WordPress Plugins Explained

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

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WordPress Plugins - Improve Your Website's Features And FunctionalityOne of the main advantages of building a digital business presence with WordPress is the ability to easily enhance your WP web site’s functionality using applications called plugins.

About WP Plugins

No doubt, you probably own a device like a mobile phone. What happens when you want to access something new on your device like a new application, software or tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a piece of software that is very easy to install and immediately integrates new features into your mobile device.

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps for mobile devices …)

A plugin is quite similar to an app. You simply install an application that provides new functionality to your web site …

A Guide To WP Plugins

(… there are also social sharing plugins for WordPress users!)

Generally, if you want to expand the functionality of an already-built web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the new feature or enhancement is, this cost can be fairly significant, particularly if website developers have to create new code or edit templates or install programs that integrate into your existing set up.

This also applies when starting a web site. Businesses tend to invest upfront for components they probably will never need.

To reduce expenses, we suggest using a modular approach to developing your presence online presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get a web presence up and running quickly, then …

2) As new features or functionality become necessary, add new applications with a couple of clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your existing site, giving your web site a completely new and expanded range of features and functionality, and …

3) Cost not a single cent extra to download and install on your web site?

Well, this is precisely what WordPress plugins let you do!

Plugins – Benefits And Advantages

I started this post by comparing WP plugins with ’apps’. Just like some apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little money, the same applies with WP plugins.

In fact, many wonderful plugins can be downloaded to your site at no cost.

WP plugins that you buy are called “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of paying for professional web development services to add the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are typically quite inexpensive.

Also, since WordPress makes its code available to everyone, any person can create, edit and customize any portion of the WordPress code. This has allowed many third-party web development companies to enhance and contribute to the core software application.

  • WP plugins let you get started with a basic website and then expand only as necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add almost endless features to any web site quickly, easily and inexpensively.
  • WP plugins give you virtually unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow business owners to have a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your website with immediate enhancements and features.
  • Some plugins are slightly more advanced and may require some initial configuring.

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

Like WP themes, loads of plugins are made available for WordPress users … often at no cost!

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

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WP plugins that will do almost everything you can imagine.

There are plugins for:

  • User Administration
  • Content Syndication
  • Increasing Web Traffic
  • User Engagement
  • Social Engagement
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Improving Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Analysis Applications
  • Securing Your WordPress Website

You can add features to your WordPress site with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Surveys
  • Display advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single ordering with PayPal buttons, to full scale e-commerce stores with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • 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 pages from English to German)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Cloud storage integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your site
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks on your pages and send you reports
  • Redirect website pages
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide pages from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your posts and pages
  • Import data from non-WP applications
  • Perform bulk content edits
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize visitor comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Insert scripts and script elements into your posts, pages and sidebar menus
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add business location maps
  • Post your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you practically limitless business scalability. If you are planning to build a web site for your business, or your existing website isn’t built with WordPress, then consider using WordPress in the future.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible WP plugins are, let’s take a look at how you can benefit instantly by simply adding a plugin to your site.

For example, if you want to publish private content, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on your page or post inaccessible, or create a full paid membership site with customized login details for users …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, free plugins can be used to improve your website in so many ways. From installing new features that enhance your business, your website visitors’ experience and your ability to analyze visitor metrics …

A Guide To WP Plugins

To extending your business reach and visibility across social sites and search engines …

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced features to your site using inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that automate processes on your site like user feedback and event bookings management …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

And even set up a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to design similar applications for you …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that can let you engage more with your visitors, clients and registered site users …

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the built-in WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with additional exposure).
  • Share your posts with other web visitors on various social sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with other members through online forums or even set up an online community on your domain.
  • Engage with your staff through live web conferencing and chatrooms
  • Call your business from their smart phones when browsing your website
  • Get help via a dedicated customer helpdesk
  • And so much more …

A Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate complex enterprise-level solutions using a WP “front end”. This allows you to manage the content that your visitors will see on your web site, while the third-party application handles the technical areas …

A Guide To WP Plugins

WordPress Plugins – Useful Tips

  • There are lots of great WordPress plugins available. Be careful of overloading your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can begin to affect your site’s resources and site loading times. It can also create more maintenance work for you as a result of potential conflicts and errors.
  • Install only those plugins you really plan to use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these use extra resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with little to no support from the plugin author. When considering paid plugins, make sure you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of our plugin recommendations for more useful information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think carefully before installing it. The WordPress core application changes often and older plugins that have not been updated can create errors.
  • Always upgrade your plugins. Outdated plugins not only can cause conflicts, they could also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

One last thing regarding WordPress plugins:

If there is any feature you need for your web presence, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already created one that will do exactly what you need it to do, and that it will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the price will be reasonable.

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 chance this WordPress plugin does not exist, then one can probably be created for your business for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can significantly enhance the functionality of your web site. See our related posts section to learn about more popular WordPress plugins that we recommend using.

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