How to Install a WordPress Plugin

What seems like a straightforward process for those of us familiar with WP, may not always be for someone who’s just getting acquainted with how to install plugins on WordPress. Thus, a tutorial!

Firstly, login to WordPress and take a look at the left hand navigation menu. It’s usually black with white text, and has things like Dashboard, Posts, Media, etc. in it.

We’re specifically looking for the Plugins navigation item.

plugins navigation menu

We want to choose “Add New” from that menu, which will take us to a page like this:


wordpress add new plugin screen

Note the search box near the top right. You can use that to try and search for whatever you’d like. For example, if you wanted to install a plugin that allows you to organize your Media library (where all of your files are kept) into folders, you might search for “Media Library Folders”. A little wheel will spin and you’ll see the results:

wordpress plugins search results

If you find a plugin you want to test, you can click the Install Now button, which will then turn blue and read Activate. Click it again to turn it on.

You’ve just installed the plugin!

But what do I do with the plugin?

Well, that is an impossible question to answer. Plugins do a myriad of things, and there are nearly unlimited options. You can click the More Details link to get more information on that particular plugin. Some plugin authors will have entire websites, complete with support options, while others will offer limited info and no support at all.

Figuring out how a plugin works is a case-by-case situation that must be dealt with individually.

A few things to note about installing plugins!

  1. Plugins can break your site! Always best to make a backup before you install and activate new plugins. Every host has a different process for making backups. If you’re with WP Engine, I have a tutorial on how to do that. If you’re a hosting client of mine, you’re with Flywheel, and here’s how to get access to make backups there. With most cheap, shared hosting, you’ll need to FTP in, download the site’s /wp-content folder and your database, which is a pain…all the more reason to host with a reputable WP Managed Hosting company like WP Engine or myself.
  2. Not all plugins are created equally. While there are standards to getting your WordPress plugin in the repository, some plugin developers are better than others. If a plugin looks like it’s making the company money, you can bank on support and continued maintenance of the plugin. Sometimes this requires purchasing a “Pro” version, sometimes it doesn’t. Some plugins are downright terribly coded. Some can leave data in your database even after being installed. It’s impossible to provide a list of which plugins are good and which aren’t, given the thousands of them that exist.
  3. Some plugins require customization. Many work right out of the box, with no additional effort on your part. Others might not look right, or even work right, on your site, depending on how your theme is coded.

What If I Don’t Want to Install or Customize a Plugin Myself

For existing clients, I can install and test a plugin, typically within an hour (of billable time, please note). Customization would need me to review the plugin and let you know what’s possible, and then provide the quote. The review process, if I’m not familiar with a given plugin, is likely to take less than an hour…however I bill in one hour increments unless you’re on a retainer plan.

If you’re not an existing client, I would charge for whatever time it takes to familiarize myself with your existing WordPress site, which is typically 2 – 3 hour.


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