WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Add New Functionality To Your WordPress Blog With PluginsOne of the main features of WordPress is the ability to quickly enhance your WordPress web site’s functionality using inexpensive (even free) software called plugins.

What Are Plugins?

Like most people, you most likely own a mobile phone. What do you do when you want to access something new on your device like a new software or a new productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software application that is simple and easy to install and integrates new features into any mobile device.

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

A WP plugin is very much like an app. You install a little piece of software that provides new functionality to your WP website …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

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

Normally, expanding the functionality of an existing website involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, this cost can be significant, especially if website developers have to create new code or edit templates or install scripts to integrate into your existing set up.

This also applies when setting up a website or business blog. Business owners sometimes invest money in features they probably will never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend using a modular approach to developing a website and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine if you could:

1) Start simply and with minimal expense involved. Get a professional-looking website up and running quickly, then …

2) As the need arises, install new applications with only a couple of clicks of the mouse that integrate with your site, giving your site a whole new range of possibilities, and also …

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

Well, this is precisely what a plugin enables you to do!

Benefits Of Plugins

We began this blog post by comparing plugins with mobile apps. Just like some apps are free to download and some apps cost a little bit of money, the same applies with plugins.

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

Plugins that cost money are referred to as “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of paying for professional web development services to get the same functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite low.

Also, since WordPress is an Open Source application, anyone can create, edit and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has enabled thousands of professional web developers to create more new plugins that “plug into” WordPress than you can imagine.

  • WP plugins allow you to start off with a simple site and expand as required.
  • Plugins let you add practically unlimited features to your website easily and cheaply.
  • Plugins give your site virtually unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow non-technical website owners to have a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your site with new enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more advanced and may require some initial configuration.

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

Like themes, thousands of great WP plugins are made available for WordPress users … and many of these great plugins are 100% FREE!

You can download thousands of plugins from the Free WP Plugin Directory

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As previously mentioned, you will find plugins that will do almost everything you could possibly need a site to do.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Web Site Management
  • Content Distribution
  • Traffic
  • User Engagement
  • Social Sharing
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Monitoring & Reporting Applications
  • Securing Your

For example, you can enhance a WordPress site with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Social contests
  • Rotating advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your website 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.
  • Cloud storage integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your site
  • Set up appointments and reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and send you reports
  • Redirect visitors from old pages to other areas on your site or other websites
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude specific from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your pages and posts
  • Import data from other publishing platforms
  • Search and replace data
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook discussions)
  • Insert HTML and code elements into your posts, pages and sidebars
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Syndicate your content automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and many others
  • Show countdown timers (for scarcity offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you practically limitless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website, or your existing site was not built with WordPress, then consider getting a WP site or blog built on your domain, or you will be missing out on some serious functionality.

In case you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WordPress plugins, let me show you how you can benefit by adding an inexpensive plugin to your site.

For example, if you need to publish private content, you can use plugins to make a section of a page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full paid membership site with separate login details for users …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to improve your website in so many different ways. From installing features that improve your business, your website visitors’ experience and your ability to review visitor metrics …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that integrate and automate tasks on your website like customer feedback and event bookings management …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And even set up a custom-branded bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring web developers to code similar functionality for you …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WP commenting features and plugins that will let you engage even more with your visitors, clients and registered site users …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Post comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with added exposure).
  • Share your posts with other online visitors on social networks.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with your staff through forums or even set up a private social network on your own site.
  • Engage with your support staff via live chats
  • Dial your business from their mobile phones when browsing your website
  • Get help via a dedicated client helpdesk
  • And so much more …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate sophisticated third-party applications using a WP “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors will see on your website, while your 3rd-party application handles the technical functions …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Useful Information About WordPress Plugins

  • There are so many plugins available. Be careful not to overload your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can begin to affect your site’s performance and page loading speed. It also means more maintenance issues for you as a result of potential errors.
  • Install only the plugins that you really need. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these use resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with very little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid plugins, we recommend that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of our WordPress plugin reviews for more helpful information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before using it on your website or blog. The WordPress core software is updated regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can cause conflicts.
  • Always keep all plugins up-to-date. Older plugin not only can cause errors and conflicts, they could also have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an important component of WordPress and contribute to making it the most downloaded content management system available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add instant functionality to their website without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web developers.

One last thing about plugins:

If there is a feature you want for your web presence, you can guarantee that a WordPress plugin probably exists that will do exactly what you need it to do, and that it can either be accessed for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be surprisingly inexpensive.

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 this plugin does not exist, then it can most certainly be developed for you at a reasonable cost.

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

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