What Are WordPress Plugins And Where To Get New Ones?
Are you new to WordPress? Trying to wrap your head around how it all works?
Do you find yourself asking things like “What in the world is a widget?” and, the subject of this article: “What are WordPress plugins — and where can I get new ones?“
It’s easy to get confused with all the moving parts that go into making a WordPress website. We’ve all been there at some point, so don’t feel bad if you’re still a bit befuddled.
The fact that you’re here reading this article means that you’re trying to get a handle on things. With that in mind, well be keeping this post as simple as possible.
Let’s take a look…
WordPress Plugins: What Are They?
You’ll be happy to hear that understanding exactly what WordPress plugins are — and what they do — isn’t too difficult. The official WordPress Codex explains it like this:
Plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress.
Let’s delve a little deeper in order to further clarify the matter…
WordPress is a great platform that comes with all the basics for building a functional site, and by using WordPress in its default state, you can easily manage the basics needed to create — and display — content. You can, for example:
- Write and format content for pages and/or blog posts
- Add, edit and generally manage media, such as images, etc.
- Add menus to help visitors find what they’re looking for
That said, there are instances where you may want to add or do something with your site that WordPress doesn’t enable you to do right out of the box.
Let’s say, for example, that you’d like your site to have a forum.
Out of the box, WordPress can’t create and manage a forum. However, you could use a plugin, such as bbPress, to add that feature to your site and extend your WordPress functionality.
Here’s a fun way I often use to further explain plugins and how they relate to WordPress:
WordPress is like Mario in Super Mario World (my all-time favorite video game). He can do all the basics you need to get from start to finish in the game. However, there are times when you need something extra to get the job done.
Mario uses PowerUps to give himself a boost: to do something that he couldn’t do before. Plugins for WordPress are a lot like those PowerUps.You tack them onto your site to add or boost your site’s ability.
Do you want the blog posts you publish to be automatically posted to your social media channels? There’s a plugin for that.
Would you like to collect email subscriptions from your site? There are tons of plugins for that.
Want to build an online store? There’s an awesome plugin for that too.
In fact, one of the things that makes WordPress great, is that you can usually find a tried-and-tested plugin to help you do just about whatever you need to.
How And Where To Get New WordPress Plugins
Loading a plugin on your site is super-simple. The steps are usually as follows:
- Download the plugin file.
- Go to your WordPress Dashboard.
- Upload the plugin file to your site.
- Activate the plugin.
“But download the plugin from where?”, I hear you ask…
There are two types of WordPress plugins: Free, and Premium.
The official WordPress Plugin Directory has nearly 40,000 free plugins to choose from and use on your self-hosted WordPress site. You have access to these plugins either through the WordPress.org website or directly from within your WordPress Dashboard — the latter option being the easiest.
To search and add plugins from the WordPress Directory using this method, simply follow these steps:
- Login to your WordPress site.
- Hover over the menu item marked ‘Plugins’.
- Select ‘Add New’.
This will bring you to the screen pictured above. From there, you can use keywords to search for different types of plugins and then download and activate the ones you want to use.
So apart from the official WordPress directory, where else can you get great plugins? Let’s move on….
Top Online Places to Find WordPress Plugins
There’s a number of places to find premium WordPress plugins, here’s a few to get you started:
CodeCanyon is one of the most popular places to find and buy all sorts of plugins for WordPress. With over 1,000 plugins in their ever-growing database, you’ll find almost any premium plugin you might need.
iThemes offers both WordPress themes and plugins. Their BackupBuddy and iThemes Security Pro plugins, for example, are some of the best in the business.
WPMU DEV has a massive choice of some of the best premium WordPress Plugins around. Just a short look in there will probably have you finding exactly what you need.
To name but three of many…
The above examples are just a few of the places to find some truly superb premium plugins, but there’s a whole lot more out there — many leading theme shops, for example, offer an array of superb quality plugins in addition to their usual lineup of themes. Other places to start your search include good ol’ Google (although be careful to check that whatever plugins you find are legitimate and not just dodgy spamware); forums like Quora, Reddit and StackExchange, and, of course, the plugins category of this very site.
Wrapping It All Up
WordPress may have a few new concepts to get to grips with before you’re truly comfortable working with it, but with a little perseverance it’s really not too difficult to understand the basics. Hopefully, after reading this article, you now have a better understanding of the role plugins play by adding to — or extending — the functionality of WordPress itself.
Thanks to WordPress being so incredibly popular, there are literally thousands of plugins on the market to help you achieve any number of things with your site. With just a little research and browsing, chances are you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for.