WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Using WP Plugins To Expand Your Site's FunctionalityOne of the most unique advantages of building a website using WordPress is that you can quickly and easily increase your WordPress website’s functionality using inexpensive (and often completely free) applications called ’plugins’.

What Are Plugins?

No doubt, you most likely own a device like a smart phone. What happens when you would like access to something new on your phone like a new software or a new business tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a little piece of software that is simple and easy to install and adds new functionality to any smart phone.

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

A plugin is very similar to an app. You install and activate a software application that adds new functionality to your web site …

A Non-Technical Guide To WP Plugins

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

Normally, adding new features to your site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, this cost can be significant, especially if it involves website development.

This also applies to developing a website. Business owners sometimes pay for features they may simply not need.

To avoid unnecessary costs, we suggest using a modular approach when setting up a online presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply with minimal cost involved. Get your website up and running fast, then …

2) As the need arises, install new software modules with a couple of mouse clicks that integrate seamlessly with your website, and give your website or blog a completely new range of features and functionality, and also …

3) Cost not a single dollar more to install on your website?

Well, that’s just what plugins let you do!

Plugins – Benefits

I started this blog post by comparing WordPress plugins with mobile apps. In a similar way that many apps are free to download and some cost a little bit of money, so do plugins.

In fact, loads of great plugins are available at no cost to users.

WP plugins that you purchase are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of paying for web development services to get the same functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite cheaply.

Also, as WordPress makes its code publicly available, anybody can create, rewrite and customize any part of the WP code. This has enabled many professional web developers to enhance the WPsoftware.

  • WordPress plugins allow you to get started with a basic website and add new features and enhancements to your site when necessary.
  • Plugins allow you to add almost endless features to your online business presence easily, quickly and cheaply.
  • Plugins give your digital business presence virtually endless expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow business owners to have a website that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your web site with immediate capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins are slightly more complex and could require some configuring.

WordPress Plugins – Powerful, Flexible … And (Often) 100% FREE!

Like themes, loads of WordPress plugins are available for WordPress users … for FREE!

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WordPress plugins that can do just about anything you can imagine.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Website Management
  • Content Management
  • Driving Site Traffic
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Engagement
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Increasing Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting
  • Optimizing Your WP Blog

For example, you can enhance a WP site with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Social contests
  • Rotating banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content from English to Norwegian)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your blog
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude certain from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content
  • Migrate data from non-WordPress applications
  • Search and replace content
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize visitor comment displays (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting HTML and script elements into your content
  • Add and format tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search
  • Add a map
  • Publicize your content automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you virtually limitless business scalability. If you plan to build a website, or your existing site was not built using WordPress, then consider getting one in the future, or you could be missing out on some serious functionality.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible WordPress plugins are, let me show you how you can benefit by installing an inexpensive plugin on your website.

For example, if you want to publish private content, you can install plugins to make an area of your post or page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full membership site with separate login details for every member …

A Non-Technical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex features to your website using inexpensive premium WP plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that automate features on your website such as user testimonial and event bookings management …

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will increase user engagement …

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can turn into online discussions) using either the built-in WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other web users on social networks.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online directly with other users via forums or even set up a private online social network on your domain.
  • Engage with your support team via live chats
  • Call your business directly from their smart phones when visiting your pages
  • Get help and support via a customer help desk
  • And much more …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate complex enterprise applications using a WP “front end”. This lets you manage your business marketing, while the third-party application handles the technological functions …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Some Useful Tips About Plugins

  • There are so many plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your site with too many plugins, as this can affect your site’s resources and site loading speed. It also means more maintenance issues for you as a result of possible conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep those plugins you really need. Delete any plugins you don’t need from your site, as these utilize resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing paid plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we publish on this site for additional helpful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before installing it. The WordPress application updates frequently and older plugins that have not been updated can cause errors.
  • Make sure to always update your plugins to the most recent version. Older plugin not only can create problems, they may also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important feature of WordPress and contribute to making it the most downloaded CMS available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to add new functionality to their website without spending thousands of dollars on web development costs.

One last thing about WP plugins:

Whatever feature or functionality you need for your website, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already authored one that will do just what you want, and that this plugin can either be accessed for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be reasonably 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 chance this plugin has not been created yet, then a custom plugin that does just what you want it to do can probably be created for you at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of plugins – what plugins are and how they can significantly to improve your website. See our published posts to learn about more useful WP plugins that we recommend using.


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)