Have you ever been browsing a website or blog and thought to yourself, “that’s a cool feature, I wonder how they’re doing it”? Well, if the site is running WordPress, then there is a decent chance that we can: (1) identify the plugin; and (2) install it ourselves. How? Read on…
Is the Website Running on WordPress?
The first thing that we need to work out is whether the site is running WordPress or not. If it is then we can try to identify the plugin they are using. If not, then there’s no point continuing, because they are either using something custom (like what Facebook does) or another CMS (like Drupal or Joomla).
To discover if a site is running WordPress or not all you need to do is check the source code and look for the standard WordPress code that is always included. This means checking if the stylesheets (.css) files are called out of a sub-folder of the /wp-content/themes/ folder. Just note that you need to do this on desktop as it’s not possible on mobile (well, it is, but’s is very complicated).
Viewing the source code may sound tricky, but all you need to do is go “View” –> “Developer” –> “View Source” in your Google Chrome browser (or whatever you use). Do that, and you’ll be presented with a screen with a whole lot of code, something like that below.
Now hit CTRL+F to search the text of the page, and look for “wp-content” without the quotes. If you find some matching text, then the site is running on WordPress and we can proceed to the next step!
So, we know that the website is running WordPress, how do we identify the plugin they are using? For this, we will use a tool called “Inspect Element” that let’s you see the source code (similar to that above) for the specific element we are clicking on. In this case, it will be the plugin/feature we want to know more about.
Take a look at Hostt’s homepage, which describes the best hosting and setup for a beginner WordPress blog. If you like the table of contents feature that is displayed and wanted to know if you could set something similar up for your blog, just right click in the table of contents itself and click ‘Inspect’. You’ll get a screen pop up like that below.
You can see that some code has been highlighted. We are most interested in the parts that say either “id” or “class” and what the words that follow them are, in quotation marks. We are also looking for any similar patterns of repeating text, or ones that sound like the name of the plugin or are related to the function that it is performing.
To take the example above, we can see that “ez-toc-title” seems to be repeated a lot. It’s shown in at least four places. “ez” could be short for “Easy” and “toc” is an abbreviation for “table of contents”… sounds promising!
So let’s take that text and run a search with Google – “ez-toc wordpress”. Do that, and you’d get the results below. They tell you that the table of contents plugin I am using is Easy Table of Contents.
I have since stopped using the plugin mentioned below, however the lesson and methodology remains the same to find any WordPress plugin that another site is using.
Let’s do another example from this exact post that you’re reading. Near the top of the page you will see some code highlighted (my example of source code). What if you wanted that same effect for your site? Let’s run through the same process. Right click –> Inspect –> look for repeating/interesting words.
This one is a bit harder since there is not any immediately obvious repeating words that stand out. However scroll up a bit and you see “syntaxhighlighter xml”. That could be related to the plugin name, could it not? So let’s type that into Google…
“syntaxhighlighter xml” didn’t throw up anything useful, but as you can see above, “syntaxhighlighter wordpress” does. The top result is indeed the plugin I am using to highlight code like that – SyntaxHighlighter Evolved.
Once you’ve identified the plugin as above, all that’s left to do is install and configure it, and get the plugin up and running on your website. Sometimes the plugin will be freely available on wordpress.org, other times it might be paid-for. Free ones are easier to find using this method, but you still might be able to identify some paid ones and purchase them if you want to.