How to Use WordPress Plugins Like a Pro

Posted on December 30, 2020 | Updated on January 21, 2021

If you’re new to WordPress, terms such as plugins, themes and shortcode may be new to you. While other content management system (CMS) software uses these elements, some utilize different words. How to use WordPress plugins isn’t complicated, but there are some key things you must know to be a professional at navigating this online world.

WordPress is used by 39.5% of all websites. It is the most frequently installed CMS at this time. Because of its popularity, there are tons of third-parties working on the open source software. You’ll find a plugin for nearly any function you can imagine. If one hasn’t yet been created, it likely will be soon.

Are you still wondering how to use WordPress plugins like a pro? We’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to find and install your first plugin. We’ll also look at common plugin errors and things you can do to troubleshoot.

1. Find the Right Plugin

Your first step in how to use WordPress plugins involves figuring out which ones you need for your site. When you first install WordPress, most web hosting companies also install Logonizer and Akismet. You do need these types of options to secure your site.

Logonizer helps prevent logon hacking attempts by stopping people from logging in who don’t have the right credentials. You can go into the settings and block people for different lengths of time.

Akismet helps prevent thousands of spam messages in your comment section by working on the backend. You will need an activation key, which you can get from Akismet for free for personal sites.

You’ll also need some additional security via the form of Firewalls. Think about the function you need each plugin to perform and carefully read specifications and reviews until you find the option that offers what you want.

2. Install WordPress Plugins

There are over 58,126 plugins on WordPress.org, plus additional plugins for sale. Once you’ve figured out the handful or so you need to obtain the results you desire for your site, it’s time to install the plugin on your CMS. The tens of thousands of options on WordPress.org don’t represent every option available, but many third-part providers do list their plugins on the site for ease of use.

How to use WordPress plugins and install them? Navigate to your WP dashboard and click on the word “Plugins.” A new page will load. To search for plugins, you can click on “Add New” and then search for the need you have, such as “firewall” or “newsletter signup.”`

If the plugin is available in the system, you can “Install” and then “Activate” it. If it is not and you have to download from a third-party site, you will need to do a manual install.

Knowing how to install manually is part of how to use WordPress plugins. You click on Plugins, Add New and then Upload. The plugin will be in a compressed format in the form of a zip file. WordPress will unpack it for you.

3. Set Up the Plugin

Some plugins come without the need for additional steps. If you need to adjust the settings, you’ll see a tab under the installed plugins page that says “settings” or something similar.

For some plugins, you’ll see them appear as their own tab on the left-hand sidebar menu in your dashboard. For others, they are under tools on the same side.

Many plugins offer tutorials explaining how to adjust settings. You may also find that what you desire most is part of a premium feature. Most plugins have a basic free offer, but for advanced elements, you must pay to use them.

4. Use Your New Features

You’ll also need to learn how to use shortcodes as part of how to use WordPress plugins. Some plugins come with programming features where you add different fields or specifications and insert the shortcode to pull it up on a page, post or in a widget.

One example might be a plugin for creating tables. You would fill in the table elements, including images you wish to insert and other specifics. You then copy the shortcode for that table and paste it directly into the document.

It does not matter whether you post the shortcode in the visual editor or text editor. It functions the same in either place. No coding is required other than the copy of the shortcode.

5. Troubleshoot Common Issues

The longer you use WordPress, the more you’ll realize there are glitches you must learn to troubleshoot. Suddenly, all your images in your media library disappear, and only gray boxes appear. Perhaps you get an error on the frontend of your site.

Part of learning how to use WordPress plugins is knowing how to disable them to see if any are interfering with your site. Start by navigating to the plugins page. Click the checkbox next to the word “Plugin” to select all the plugins you have installed. Under “Bulk Actions,” click on “Deactivate” and “Apply.”

If this resolves the issue, one of your plugins is the culprit. Activate them one at a time, checking for the problem after each reactivation. You can always find an alternative plugin if one creates bugs.

6. Seek Alternatives

For each function you’d like to include on your CMS platform, you’ll find numerous plugins. If one doesn’t have the features you want, choose a different one. If you find some of the instructions too complicated or need too much additional technical knowledge, try something else.

One of the most important things to remember about how to use WordPress plugins is you aren’t limited to a single option. If something doesn’t work for you, try one or more other choices.

How to Use WordPress Plugins Confidently

Now you know the basics of how to use WordPress plugins, you should be able to add some functions to your website you didn’t have before. There are tens of thousands of choices. Whatever your needs, you shouldn’t have to spend hours coding them on your own. Someone else has already done the heavy-lifting when they created a plugin for you.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dog, Bear.

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