WordPress Plugins Explained

This tutorial explains what WordPress plugins are, how plugins work and how plugins help WordPress users extend their website’s functionality. 

Adding New Features And Functionality To Your Blog With WordPress PluginsOne of the most powerful benefits of choosing the WordPress software is that you can easily enhance your WP website or blog’s functionality using applications called plugins.

What Are Plugins?

Like most of us, you probably own a device like a mobile phone. What happens when you would like to access something new on your phone like a new game or business productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a software that is easy to install and instantly adds new functionality to a smart phone.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just as there are social sharing apps …)

A WP plugin is similar to an app. You simply download and install an application that adds new functionality to your website or blog …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(… you can also find social sharing plugins for WP!)

Generally, if you want to add new features to an already-built site, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, things can become quite expensive, especially if web developers have to add new code or edit code or install programs that integrate into your current site.

This also applies when creating a website. Businesses sometimes invest money on added components they probably will never need.

To save money and keep expenses low, we recommend a modular strategy to setting up a digital presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and with minimal expense involved. Get your web site up and running fast, then …

2) As you need more features and functionality, just install new applications with a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from within your WP admin area, to give your website an entirely new range of useful features, and also …

3) Cost not one cent more to add to your site?

Well, this is exactly what a plugin lets you do!

Plugins – Benefits And Advantages

We started this article by comparing WP plugins with smartphone apps. In a similar way that some apps are free to download and some apps cost a little bit of money, so do plugins.

In fact, loads of fantastic plugins are freely available for WordPress users.

WP plugins that you purchase are referred to as “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the price of hiring a professional web developer to add similar functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins cost very little.

Also, because WordPress is an Open Source application, any person can create, rewrite and customize any part of the code. This has enabled thousands of third-party web development companies to create more new tools that “plug into” the WordPress software than you can imagine.

  • WP plugins let you get started simply with only a basic site and expand only as required.
  • WordPress plugins allow you to add almost unlimited functionality to your site quickly, easily and quite inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give you practically unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow business owners to own a website that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your site with instant new enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins provide more extensive options and may require some initial configuration.

WP Plugins – Powerful, Flexible … And (Many Of Them Are) Completely FREE!

Just like WP themes, loads of WordPress plugins are made available to WP users … and many of these great plugins are 100% FREE!

You can access thousands of WordPress plugins from the Free WordPress Plugin Repository

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WordPress plugins that will do just about anything you want done.

There are WordPress plugins for:

  • Blog Administration
  • Content Distribution
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Media
  • Media Management Automation
  • Increasing Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Analysis Tools
  • WordPress Security

For example, you can add features to a WordPress site with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • User Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonial forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your site from English to Italian)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your site
  • Set up appointments and appointment reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide post content
  • Migrate information from non-WordPress applications
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Fight SPAM
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Insert HTML and script elements into your pages
  • Add and format tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google local search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Post your content automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and many others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you endless business flexibility. If you plan to build a website, or your existing website isn’t built with WordPress, then consider using it in the future.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let me show you some practical advantages of installing a plugin on your site.

For example, if you need to protect your content, you can use plugins to make an area of a post or page inaccessible, or create a full paid membership site with separate login details for every member …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to improve your web presence in so many different ways. From adding new features that enhance your business, your visitors’ experience and your ability to analyze site data …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

To extending your site’s reach across social sites and search engines …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can install plugins that integrate and automate features on your site such as user feedback and event registration management …

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

And even set up a complete bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying programmers to create the same applications for you …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WP commenting features and plugins that can allow you to engage even more with visitors, customers and registered site users …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other online visitors on various social sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with your team members via forums or even set up an online community on your domain.
  • Engage with your support staff through live video chats
  • Call your business from their devices when visiting your site
  • Open support tickets
  • And so much more …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate sophisticated “back end” solutions within a WordPress “front end”. This allows you to manage the content that your visitors see on your website, while your third-party application handles the technological aspects …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Useful Information About WP Plugins

  • There are loads of WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can invariably affect your site’s resources and site loading times. It can also mean more maintenance issues for you resulting from possible errors.
  • Install only those plugins you really use. Delete all unnecessary plugins from your site, as these also use server resources.
  • Many free plugins often receive very little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing paid plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we provide here for additional helpful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two or more years), then think carefully before installing it. WordPress updates regularly and out-of-date WordPress plugins can cause conflicts.
  • Always keep your plugins up-to-date. Outdated plugins not only can cause problems, they could also contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Useful Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an important part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most powerful, flexible and scalable content management system in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand without having to spend thousands of dollars on web development costs.

One last thing regarding plugins:

Whatever feature or functionality you want for your website, you can be sure that a WordPress plugin currently exists that will do what you need, and that it can either be accessed at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be fairly affordable.

Whatever you need done, there's a WordPress plugin for that!

(Whatever you need done, there’s a WordPress plugin for that!)

And, if by any chance such a plugin does not exist, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you would like it to do can most certainly be created for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of WordPress plugins – what plugins are and how they can enhance the functionality of your website. See our published posts to learn more about using WP plugins.

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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