Have you ever had an amazing idea to improve your website, but shot it down because you don’t have time to learn the coding skills, or can’t shell out the cash to pay a developer? With WordPress, you don’t really need either. Nearly any feature you can think of is available as a WordPress plugin.
Many WordPress plugins are free, and require no coding on your part. You only need to do three things:
- Search for plugins.
- Validate the quality of the plugin.
- Install, activate, and configure the plugin settings.
How to Search for WordPress Plugins
Many of these plugins are free, and all of them add functionality to your website.
There are a couple of ways to search for plugins, and at times you may need to check a few different places to find the right plugin.
1. Searching for Plugins from the WordPress Dashboard (WordPress.org)
The most obvious way to find plugins is right in your WordPress dashboard. Once you login to your site, click Plugins from the sidebar and choose Add New.
Next, you can search for plugins by keyword, author, or tag.
Before you search, have a good idea about what you’re looking for, because there will be a ton of options at your disposal.
For example, I searched for push notifications here, and 269 plugin results popped up.
That might seem a bit overwhelming—but it gets easier. As you start playing with plugins, you learn what to look for, and how to choose the best.
2. Googling, Yahooing, or Binging WordPress Plugins
Another equally valuable way to find plugins is through your trusty search engine.
As you can see here, your search will give you a wider variety of results than searching through your WordPress dashboard.
In my search for WordPress security plugin, I found a few of the most popular plugins for security right off the bat.
In addition, I found some resources that will help me make my decision, such as the 7 Best WordPress Security Plugins and The Ultimate WordPress Security Guide.
Even if you find a plugin through the WordPress dashboard, you should still do a search to see how the plugin works, and if it’s trusted by reputable sources.
Many times, you’ll find a website specifically built to give you information about a plugin, which is always a good starting point.
Validate Plugin Quality Before You Click Install
Here’s the thing about WordPress plugins—they’re free (mostly) and open source. That means that sometimes while the plugin is solving one problem, it creates another.
Think about how it works—there are millions of developers who can create anything they want, any way they want it, and can abandon their project when they’re over it. Great plugins never fall into that category, but sometimes you have to weed out the bad ones that pose security issues or cause problems on your site.
But there’s a lot more to finding quality plugins than that.
How to Install, Activate, and Configure a WordPress Plugin
Now to the meat of the article—how to install a plugin and set it up on your site.
1. First, head to the Plugin page from your WordPress dashboard and locate the plugin you want to install.
2. Then, as shown here, click *Install* and *Activate* once installation is complete.
3. Finally, you’ll be directed to the list of plugins on your site, where you can find more details.
- NOTE: Installing a WordPress Plugin simply loads the files onto your website, but doesn’t push them live. Once you click Activate your plugin will go live on the site.
4. Now that your plugin is live on the site, you can configure it. Depending on your plugin, you can find settings in one of three places:
- The plugins tab, under the plugin name.
- A new tab added by the plugin to the WordPress admin sidebar.
- Under the Settings tab in the admin sidebar.
5. When you find your settings location, it’s free game. Every plugin has a different style of configuration, as well as different options. You should always read plugin documentation and watch any tutorials that are available to understand what you can change, and how to change it for each plugin you activate.
You can find plugin documentation under the plugin description (found in the Plugins tab in WordPress).
One thing to note is that many plugins operate on the Freemium model, meaning that you will receive limited features with the free version, and unlock more by paying for the premium version.
Finding Success with WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are the key to expanding your site from a restricted, frustrating experience, to doing everything you want it to do. But plugins must be taken with a grain of salt—especially for the free versions. You may encounter security issues, performance issues, and bugs. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that using plugins is worth the headache, and you’ll learn to be smart about plugins very quickly.