A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use Plugins in WordPress Effectively

How To Use Plugins In WordPress Effectively
Author Bartosz Gajewski
Reading time:
8 minutes read

WordPress plugins are the complete basis of sites based on this technology, and it is to them that WordPress owes its unquestionable success. They can improve functionality, offer choices for customisation, and the capacity to modify your site to suit your unique requirements. However, it is important to use them in the right way. From this article, you will learn not only how to use Plugin in WordPress effectively, but also how to choose the right plugin, install it, and use it proficiently. 

Plugins are crucial components that expand the functionality or provide new features to WordPress websites. They have the ability to turn a simple website into a robust online platform with e-commerce, social networking, content management, and more functionalities. The WordPress Plugin Directory offers dozens of paid alternatives in addition to over 58,000 free plugins, so the possibilities are almost unlimited. But, with great power comes great responsibility. It’s crucial to utilise plugins carefully, so they improve your website without jeopardising its security or functionality.

Before diving into the world of plugins, it’s crucial to understand the vast landscape. Plugins can range from simple tools that add a single feature to complex solutions that transform your site entirely. The choice is huge, but plugins of all kinds can be divided into two groups:

Free WordPress Plugins

Free solutions are available in the WordPress Plugin Repository. These are usually simpler plugins that offer basic functionality. Still, you can also find a solution that significantly impacts your site, such as the WooCommerce plugin that will turn it into a full-fledged e-commerce site. Plugins of this type offer only limited support from the developers, but it is common to find support from the extended WordPress community.

For example, if you are looking for WooCommerce shipping plugin, you can just go to the WordPress repository or Plugins tab on your WordPress page and enter “shipping” in the search page.

free woocommerce shipping plugins repository

You will find all available free plugins related to the searched topic in the list. The list is updated regularly, and the order of plugins depends largely on the ratings, regularity of updates, and support offered by the developers.

Premium WordPress Plugins

In the WordPress world, paid plugins usually come in annual subscriptions, where you get a plugin to install but also support and access updates.  As you might guess, paid WordPress plugins will offer much more functionality than free solutions. Premium plugins can be separate plugins (like our WooCommerce DPD UK plugin), but just as often they can be found as PRO versions of free plugins, (like our WooCommerce UPS shipping plugin) significantly expanding their capabilities. However, it is not the functionalities themselves that are behind the price tag, but also the support, which goes significantly beyond what free plug-ins offer. In addition, paid solutions tend to be updated more regularly, providing additional security for your website.

To navigate the WordPress Plugins landscape:

  • Define Your Needs: Clearly identify what you want to achieve with your website. This focus will help narrow down the plugin search.
  • Research: Spend time reading plugin reviews, checking the number of active installations, and assessing the plugin’s update history. This research helps ensure compatibility and longevity.
  • Quality over Quantity: Opt for plugins that offer multiple features in a single package rather than cluttering your site with numerous single-function plugins.
  • Choose a Solution from Proven Suppliers: If you have the option, choose software from one provider that specialises in a specific domain like WooCommerce shipping. You will then be sure that the plugins will work well with each other, plus it will make it easier to get support in case of any problems. 

Installation Made Easy – Step-by-Step Guide to Adding Plugins to Your WordPress Site

If you already have a plugin selected, you’re probably now wondering how to add a plugin to  WordPress. In this part of the article, I’ll show you exactly how to do it whether it applies to the free plugin or its premium version. 

How to install a WordPress plugin directly from a Plugin tab?

This method will work only for free plugins available in the WordPress Repository. Start by going to the Plugins tab on your WordPress page. At the top of the page, you can find an Add New button. Click on it or use the Add new tab, which is located in the sidebar under the Plugins tab.

add new plugin

Then, in the search window on the right side, enter the name of the plugin that you are interested in or its author. You can also search with phrases such as “shipping” or “SEO.” For example, if you enter our company’s name, “Octolize,” you will see all the free plugins we created.

When you find the plugin that you want to add to your WordPress, click on the Install Now button that is located next to the plugin icon. Installation will start instantly.

When installation is complete, you will see the Activate button. Click on it to activate the plugin and configure it. 

How to install a WordPress Plugin via Admin Plugin Upload?

This method requires you to have a WordPress plugin file. This usually applies to paid plugins that you can download after purchase. You can also download the plugin file from the WordPress repository. Note that the file must be in .zip form to install. If you have downloaded the file from the developer’s site, do not unzip it or rename it.  

Having the file ready, go to your WordPress, then the Plugins tab in the sidebar menu, and click on the Add New button, similar to free plugins. At the top of the page, you will see the Upload Plugin button. Click on it and load the ZIP file with the plugin from your computer. Lastly, click the Install Now button to start the installation process. 

After the installation is completed, activate and configure the plugin using the Activate Plugin button

how to install wordpress plugin

For premium plugins, it is usually still necessary to connect the plug-in with the developer to enable updates. This is most often done through an API key, which you should receive from the plugin developer after purchase. 

