Understanding WordPress Plugins

Aman Mehta
5 min readJul 12, 2020

In this article, we are going to take a look at WordPress plugins. Plugins are extra code that you can add to your site to add extra features. Fortunately, plugins are packaged very nicely, so it makes it super easy to add and remove plugins.

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  1. Find plugins
  2. Install and use plugins
  3. Analyze plugins
  4. Disable and delete plugins

Finding Plugins

First, let’s go to WordPress.org and see what kind of plugins are available. The below image shows https://wordpress.org/plugins/. When I took this screenshot, there were over 57,000 plugins available!

Scroll down on this page and you’ll see a “Block-Enabled Plugins” area. This contains plugins that can add new blocks to your WordPress editing area.

Under “Featured Plugins” area, the first plugin we see is Akismet, which may already be installed on your site. Akismet can protect your site from spam. Under Akismet is a plugin called Jetpack, which provides 101 different features, from statistics and SEO to improved photo and video galleries. Classic Editor brings back some features from an older version of WordPress.

The easiest way to start exploring the plugin directory is with the search box. Simply, type in keywords that describe the kind of plugin you’re looking for. For example, type in “business directory” if you want to add details of businesses located in Wordville.

This next image shows the result of that search. Many of these plugins have over 10,000 users and have very high ratings. There are a lot of good choices here, and in this situation, you might test several of them to find the right choice for your site.

Click on one plugin’s title. You’ll find a page with complete details on that plugin.

So there are over 56,000 plugins, and there’s a large directory which allows you to search through them all. Did you know that all this information is available without leaving your Site?

  • Hover over “Plugins” on your Dashboard.
  • Click “Add New”.

You will find all the same plugins that you saw on WordPress.org. On the first screen, you'll see the same four “Featured” plugins in exactly the same order.

Installing Plugins

To install a plugin, all you have to do is click the “Install Now” button for a plugin. Look at the previous image, and you can see the “Install Now” buttons are displayed throughout the plugin directory. Let’s take you through the process of installing and using a plugin. This exercise will allow us to add a calendar showing the content we’ve published and allowing us to schedule a post for future publication.

  • Search for “PublishPress Calendar”.
  • Click the “Install Now” button.

And now your plugin is active. If you click the “Plugins” link, you’ll see your new plugin. On this screen, you can quickly spot which plugins are active and which are not. Activated plugins are a light blue color, and have a solid blue vertical line to the left of the checkbox.

Now let’s use our new plugin.

Hover over “PublishPress”, then click “Calendar”.

You’ll see a calendar showing the recently published content on your site.

If you want to publish this content on a different date in the future, you can do that by dragging-and-dropping it to a new location in the calendar.

Analyzing Plugins

Something important to remember is that not all plugins are created equal in terms of quality. Some plugins are excellent software with high-quality code and have an excellent user interface. Other plugins are written poorly and can be difficult to use. The WordPress team can’t perform detailed checks on over 57,000 plugins, so you’ll need to take some time to analyze plugins before and after installing them.

Let’s take a look at a plugin called Ninja Forms that we’ll use in the next chapter.

  • Go to “Plugins” and then “Add New”.
  • Search for “Ninja Forms”.
  • Click on plugin name or the “More Details” text link in the top-right corner.

The details window will pop up. The right sidebar shows us some useful information. Let’s analyze the key information about Ninja Forms.

Last Updated: 3 days ago

Active Installations: 1+ Million

Average Rating: 4–5

All of these details lead us to think that this is a popular plugin that is well supported and well-liked by its users. This plugin would be considered “a safe bet”. In contrast to Ninja Forms, some plugins aren’t supported and haven’t been updated in quite a while. Let’s take a look at how we can tell some of those things.

  • Search for “Linkmarklet”.
  • Click the “More Details” link.

The details will appear in a pop-up window just as before.

The right sidebar shows us some not so favorable information.

  • The plugin was last updated 5 years ago.
  • The plugin has only 30 active installs.

It’s always a good idea to analyze and do your homework before installing a plugin. And make sure you read these sidebar details. They can help you decide whether a plugin is well-liked and has been tested on your particular version of WordPress.

Deactivating and Deleting Plugins

If you find that you don’t want a plugin, you can simply deactivate it and then delete it.

I do recommend that you delete any plugins that you decide not to use because WordPress plugins that are not active can still be accessed from the web. This means that if the plugin has a security hole, then it can still be abused even if it’s not currently active on your site.

It’s common for people to deactivate a plugin but not delete it. I would recommend removing any plugin that you do not need. To remove a plugin, click the “Deactivate” text link on the “Plugins” screen.



Aman Mehta

Armchair Philosopher | Location Independent | Amateur Photographer