This blog post is a part of the “Start Your Own Blog” series.
Other posts covered in this series are
- Part 1: WordPress.Com vs WordPress.Org: Which One To Choose
- Part 2: How To Buy Domain & WordPress Hosting
- Part 3: Beginners Guide: How To Install WordPress
- Part 4: Beginners Guide: How To Install A WordPress Theme
- Part 5: <<You are now reading this>>
- Part 6: Beginners Guide: 19 Essential WordPress Settings
In the previous blog, we have learned about theme installation for our WordPress blog. In this part of the series, we will learn how to install a WordPress plugin on our website. At the time of writing this blog, there are about 55000 plugins available at the WordPress plugin directory.
What are WordPress plugins?
As we know WordPress is built using PHP programming language. Plugins are nothing but additional blocks of code that can be added to our existing WordPress website to improve its functionality or to introduce a new feature. Some examples are plugins like Akismet Anti-Spam which prevents spam comments.
The greatest advantage of plugins is that we do not require any programming skills to add them to our website. While creating a WordPress website or blog for the first time, we may be tempted to add numerous plugins to get more advanced features. In most cases, it may be even worth it. Bloggers should have a clear idea about the must-have WordPress plugins and should keep in mind that when you add more plugins there might be an impact on the performance of your website. Let us keep that topic for another blog and continue with the steps of installing plugins. Basically, there are 3 ways to add plugins.
Option1: Installation via Admin Dashboard
In the admin dashboard section click Plugins >Add New. Now we can view a section having search functionality. Here we can enter our search term. I am now searching for the famous W3 Total Cache plugin. We do not need to know the entire plugin name for searching. As seen in the screenshot below I have just entered w3 as the search term and it displayed the plugin in the results section. There is also an option to search using author names or tags.
Now let us install this plugin. For this just click the Install Now button.
After installation, we need to activate the plugin by clicking the Activate button.
Now that the plugin is active we need to configure the plugin. The process of plugin configuration varies with plugins and hence I am not covering it in this blog. We can go to the settings section and add the required configuration.
Option2: Installation via Plugin Upload
For using this option we have to first download the plugin zip file from the WordPress directory or get the zip version of the plugin from the developer’s website after making the payment for premium plugins. The WordPress plugin directory will list only a free version of the plugins. In most of the cases, we need to install and activate the free version of the plugin and later upgrade to the premium version using the key that we obtain from the plugin developer after making the necessary payment. Let us now download the W3 Total Cache zip file from WordPress directory.
After this, we have to upload this zip file to our website using the Upload Plugin option in the dashboard.
Now click the Install Now button to install this plugin. After installation, we have to click the Activate Plugin button.
Now the plugin is active and we have to configure the plugin as per the instructions on the settings page.
Option3: Installation via FTP
If we are unable to install a plugin via the above two methods either due to the unavailability of WordPress directory or file restriction by the hosting provider we have a third option to upload plugin manually via FTP. I do not recommend this method for newbie bloggers as we need to have a basic knowledge about FTP and WordPress folder structure for this process. Newbie bloggers can get in touch with the hosting provider support team to seek assistance for this method.
For FTP upload also we need to get the zip file of the plugin as mentioned in Option 2.Then we need to extract this zip file. This extracted folder must be uploaded to our server using an FTP client like FileZilla or Cyberduck.
The path normally is a plugins folder inside the wp-content folder. Once the files are uploaded then we can go to the admin dashboard and activate the plugin.
Now we have learned how to install and activate a WordPress plugin in our blog. In the next part of this blog series, we will learn about some essential WordPress settings.
Note: Advanced users can refer to this guide and learn how to create WordPress plugins by themselves.