If you are new to WordPress or looking to expand your existing presence using the platform, you may be wondering what is a WordPress plug-in. A WordPress plug-in is a feature a user can add to their WordPress website that goes beyond the default tools. Some examples include interactive calendars or contact forms but there are thousands more. Plug-ins can be written by anyone using PHP code, so many developers create them as a means of providing unique features or integrating other web systems.
Adding new plug-ins to a WordPress site takes just a few clicks. In this guide, we’ll explore some common uses of WordPress plug-ins, then provide instructions on how to install WordPress plug-ins for your own website.
Popular WordPress Plug-in Examples
What Is a WordPress Plug-in?
Above are just a few examples of WordPress plug-ins. There’s more than 50,000 in WordPress’s official database, covering just about every industry and business use-case one could imagine. While many plug-ins are free, the most elaborate tools can cost more than $1,000.
Many plug-ins serve as integrations with other business software. For example, if you’re a fitness instructor who uses appointment scheduling software, a plug-in might enable website visitors to view your calendar, pick an open slot, and even make a deposit right from your website. The appointment would then be saved automatically in your main scheduling system, so there’s no need to manually copy data or worry about double bookings.
Other popular WordPress integrations include CRM, email marketing, accounting and invoicing software. Again, with these plug-ins, your website visitors get a limited amount of interaction with the system, such as the ability to add their name to a mailing list or to check their account balance for outstanding payments.
How to Install a WordPress Plug-in
First, log into your WordPress website. Once you’re on the dashboard, follow the steps below to install a new WordPress plug-in:
1. Hover Over ‘Plug-ins’ and click ‘Add New’
You’ll find these menu options on the left side of the dashboard.
2. Browse for a Plug-in (or Upload one)
Using the search function below, you can browse for themes directly on the dashboard. Search by keyword or browse through various categories to find available plug-ins.
If you already downloaded the plug-in you want to use, you can upload it (as a ZIP file) by clicking “Upload Plug-in” at the top.
3. Install and Activate
Once you’ve found the plug-in you want to use (or uploaded it), click “Install Now.” When the installation is finished, typically in 30 to 60 seconds, be sure to click “Activate.”
With that, you should now see the new plug-in added to your WordPress dashboard. Refer to instructions from the provider to get the plug-in up and running.
The Bottom Line
Plug-ins are one of the key reasons why WordPress is so popular and maybe the reason even asked yourself what is a WordPress plug-in. As such, WordPress plug-ins give users access to seemingly infinite features and integrations, and installing them is only a few clicks away.
At the same time, because there are so many options for any given category, it’s important to read reviews, check the number of active installs and, whenever possible, try out plug-ins before making a purchase.
For more advice on everything WordPress, check out our full guide on how to create a WordPress website. We compare the best hosting services, provide tips for choosing a domain name, explain WordPress themes and much more.