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 Enhance Your Site's FeaturesOne of the most powerful benefits of WordPress is that you can quickly and easily increase your WordPress website or blog’s functionality using inexpensive (even 100% free) software called plugins.

What Are WP Plugins?

No doubt, you most likely have a mobile phone. What happens when you would like to access something new on your phone like a new software or a new productivity tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a software that is easy to install and integrates new features and functionality into your smart device.

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

A WP plugin is similar to an app. You simply download and install a software application that adds new functionality to your site …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

Generally, if you plan to expand the functionality of an existing web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the feature or enhancements, things could become quite expensive, especially if website developers have to add new code or edit templates or develop scripts that integrate into your current site.

This also applies when starting a web site. Businesses sometimes invest upfront in extra bells and whistles they probably will never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we recommend using a sustainable approach when developing your online presence presence and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

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

2) As the need becomes evident, add new applications with just a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from your WordPress administration panel, and give your website a completely new range of practical capabilities, and also …

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

Well, this is just what WP plugins allow you to do!

WP Plugins – Benefits And Advantages

Earlier, we compared WordPress plugins with mobile apps. In a similar way that some apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little money, so do plugins.

In fact, thousands of wonderful plugins are freely available for users.

WP plugins that cost money are called ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when you compare it to the price of hiring a professional web developer to get the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are priced quite low.

Also, because WordPress makes its source code publicly available, any web developer can create, rewrite and customize any part of the code. This has allowed many professional web developers to enhance and contribute to the WPsoftware.

  • Plugins let you start simply with a basic web site and then expand when necessary.
  • Plugins let you add practically endless functionality to any web presence quickly, easily and inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give you almost endless expanding capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow ”non-techies” to own a website that they can manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your site with instant new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins are slightly more complex and may require some configuration.

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

Like many WordPress themes, tens of thousands of plugins are made available to WP users … often at no cost!

You can view and download thousands of plugins from the Free WordPress Plugin Repository

A Guide To WP Plugins

As previously mentioned, you can find WP plugins that can do just about anything you could imagine.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Blog Administration
  • Content Distribution
  • Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Monitoring
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Reporting Applications
  • Optimizing Your

You can expand a business online presence with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • User Surveys
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer feedback forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your site from English to Portuguese)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your website
  • Set appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect affiliate links
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide specific from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content sections
  • Import information from different CMS applications
  • Search and replace data
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting code and script elements into your posts and pages
  • Add and format tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search results
  • Add business location maps
  • Post your posts automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and many others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you endless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website for your business, or your existing site was not built using WordPress, then consider choosing it in the future.

If you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WordPress plugins, let me show you some practical uses of installing a plugin on your website.

For example, if you want to publish content which is only accessible to some users, you can install plugins to make an area of a post or page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full membership site with customized login details for all users …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex features to your website using relatively inexpensive premium WP plugins. For example, you can install plugins that integrate and automate functionality on your website such as displaying customer testimonials and event bookings …

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

And even run a custom bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying programmers to code custom functionality for you …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will let you engage better with visitors, clients and registered site members …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with added exposure).
  • Share your content with other web visitors on social networking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online directly with other online users through online forums or even set up a private community on your domain.
  • Engage with members of your team using live chats
  • Call your business from their smart phones when visiting your site
  • Get support via a dedicated user support helpdesk
  • And so much more …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate sophisticated enterprise applications with a WordPress “front end”. This allows you to manage the content that your visitors see on your web site, while your 3rd-party application handles the technical aspects …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Additional Tips About Plugins

  • There are lots of awesome plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will begin to affect your site’s resources and page loading times. It can also mean more maintenance work for you as a result of potential conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep those plugins you really use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these utilize additional server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive very little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium plugins, ensure that you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we provide on this site for more information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two or more years), then think twice before using it. The WordPress platform changes often and older plugins that have not been updated can cause issues.
  • Always keep your plugins up-to-date. Outdated plugins not only can cause problems, they may also contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important component of WordPress and contribute to making it the most preferred content management system in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to add instant functionality to their web presence without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing regarding WordPress plugins:

If there is any feature you need for your web presence, you can guarantee that a WordPress plugin already exists that will do exactly what you need, and that it can either be accessed for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the price will be minimal.

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 such a plugin does not exist, then a custom plugin that does just what you would like it to do can probably be coded for your business for a reasonable price.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of WordPress plugins – what plugins are and how they can enhance the functionality of your web site. See our published posts to learn more about using WP plugins.


"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)