Optimising Performance – Getting the Most Out of Your WordPress Plugins

Improving WordPress site speed is essential to guaranteeing a quick, easy, and smooth user experience. Handling your WordPress plugins with care is one of the most important ways to do this. Despite being incredibly helpful for expanding the functionality of your website, plugins can have conflicting effects on performance. Regularly auditing your plugins is crucial to ensuring they are constantly up to date and that you only maintain the ones necessary for your website’s functioning. Furthermore, by saving a static version of your pages, caching plugins may drastically cut down on load times by lowering the amount of database queries required to render your website.

Optimising plugin settings for optimal performance is a crucial step that goes beyond plugin administration. Numerous plugins include customisable options that, with the right adjustments, can limit their influence on the performance of your website. One way to significantly cut down on needless loading times is to restrict the functionality of resource-intensive plugins to the sites that really require them. Similarly, you can significantly improve the speed of your website by choosing plugins that are designed for speed and avoiding those that load a lot of scripts and styles. When used in tandem with your plugins, a content delivery network (CDN) may assist in dispersing the load and accelerate the distribution of material to consumers worldwide. 

Common Plugin Issues and How to Resolve Them

Common WordPress plugin issues can range from conflicts between plugins to problems with compatibility after a WordPress update. These issues often manifest as website slowdowns, functionality breaking, or even the white screen of death, where your website fails to load altogether. Plugin conflicts occur when two or more plugins interfere with each other’s operations, often because they try to modify the same functionality or piece of data in incompatible ways. To diagnose and resolve these conflicts, it’s advisable to use a staging environment where you can deactivate all plugins and then reactivate them one by one until the issue reappears. This process helps identify the offending plugin(s). Ensuring all plugins (and your WordPress core) are up to date is also crucial, as updates often fix bugs and compatibility issues.

If you’re having compatibility problems, consulting the plugin’s documentation or support forums can offer guidance and fixes. Plugin developers often provide updates to fix compatibility issues, so many difficulties may be resolved by making sure you’re using the most recent version of the plugin. If an update cannot resolve the issue, contacting the plugin’s support team and providing them with precise details about the issue may help. It’s a good idea to look for alternatives that provide comparable functionality but are still being developed and supported if a plugin is no longer updated or supported. Furthermore, having a strong backup plan in place guarantees that, in the unlikely event that a problem cannot be promptly fixed, you can promptly return your website to operational status. 

How to resolve common plugin issues?

To resolve common plugin issues:

  • Ensure all plugins, themes, and WordPress itself are up to date: This will ensure that any potential conflicts have been resolved. In addition, it will be one of the first support requests if you reach out to them for help. 
  • Deactivate and reactivate plugins one by one to identify the culprit: This will allow you to determine exactly which plugin there is a problem with. With this knowledge, you will be able to isolate the problem and contact the developer of the plugin in question.
  • Use plugin conflict troubleshooting techniques, such as testing on a staging site: Having a staging site is one of the best solutions to be able to test changes without consequences to your site or store, as well as solve all kinds of plugin problems. 
  • Contact the plugin developer for support if the issue persists: If you are unable to solve the problem yourself, contact the plugin developer. For free plugins, the waiting time may be several days, but for paid solutions, you can expect help within the next few hours. 

When contacting the plugin support to facilitate support and get the necessary assistance as soon as possible, remember to:

  • Ensure that you are using the latest plugin’s release.
  • If the problem you have encountered occurs in the specific circumstances, please provide us with detailed instructions on how to reproduce it step by step.
  • If you use WooCommerce, attach your WooCommerce System Status via the dedicated file upload field below.
  • Give as much information as possible to support – versions of the plugin and your WordPress, or upload a WooCommerce System Status file if you use WooCommerce. 

Security First – Best Practices for Using Plugins Without Compromising Your Site

When using WordPress plugins, you must use a security-first mindset in order to protect your website from vulnerabilities and potential attacks. Unfortunately, WordPress plugins may provide a low-level risk to your website. However, by sticking to a few guidelines, you can greatly lower this risk:

  • Only download plugins from reputable sources, such as the WordPress Plugin Directory or trusted premium plugin providers.
  • Limit the number of plugins you use can also reduce the risk of security breaches, as each plugin can be a potential entry point for hackers.
  • Remove plugins that you do not use and remain inactive.
  • Regularly update plugins, themes, and WordPress core to patch any security vulnerabilities.
  • Implement strong passwords and users permissions.
  • Maintain additional security measures on the server side. 

How to Manage Plugin Updates Safely and Efficiently

A systematic method is necessary to manage WordPress plugin updates securely and effectively to avoid disruptions and guarantee website security. First things first: make a regular routine for updating and installing updates, giving security fixes priority. Make sure your website is completely backed up before making any updates so you can roll back to a previous version in case something goes wrong. Before implementing upgrades to your live site, make use of a staging environment to test updates, especially for important or complicated plugins, to find any potential conflicts or issues. Automating updates might save time for minor and security-related upgrades; nevertheless, to prevent unforeseen problems, always check the change logs and manually test big updates. 

Maintaining a list of your plugins’ functions and most recent updates can also assist you in determining which ones are still supported and updated and in determining whether each plugin is really necessary. 

All you need to know about WordPress Plugins

In this article, we’ve given you everything you need to know about how to use a WooCommerce plugin in WordPress: navigating the plugins landscape, how to install a WP plugin, and how to manage them. We hope this guide will be useful for your business and that your adventure with WordPress or WooCommerce will be successful. Happy WordPressing!

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