How to Update a Plugin

How to Update a Plugin

For the security of your website, it is important to keep your plugins and WordPress code up-to-date.  Some security plugins will let you know when a plugin needs to be updated.   More recent versions of WordPress will update the core code on its own and a few plugins can be set to automatically update but most have to be done manually.

How do you know if your plugin needs an update?

When you log into your WordPress dashboard, WordPress will notify you there are plugin updates by putting that number in a red circle next to the Plugin link.  Click into your Plugins page and you will quickly see what plugin(s) needs updating.    In this example, the Akismet Anti-Spam plugin needs updating.

Before updating any plugin, it is always a good idea to back up your website externally to something like Google Drive or Dropbox. 

After backing up your website, feel free to read the change details included in the update – this is a good way to learn more about how your website works. I recommend updating plugins after backing up your website because backing up your website should always be your first step.

Update the Plugin

To update the plugin, click on the Update Now link in the peach section under the plugin.  Hang tight and leave the site alone while the spinner shows the update is being completed.  Once the update is complete, you’ll get a green check mark showing the update was successful.

Once the plugin is updated, go back and check the front end of your website (what your website visitor sees).  Make sure everything looks good.  It should be fine but it is always good to check after an update to make sure the update is successful on the front end too.

Multiple Plugin Updates

If you have multiple plugins to update, avoid the temptation to have them update simultaneously.  That is an easy way to have a code failure and break your site. (NEVER update more than one plugin at a time.)  Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Backup your website
  2. Update the first plugin
  3. Once the plugin update is done, check the front-end of your site – click through a page or two
  4. Repeat, starting with step 2 until all plugins are updated.

Upload a Plugin

Some paid WordPress plugins are not available in the WordPress plugin repository.  These paid plugins require a different installation method.  This post will show you how to upload a plugin.

Fortunately, in addition to the Install button, WordPress also provides you with the handy dandy Upload button.  Here is how to upload a plugin to your website:

Before you can upload a plugin, you’ll need to download.

You’ll need to purchase and download the plugin from the plugin developer.  This download will be a zip file.  Remember:  download plugins from developers you can trust.  Do your research first.

Upload a Plugin button.OK, you have purchased your plugin and downloaded it to your computer.  Now what?  Click that trusty Plugin » Add New plugin link.  This will bring you to the Add Plugins page.  Click the Upload Plugin.  You’re telling WordPress that the plugin you want is on your computer, not in the WordPress repository.

A new option will open up for you: 

 

Click the Choose File button to navigate to the zip file on your computer.  Once you selected the file, click the Open button in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.  You’ll be returned to the Add Plugins page.

Click the Install Now button to install the plugin.  WordPress will upload the plugin zip folder from your computer and install it for you.  Once the installation is complete, you’ll see a success message:

Click the blue Activate Plugin to start using the plugin.  Depending on the plugin you installed, you may have to configure the settings to fit the goals of your website.  Those configurations vary for plugins and will not be covered here.

How To Install A Plugin

Plugin menu.

In order to install a plugin, first be sure you are using the self-hosted WordPress.org.  These steps will also apply to you if you have the Business plan at WordPress.com.  As of this writing, the Business Plan is the only option which allows you to install plugins.

You can find plugins online in the WordPress Plugin Repository or in your dashboard under Plugins (located between Appearance and Users).  When you hover over the Plugin link, a sub-menu pops up giving you the options to see your Installed Plugins and to a Add New plugin to your website.  Ignore the Editor link – that is for more advanced developers.

Plugin Page

Either click on the Installed Plugins page or click on the Add New from the drop down menu.  You’ll be brought to your list of plugins currently in use or available to use in your website.  All your plugins are listed with a horizontal submenu of how many plugins you have, how many are active and inactive.  You can also search your installed plugins using the Search installed plugins… box.

When looking at your list of plugins, you’ll see something like this:

Sample of Plugin page.

 

Install a plugin using the Add New Button or Add New Link.

Adding A Plugin to Your Website

To add a new plugin to your website, click on the Add New button next to the Plugins page title or under Appearance » Add New.

You will be brought to the Add Plugins Page.  This is where you can search for a plugin by Keyword, Author or Tag.

Search for a plugin using keyword, author or tag.

 

 

 

Plugin Install Now button.Once you found the plugin you are looking for, click on the Install Now button next to the plugin you want to install.  WordPress will install the plugin for you.  After the installation, you’ll see a success message with a link to Activate the Plugin or Return to the Plugin Installer.

To make the plugin work, click on the blue Activate button to activate and start using the plugin.

Plugin Activate link.

The next step may be to configure the plugin.  These configurations, if any , vary between plugins and is not covered here.

What is a Plugin?

A plugin is a package of software/code that gives you the opportunity to add new features.  The plugin extends the function to your website beyond the base core code of WordPress.  The base WordPress code is designed to be lightweight and avoid code bloat.  Rather than a one-size-fits all solution that adds lots of code you do not need, use WordPress core code and then customize your website’s function through plugins.  This allows you to have the functionality you want your website to offer, such as a slideshow, photo gallery or a contact form without a lot of unnecessary bloat to slow your site down.

What is a Plugin?

Written in the programming language PHP, plugins work with WordPress code.   They often have other assets such as images and may incorporate other coding languages.  Using them allows you to increase your website features without needing to write code on your own.  You can use free or paid/premium plugins through the WordPress repository or other online resources.  Be careful where you get your plugin so that you can be sure it helps rather than hurts your site with unwanted malicious code.

Where to Find a Plugin?

WordPress offers a repository of plugins that are vetted by WordPress core developers.  At this writing, there are 51,937 plugins in the repository.

So, Where Do You Start?

Well, decide what feature you want to add to your site.  Is it a slideshow or a contact form?  Use the search feature provided in the repository to narrow down the results.  Looking up slideshow left me with 71 pages of plugins to chose from.  Don’t despair if you get this many results back.  Here are some things to think about before making your choice:

  • Has the plugin been tested with the most current version of WordPress?  Not sure?  Check this link to find out the current version off WordPress.
    • As of this writing, WordPress is at version 4.8.1.  If you are looking at a plugin that was tested with WordPress 2.5, it’s probably not going to be as stable with the current code as you’d like it to be.
    • Developers that are keeping up-to-date with the WordPress core code are more likely to be maintaining their plugins, making them safer and more reliable to use.
  • How many active installs?
    • Each plugin tells you how many installs are active on websites.  Some will have a few hundred, few thousand, hundred thousand, or a million or more.  The numbers are rounded:
      • 30+ active installs
      • 50,000+ active installs
      • 700,000+ active installs
  • What kind of reviews and how many?
    • A plugin with 4 stars and 1,952 reviews v. a plugin with 5 stars and 3 reviews.  Read the reviews.
  • Support
    • While on the plugin repository, pick a plugin and then click the support tab.  Has the developer answered the questions?

Still not sure?  See if WP Beginner or another, similar, site has any reviews before you decide.