A feedback from one of my customers have prompted this article in WordPress Guide Series – Installing Plugins and Themes. The more we work with technology and get accustomed to the way thing work we stop realizing that many people come to WordPress without the knowledge we take for granted!

Installing Plugins and New Themes on your WordPress blog is one of the tasks that is considered the very basic and yet – concept is absolutely alien to many. This post will close the gap and cover in details everything you need to know about the process and ensure that you will not be left behind… so dig in!

Installing Plugins

Installing plugins generally is a very simple and straight forward process as long as you understand 2 things. What folder or files need to be placed on your server and Where on the server they need to go.

And while second part is consistent – first can introduce some issues. But lets not run ahead of the story Wink . Have a look at image below:


Couple things about image above:

  1. Number 1. This is the general location of the plugins in your WordPress blog. It will always be in /path_to/blog/wp-content/plugins/
  2. Number 2. This one represents 2 different type of plugins you will be installing – a single file placed directly into /plugins/ directory and a folder that contains plugin and also placed inside the /plugins/ directory.

Normally plugins developers simply zip the plugin directory that need to be placed on your server. But that is only normally, which in turn creates most common problem – you try to install plugin and it is not even detected in admin!

And to show you an example of what I describe above I use an older version of Share This plugin. Because author used to provide a bit more then just the plugin, file included a sub-folder share-this (I have arrow pointing to it in image) which had to be placed onto your server for plugin to work.


Most common issue I seen with plugin installation is placing the parent folder onto server. That is why I always recommend to read the README.txt, which you will ALWAYS find included!

Making Plugin Work

Most of the time plugin will begin to function right after activation or sometimes some small configuration in Settings. But some plugins require that you manually add some code to the theme files in location where you want the plugin to appear.

One critical thing you HAVE to know and one I got caught in before myself. When adding the code ALWAYS use “if function exists” option. Here is an example:

<?php if(function_exists(‘the_ratings’)) { the_ratings(); } ?>

That statement above will ensure that if plugin got deactivated – you blog will still continue to function without any errors. And even if author didn’t provide you with appropriate correct code – you can always make one. For example, if we had function:

<?php the_ratings(); ?>

I bolded the function You Will Need to turn it into a correct statement. Simply compare it to the code provided earlier and you will see what I mean.

Installing WordPress Themes

This one actually doesn’t require much explanations. You simply download the theme file, unzip it to your local drive and then upload it to your blog themes folder. See image below:


Image above has 2 points:

  1. Path to the theme. This one is fairly constant and the only thing will change is the path to the blog. In example above it is a Dev blog on one of my domains.
  2. Themes folders. What you see are a few themes on my server that I have already uploaded and they are ready for activation and usage.

Alternative Option For Plugins And Theme Installation

You would think with process being as simple as it is already I would have nothing to complain about, right? Wrong!

I like simplification and while I don’t mind using FTP, sometimes I need an ability to quickly upload a theme or plugin and tests them. Or perhaps simplify the process of installation on production blogs.

And for that I would like to share one plugin that has proven to be great time saver for me:

  • OneClick Installer for WordPress – It is very simple in functionality and allow you to install plugin or a theme from blog admin interface without the need for ftp. You can also delete previously uploaded files or folders.

Update: above no longer needed as one click install is part of standard WordPress install.

With that been said I conclude the guide and hope that process of Installing WordPress Plugins and Themes became less of a hustle.