number of support threads opened for a plugin during last two months. It will also show you how many of these threads are resolved. You can see support threads by clicking on the support tab in the plugin menu bar. Just like the reviews, keep in mind that unresolved support threads does not really mean that the plugin has some issues. However, if a plugin has many unresolved threads and the plugin author has not responded to any of them in last two months, then this could be an indicator that the author has lost interest. The plugin may still work for you, but it may not be supported in the long run.
The compatibility section allows users to check a plugin version (latest stable is default) with a WordPress version (again latest stable is default). Below this you will see votes for that particular combination. If the number of people saying it works is significantly higher than the number of people voting it broken, then the plugin is probably compatible and should work for that particular combination of WordPress version and the plugin version.
However, we have seen this a number of times that plugins marked as broken by quite a few people still has many downloads and work just fine. The reason for that is that often people only vote when the plugin is broken. If it works, then most people don’t bother leaving their rating.
Plugin screenshots are a quick way to see how the plugin looks on the front-end and on the back-end of your WordPress website. Sometimes we find screenshots to be more helpful than the actual plugin descriptions which could be lengthy and confusing. With screenshots you can actually see how the plugin will look, what it actually does and then you can quickly find out whether or not you should try it.
Check FAQs and Other Notes
When you are looking at a plugin don’t forget to check FAQs, and Other Notes tabs. These sub pages usually contain useful information about how to use a plugin. Many times people end up complaining that a plugin does not work without even reading how to use it.
When you are trying a plugin, make sure you read those pages so that you can configure and use the plugin properly on your website. It is also possible that you will find some other cool tips there. For example, if you are a looking for plugin that adds a widget you might find out that it also provides a template tag which you can use in your theme or a shortcode which you can use in posts and pages. You may also find out plugin author’s advice on how to add your own CSS styles to plugin output.
Testing a Plugin
Poorly written code that does not follow the WordPress coding standards could slow down your website or cause unnecessary load on your server. To check for this problem go to pingdom.com or any other site speed checking service. Enter URL of your website and run the speed test. Note down the results and then go back to your website and activate the plugin you want to test. Come back to speed testing service and test speed again. If the plugin adds a significant amount of time to your site’s speed, then you should try finding a better plugin
Giving back to the WordPress Community and Plugin Authors
WordPress is a community software and so is the WordPress Plugin Directory. Plugin authors put a lot of their time, hard work, and creativity in writing those plugins. You can help them in many ways and here is a list of things you can do:
- Donate: If you find a plugin useful and the plugin author has donate URL on plugin page, then please consider donating some money. It is not the price of the plugin, it is a token of appreciation.
- Rate the plugin: As we mentioned earlier that a lot of users don’t feel much inclined to rate a plugin that works fine. You can help break this trend. When you find a plugin that you like, then leave a rating and a review. A few lines are good enough to let people know about your experience with the plugin.
- Compatibility Vote: Go to compatiblity section of the plugin page and let others know whether a plugin works or it is broken.
- Mention the plugin on your blog, Twitter or Facebook.
What to do When a Plugin Doesn’t Work
If a plugin gives an error or does not work, then the first thing you would want to do is find out if it is having a conflict with another plugin or theme. Deactivate all other plugins and activate default WordPress theme. Try testing the plugin again. If it still does not work, then you might want to open a support thread.
Visit the plugin page on WordPress plugin directory and click on Support tab. Scroll down till you find the support form and fill it out.
Remember, that WordPress plugins are open source which means that they come with no warranty at all and the plugin authors are not required to answer your questions. However, most plugin authors care about their code and will try their best to answer support questions whenever they can.
I hope this guide helped you choose the best WordPress plugin. Now go and test it out for yourself if you havent already
“7 Things You Should Know About Using WordPress Plugins”
1. Update Your Plugins
This is a bit of a no-brainer but it bears mentioning in the interests of completeness: keeping your plugins updated is absolutely vital to the security and functionality of your blog. Out of date plugins are prime targets for those in search of security weaknesses and can also break when newer versions of WordPress and other plugins are released.
Not only should you regularly update your plugins, you should also periodically check your plugins to make sure that they have been recently updated. You should strongly consider removing plugins that haven’t been updated for an extended period of time (as a rule of thumb say one year).
Check the date on the Plugin website.
Ideally you should never be caught in a situation where you are using an out of date plugin — it’ll always end in tears eventually.
This is how many sites will be hacked.
2. Keep Deactivated Plugins Updated or Get Rid
This follows on directly from my previous point: even if a plugin is not active on your site you must ensure that it is still updated. A deactivated plugin is still “live” on your site in the sense that it could be exploited as a security weakness. Incidentally, the same can be said for themes so my advice also applies there.
