If you’re new to WordPress, you’re probably asking yourself: “What are plugins in WordPress?” This is a fairly common question because, in addition to introducing one of many new terms into your vocabulary, WordPress plugins are also an important building block of every single WordPress site.
This article will answer your question, and then we’ll give you some tips on where and how you can find WordPress plugins and how to manage them on your site.
What are plugins for WordPress?
WordPress plugins are essentially a piece of code that “plugs” into your WordPress site. In human terms, this means that a WordPress plugin is something that adds new functionality to your WordPress site or extends existing functionality on your site.
One of the benefits of WordPress is that enterprising developers have written tens of thousands of WordPress plugins that you can add to your site for free, although of course there are also premium WordPress plugins that add incredible features to your site, but that’s not the point now.
Plugins can do everything from small changes to large-scale changes to your site. For example, some plugins can even turn your WordPress site into a full-featured online store, social network, or forum.
They can also add small features, such as a simple “Instagram” gallery output block.
Some WordPress plugins don’t even have front-end effects. For example, there are SEO plugins designed to increase the effectiveness of your site and improve its ranking in the “eyes” of search engines such as Google.
How do plugins work?
You’ll learn all of this in more detail below. But generally, to start using plugins on your WordPress site, you need to:
- Find the plugin you’re interested in in the WordPress repository.
- Install that plugin on your WordPress site and activate it.
- Set up the plugin using your WordPress admin panel.
Can you use WordPress plugins on WordPress.com?
For most users, the answer is no. You can’t use WordPress plugins on WordPress.com. Plugins are something only users who use self-hosted WordPress through WordPress.org can use.
Read our post for a more detailed comparison of WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Finding new and managing active WordPress plugins
Now that you can already answer the question about what plugins are in WordPress, let’s move on to where you can find plugins for your WordPress site and how to add them.
How to install WordPress plugins
There are several different ways to install WordPress plugins. For complete instructions, we recommend reading our special post on how to install plugins on WordPress.
In most cases, you can install WordPress plugins directly from your WordPress control panel.
Where to find plugins for WordPress
There are different ways to find plugins for WordPress, depending on whether you want free or premium plugins.
With free plugins, you can install and use a plugin without paying a penny, although sometimes some features are blocked unless you pay the developers for the so-called “Pro version”.
Premium plugins, on the other hand, obviously cost money, but often offer better features as a result.
Here are some of the places to look for plugins:
- WordPress.org – The official WordPress plugin directory and one of the best places to find free WordPress plugins.
- Code Canyon – A large catalog of exclusively premium WordPress plugins.
- Third Party Developers – Many developers only sell plugins through their sites, so using Google is a good way to find plugins.
Plugins can also be searched in the official directory (repository) of plugins on WordPress.org directly from your site by going to Plugins → Add New.
What to consider before installing plugins on your WordPress site
Because installing a WordPress plugin entails adding third-party code to your site, you should be extremely careful about which plugins you install.
Here’s what the “wrong” plugin can do:
- Cause errors on your site.
- Unintentionally open a vulnerability that will damage the security of your WordPress site.
- Slow down your site.
- Intentionally introduce malicious code.
In order to avoid these problems:
- Try to use plugins from reputable developers and from trusted places like WordPress.org or Code Canyon.
- Read reviews and check how popular the plugin is before installing it.
- Check when the plugin was last updated to make sure it is still supported.
While this approach is not 100% reliable, it ensures that you are only installing quality WordPress plugins.
How to update plugins in WordPress
Updating all of your plugins is important to keep your site up and running and secure.
As with installing WordPress plugins, you can update them directly from the admin panel of your WordPress site.
It is also possible to update your plugins automatically, although it is often better to update plugins manually to have more control over the update process.
How to deactivate plugins
The process is simple and can be done entirely from your admin panel. To deactivate plugins, go from your admin panel to the “Plugins” section. You will see a list of all your installed plug-ins and each of them will have a “Deactivate” button. Clicking it will stop the plugin working, but it will still be stored on your site, it can later be completely removed or reactivated.
Is it possible to keep several WordPress plugins active at the same time?
As you get to know WordPress, you’ll probably see that people tell you not to install too many WordPress plugins to avoid “slowing down your site”.
The idea that the more plugins the slower the site is not technically true, but it’s still a useful concept for beginners.
You see, more important than just the number of WordPress plugins is what each plugin does and how well it’s designed.
But as a beginner, you probably don’t have the programming knowledge to evaluate the impact of each individual plugin.
For this reason, it is still recommended that you only install plugins that you really need. That is, don’t just install a plugin on a whim because you think it looks cool.
We hope that after reading this article you understand what plugins are in WordPress and how they work!