In this lesson, we are going to walk through the basics of WordPress plugins and have you install a simple Contact Form plugin so you understand how they work. If you haven't configured the general settings for WordPress, be sure to check out our page on WordPress General Settings.
A plugin is a separate piece of software that you can add-on to the base installation of WordPress to give it special features. They are similar to apps on your phone. You buy an iPhone with just the software from Apple and you download (for free or $$) extra functionality to make your life easier.
Plugins can be written by anyone. Since WordPress is so widely used people have created plugins for just about everything. This is great because you can add features to your website without having to know a single thing about website development or programming.
The most common types of plugins are related to adding special pages (like contact forms), adding security features, adding eCommerce (online store) support, or adding Drag & Drop editing capability to pages and posts.
The plugin browser is built right into WordPress. From your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins -> Add New and you will see the most popular plugins and a search bar to search for more.For each plugin, you will be able to see the reviews from other users, the number of active installations (how many other people have installed this plugin) and the last time it was updated.
Since plugins are so easy to make (and most of them are free) it is important to have some caution when adding new plugins to your blog. Answer a few questions before downloading and installing:
It is also important to understand that since most of the plugins are free they probably don’t come with technical support. So, it is always safer to use plugins that have a high number of reviews or have a lot of active installations. If other people are using them successfully, it will be easier to get information and help.
This is going to vary with each plugin. The best way to find the options or configuration for it are to take a look at the screenshots tab of the plugin information:
The pictures in this tab will usually show you how to access a plugin.
For the 'Contact Form 7' plugin, the picture shows us that a new menu item has been added to the sidebar called ‘Contact’. After the plugin is installed, we can go to the new menu item to see the configuration options.
As you go through this course, we will install plugins that are relevant to the module or lesson you are on. For now, we will install the Contact Form plugin so you can see how the process works.
1. Go to ‘Plugins’ -> Add New
2. Search for ‘Contact Form 7’
3. Click ‘Install Now’
4. Click ‘Activate’
5. On the left sidebar go to ‘Contact’
6. Get shortcode
What is a shortcode? It is a hotkey that WordPress can use to insert content. Think of them like abbreviations. When WordPress sees a page or post with this shortcode it will replace it with a contact form.
7. Go to Page -> ‘New’ to create a blank page for our 'Contact' page.
8. Title the new page 'Contact' and insert the shortcode in the body of the page.
9. Click 'Publish' and your new contact page will be live.