How to install a WordPress Plugin

What is a WordPress plugin? A comprehensive guide.

What is a WordPress plugin? A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that once installed onto a WordPress website will extend its functionality and add new features.

The scale of a WordPress plugin can range from small, tweaks and enhancements like adding a contact form; up to huge features like transforming a website into a fully-featured eCommerce store.

On the techie side of things, a WordPress plugin is a group of functions, often written in PHP and JavaScript. The plugin will generally make use of WordPress action hooks, filters and functions to build upon the existing framework.

What does a WordPress plugin do?

WordPress plugins extend the way WordPress functions adding unique features to a website; without having to modify WordPress at its core level.

The question “What is a WordPress plugin supposed to do?” has no one answer because the features of a plugin depend on the developers’ requirements and desired outcome. There’s very little that can’t be accomplished through plugins whether they’re off-the-shelf or bespoke.

Here’s a shortlist of some of the more advanced things a WordPress plugin can add to a website:

  1. eCommerce functionality.
  2. Contact/newsletter forms.
  3. Forum functionality.
  4. Images/Video galleries.
  5. Quizzes, Popups and Surveys.

What should I know before using a WordPress plugin?

Before installing a new plugin to your site, you should take note of what version of WordPress you’re using, as well as what you’re aiming to achieve.

There are a few questions that you should try and answer before jumping into a new plugin install.

Should I use a free, premium or bespoke WordPress plugin?

Not all plugins get coded equally. There are three tiers to WordPress plugins to take note of, free, premium and bespoke.

Free WordPress plugins cost no money and are often suited for the needs of most people. They are a great way to add smaller features to your website but, tend to have limited functionality with a call to action to purchase a premium version.

Premium WordPress plugins can cost between £10-1,000s, depending on your requirements. They will generally offer more features than their free counterparts, as well as come with support and regular updates.

Bespoke WordPress plugins are custom made specifically for you. They can cost considerably more than the other options but have the benefit of working exactly how you need them to.

Did you know that our bread and butter is bespoke WordPress plugins? Check’em out.

Is a WordPress plugin safe to use?

Like anything, downloading a WordPress plugin can come with risks. But, if you’re careful and do your research, you can stay safe. Just be sure to:

  1. Use plugins from reputable developers and directories.
  2. Look at the reviews of the plugins.
  3. Take note of the last time a plugin was updated.

If you’re looking for free plugins then your best choice is browsing the WordPress repository.

Is this WordPress plugin compatible with my website?

A reputable plugin developer will always say which version of WordPress their plugin will work on. Be sure to take note of your WordPress version and install only the ones that work on your WordPress version.

Installing plugins for an older or newer version of WordPress can cause some huge problems.

How to Install a WordPress Plugin

You can install a WordPress plugin in several ways. Through; the WordPress plugin repository, ‘Upload Plugin’ feature or directly with FTP.

The easiest and fastest way for non-techie website owners is the first or second guides bellow.

How to install a WordPress plugin from the WordPress repository

The WordPress plugin repository is an excellent source of free plugins. You can browse your options from their website or directly from within your WordPress dashboard.

To install a plugin from the repository, all you have to do is:

  1. Login to your WordPress website dashboard.
  2. Go to PluginsAdd New.
  3. Enter your search term into the ‘search plugins…‘ box.
  4. Find the plugin you’d like to install.
  5. Click Install Now and Activate.

How to install a WordPress plugin using the admin upload

Premium and bespoke WordPress plugins won’t be in the WordPress repository; so, the first method won’t be much use.

What is a WordPress Plugin | How to install a plugin through the admin uploaderInstead, you can upload the plugin directly from your websites admin dashboard.

  1. Download the plugin from the developer/marketplace.
  2. Login to your websites WordPress dashboard.
  3. Go to Plugins Add New Upload Plugin.
  4. Click Choose File, select the name of the plugin you’d like to install. (it will end in “.zip”)
  5.  Click Install Now.
  6. Once uploaded, click Activate.

How to install a WordPress plugin using FTP

Installing a plugin through FTP is a tad too techie for most. Still, it’s often a faster, more reliable way of getting a plugin onto a website. Especially if your hosting provider has file upload limits.

To install a plugin with FTP, you need to:

  1. Download the plugin from the developer/marketplace.
  2. Unzip the plugins files.
  3. Connect to your FTP server.
  4. Navigate to the /wp-content/plugins folder.
  5. Upload the folder containing the new plugin.
  6. Login to your websites WordPress dashboard.
  7. Go to Plugins
  8. Locate the plugin you just installed from the list provided.
  9. Click Activate.

Why can’t I install a WordPress plugin?

There are a few reasons why you might not be able to install a WordPress plugin. Here are a few common issues.

I can’t see a Plugin item in my WordPress menu.

If the plugin menu item isn’t visible, there are two possible reasons.

The first is that you don’t have permission to manage plugins on your website. You can verify if this is the cause by navigating to while logged in. If you don’t have permission, you’ll see a message saying so.

To fix the issue, contact your websites admin, or developer and ask them to give you permissions to install plugins.

The second reason could be that you’re website is using instead of is a hosted solution that doesn’t allow you to install plugins.

To solve the issue, you’ll need to look at migrating your website to another hosting provider. We recommend Krystal.

While installing a plugin, I get an error message.

If you’re installing a plugin through the WordPress admin dashboard; you may occasionally get an error message along the lines of “Could not create directory.” 

If that’s the case, there are three potential reasons:

  1. Your web server is out of disk space.
  2. Your web server has strict permissions on the plugin folder.
  3. Your web server has an upload file size limit.

In all three instances contacting your hosting provider should result in a timely fix.

I installed a plugin; now, my website won’t load.

Contact your hosting provider and ask them to rename the folder of the plugin you just installed. If you have FTP know-how, then you can rename it yourself for a faster fix.

Basically, by renaming the plugins folder, it will deactivate the plugin and won’t run the problem code anymore. You can then login to the WordPress dashboard and either find a fix or delete the plugin.

Generally, this issue is due to incompatibilities with the plugin and your web server, or WordPress version.

So, What is a WordPress plugin? A fast, easy and reliable way to enhance your website’s functionality.

There are tens of thousands of plugins available for WordPress, and each provides unique ways for solving problems or adding more to your website.

If you’re having issues with your website, or need a way to enhance your visitors’ experience, there may be a plugin to help.

At Digital Duck, we have an in-house team who expertly develop bespoke WordPress plugins that serve to improve the way your website functions.

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