It’s a lazy Wednesday afternoon, and while you’re making some research to fixing some issue yourself, or looking at your competitors, you stumble upon a website that grabs your attention. It could be also the case for that smooth pop-up animation coming up, or that specific subscription form right after the blog post for example.
Anything that might appeal to your taste and needs falls here.
In that precise moment, you ask yourself: “What WordPress theme is that? And what plugins are they using here?”, I bet this sounds like something you’ve said in your life, at least once. We all did, human beings are curious creatures.
Today it’s time to finally get an answer here, it’s about time: how do you find out what WordPress theme is a target website using? How about its plugins: what are those running under the hood?
Well, here’s how! Plus I tested some of the well-known tools and Chrome extensions to gather such info: keep reading and you’ll find out my take on them.
Remember that the following tips only work for ready-made themes and off-the-shelf plugins. Any custom design and custom developed plugins might fall out the scope of your research.
How to identify what WordPress theme a website is running by checking the source code
If you wish to know what WordPress theme is a given website using, checking the source code is the best way to find it out. Here are all the needed steps you should take to accomplish that:
+ Visit the desired website with your browser
+ Right-click anywhere on the page and select “Inspect” to get the specific source code of that page
+ Look for the CSS file, usually called style.css and normally located in /wp-content/themes folder. To do it easily: just click cmd + F on Mac or ctrl+F on Windows and type “style.css”
+ Double click and copy the whole link in which the style.css is located in a new tab/window on your browser (see the image above)
+ You should now be on the style file with the name of WordPress theme right at the top, like this:
It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a coder, a developer or a web designer. The important thing here to understand is to locate the style.css file and find its URL via the source code view, so you’re able to get to know its name and do some research on Google.
How to find what WordPress plugins a website is using by checking the source code
When it comes to finding out what WordPress plugins is a site using there’s no much difference, it’s just a little harder and in some cases you won’t be able to list all the plugins that are running in a quick way. When looking for plugins a given WordPress website is using, you need to shoot the source code view up again and take one of the following actions (at least):
Via the “Sources” tab in your browser
How to do that:
- Navigate to the Sources tab to get the structure of the target website
- Click the arrow next to the wp-content folder
- If that’s the case, click the arrow next to plugins folder
Look for Class name and IDs with specific elements
How to do that:
- Just right-click on a single element of the page you like, for example, a nice opt-in form (like the example here)
- Look for ID= or Class= and take notes about what’s coming after either of them
- Google those occurrences to find out the plugin that is enabling that neat feature
Via HTML comments
How to do that:
With the source view enabled, look for the green lines of code, i.e. HTML comments, and you’ll likely find the plugin name without googling anything.
Third-party websites to automatically list WordPress themes and plugins on a target website
I know HTML code could look scary to many and let them feel they’re in the Matrix (btw we all are). Even if the above tips would work with people just executing on them without the need for them to acknowledge what they’re actually doing, there are tools that might come in handy here.
Yes, instead of looking up the code, there are several online tools build to “sniff out” what theme is that and also what plugins are running behind it, together with some useful information about a target website.
Please consider that detected plugins are related to the specific URL of your scanning. Also, some of them will hardly show up with these tools, like those affecting your admin for example.
Comparing the 5 most used online tools to find out automatically what WordPress theme and plugins a website is running
Here are the 5 most used automatic tools to gather information about the desired website. They’re easy to use, you just paste the URL into their search bar:
4. What Theme
6. Noteworthy: BuiltWith
How automated tools’ results stack up one another?
I run some tests with 4 different websites just to have some variety: I picked two websites about WordPress news and tutorials, one from a well-known and respected WordPress entrepreneur like Chris Lema (btw, you know Chris is one of our ambassador? Check what he says about us and one from a tool we love here at Codeable, namely Trello.
Also, I’d like to point out I tested a single blog post page rather than their homepage with each of the selected websites on all of the tools here covered.
Based on my tests, the main differences here have to do with how quickly the results are shown to the user, being the number of detected plugins pretty close one another. Here’s a spreadsheet with the results.
If I’d ever need to pick a winning solution for those looking to gather the more info in the fastest way, it’d sure be a combo of two because they both seem to provide consistent results plus they provide some others besides that might be even “juicier”. Thus…
The winning solution with automated tools: WP Theme Detector + BuiltWith
But such online tools aren’t the only ones used to gather information about themes and plugins. There are also some Chrome extensions that pop up when you do some research, and I tried the three most used ones. See how they did.
3 well-known Chrome extensions to find out what WordPress themes and installed plugins a website is running
This extension simply doesn’t work and can’t get you anything useful back. Plus this recent review perfectly makes the point:
My comment: No bueno.
This extension was supposed to gather and show information about the theme and hosting provider used by the target WordPress website, but it didn’t show any of the hosting info for any of my test samples.
My comment: ¿Qué pasa?
When trying this extension, I was able to get all the plugins only from one website, specifically from WP Tavern, so it didn’t stand out. Plus, reading at some comments online looks like it’s no longer supported.
My comment: ¡Ay, ¡Ay, ¡Ay
So if you’re into Chrome extensions and think one of these might come in handy, just please read my winning solution first. Here it goes:
The winning solution about Chrome extensions: None! Stay away from browser extensions, at least for the time being.
Can I hide the fact that my website runs on WordPress and all plugins I use?
Before answering that question, let’s just think about why you’d want to do that: is it because you think this way nobody, mostly hackers, wouldn’t be able to detect your website is WordPress-based? If that’s the case, just understand that “Security from obscurity” isn’t the best option for improving your security.
Also, please consider that you won’t be able to hide all these information unless you literally spend a lot of time rewriting a gazillion lines of code, or hire some (crazy) developer to do that for you. Anyway if you’re still interested in hiding information and details about the fact that your website is running on WordPress, you should give a premium plugin called Hide My WP a try.
Wrapping things up
Before someone goes berserk on me, let me just point out that automated tools aren’t the best way to find out about a theme or plugins for a target website. Yet they find a use case among some users. With a fast adoption rate like WordPress is living, such tools focused and built for people who don’t have any knowledge about code whatsoever are silently and quickly earning more attention than we’d think. And this proves automated tools aren’t completely useless. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Many WordPress users who are either getting their first steps with this CMS, or are non-tech entrepreneurs, they all have better ways to gather and get acquainted with data that otherwise would have been unknown, improving their knowledge around WordPress and, in some case, enabling them to move forward with their business.