To be honest, if a plugin isn’t active on your site and you have no intention of using it in the future my advice would be to remove it. The last thing you want is for your site to lots of unused plugins — it pays to keep things clean and tidy.
3. Deactivate Backend Plugins When They’re Not in Use
Most plugins put a strain on your site’s resources, even if that strain is only minor. As such it is my recommendation that you only activate plugins when they are needed.
Take the Plugin Performance Profiler (P3) as an example. This great little plugin will scan the plugins installed on your site and give you an idea of how resource intensive each one is. This in turn can empower you to make informed decisions regarding whether or not a plugin is worth keeping. However, P3 only needs to be active when you are running the scan — it can be deactivated at all other times.
In a nutshell, every single active plugin on your site should be utilized by your site. If not, it shouldn’t be active.
4. The Number of Plugins Isn’t Important
To put it in simple terms, a plugin is simply extra code that is implemented on your site. To an extent you could add the same code within your functions.php file and achieve the same effect. But this would mean you have to learn some coding. So its easier to let someone else do that and use a plugin.
Therefore, the number of plugins you have installed and activated on your site isn’t necessary a major issue. The major issue is how well coded and resource intensive your plugins are.
Let me put it this way: it would be far better for you to have five lightweight and immaculately coded plugins installed on your site than one bloated, resource intensive and vulnerable plugin. In reality you should be more worried about what plugins you are installing rather than how many.
5. The Number of Plugins Is Important
Having said that, there is one reason why the number of plugins you have installed on your site can be an issue: conflicts.
Theoretically speaking, the more plugins you have on your site, the more likely you are to find one that conflicts with another. This is an issue that plugin developers constantly face as there are a near-infinite number of setup combinations across all WordPress installations. Most WordPress blogs are completely unique in terms of the combination of plugins installed.
So although you should be mindful of the quality of plugins you use, you should also keep an eye on the number with a view to keeping things as simple as possible. In this case, less is more.
6. Quality Always Beats Quantity
Along that same line of thinking, you should be very selective in deciding what plugins to install on your site. After all, every plugin you install may leave behind a footprint that is difficult to remove (especially if it is poorly coded). While it can be very tempting to test and install every plugin under the sun on your site, you should err on the side of caution and selectiveness.
When it comes to installing plugins you should look at a few key items such as:
Number of downloads
The developer (are they well-established?)
Evidence of active support
The fact is that you’re not just installing a plugin — you’re installing a piece of functionality that you would like to remain functional for the foreseeable future. If the plugin works now that’s a good start but you want to make sure it will work in the future too.
For me, the decision to install a new plugin on my site is a pretty important one. I am careful to ask myself whether or not I really need the functionality or if I am being drawn in by the proverbial shiny lights. It might be worth you asking yourself that same question.
7. Premium Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Best
It’s a well-known fact of psychology that people’s perception of value is affected by cost. If I offer you the same thing free of charge or at cost, your perception of value is likely to change under the separate circumstances.
This can sometimes be observed in people’s attitude towards premium plugins. The fact is this: there are plenty of unscrupulous premium plugin developers out there. Just because someone is charging you for a plugin does not make it good. There are an awful lot of extremely good quality free plugins out there developed by people who you can trust absolutely.
Having said that, the well-made premium plugins typically are the best. If you pick a reputable premium plugin developer you’re likely to enjoy the best functionality, top notch support and consistent updates. The key is to make sure that you’re supporting the “right” developer. Don’t just do a Google search and go with whatever shows up — find out who people are happy to personally recommend. Get involved in the WordPress community and make note of who is talked about in a positive light. Those are the people you should look to buy from.
Bottom line is, if you are not sure, ASK!!!!
To save you some time, I’ve put together a list of the most popular and useful plugins that webmasters find useful:
• #1 Contact form 7: My website has a contact form on it. It’s an awesome feature to have, as people (like you!) can fill in the form and send me an email without logging into their own email provider. If you want to do something similar, definitely get this plugin.
Note: Some themes come with built in contact Forms. Why not use it if you want the basic form. One less plugin you have to use.
• #2 Yoast SEO for WordPress: If you want to make your WordPress site even more SEO-friendly, this plugin is a must-have. It’s free, and it’s awesome. You’ll be able to edit your title tags, meta descriptions and more, all from within the page itself – no more fussing with WordPress settings. There is a learning curve with this, but their site tells you all you need to know.
I would suggest you come back later and set this up.
• #3 Google Analytics: Interested in tracking your visitors/traffic and their behavior? Just install the plugin, connect it with your Google account ( that I am sure you already have, if not, you need one) and you’re ready to go. This will give you many statistics that will help you with your site and getting traffic.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg! But that is basically it.