WordPress Plugins Explained

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

WP Plugins - Improve Your Blog's FunctionalityOne of the most unique benefits of choosing the WordPress web content publishing software is the ability to quickly increase your WP website or blog’s functionality using inexpensive (and often completely free) applications called plugins.

About Plugins

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

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

A WP plugin is similar to an app. You install a little piece of software that adds new functionality to your website …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

Normally, if you need to expand the functionality of an existing website, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancement, this can become quite expensive, especially if website developers need to create new code or modify code or develop scripts to integrate with your existing set up.

This is also applicable when setting up a website or business blog. Business owners will often invest in extra features they may probably never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend using a cost-effective approach to developing your online presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

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

2) As new features and functionality become necessary, just add new applications with a few mouse clicks directly from your dashboard section, to give your site an entirely new range of possibilities, and also …

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

Well, this is just what a WP plugin allows you to do!

WP Plugins – Benefits

Earlier, we compared plugins with ’apps’. In a similar way that many apps are free to download and some apps cost a little money, the same is true with WordPress plugins.

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

Plugins that you purchase are called “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of paying for web development services to add the same functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are generally very inexpensive.

Also, since WordPress makes its source code available to everyone, any web developer can create, rewrite and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has allowed thousands of third-party software development professionals to enhance the core software application.

  • Plugins let you start off with only a basic web site and then add new features and enhancements to your site only as required.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically endless features to your web site easily, quickly and really cheaply.
  • Plugins give your website almost endless expansion capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow ”non-techies” to have a digital presence that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your website with instant new enhancements and features.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more complex and require some initial configuring.

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

Like many themes, thousands of plugins are made available to WordPress users … for FREE!

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

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WP plugins that can do almost everything you can think of.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Site Management
  • Content Distribution
  • Traffic
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Connectivity
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Monitoring & Reporting Tools
  • Optimizing Your WP Site

For example, you can enhance your business online presence with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonial forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content 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.
  • Media integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your blog
  • Set appointments and reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect web pages
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Hide certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your pages and posts
  • Import information from other CMS platforms
  • Perform bulk content edits
  • Prevent SPAM
  • Customize visitor comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Inserting code and script elements into your posts
  • Add and format tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search listings
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Post your posts automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you virtually endless possibilities. If you plan to build a website for your business, or your existing site wasn’t built using WordPress, then consider using it in the future.

In case you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WordPress plugins, let’s take a look at some practical advantages of adding an inexpensive plugin to your site.

For example, if you need to protect your content, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on your page inaccessible, or create a complete membership site with customized login details for all users …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to enhance your web presence in so many different ways. From installing features that can improve your business, your visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is taking place on your site …

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced features to your site using inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can install plugins that integrate and automate features on your pages such as customer testimonial and event registrations management …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also set up a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying web developers to create similar applications for you …

A Non-Technical Guide To WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WP commenting features and plugins that will increase your site’s interactivity …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can easily:

  • Post comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the built-in WP commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on social media.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online directly with other members through forums or even set up a private social network on your site.
  • Engage with your support staff using live webcam conferencing and chatrooms
  • Call your business directly from their smart phones when visiting your pages
  • Open support tickets
  • And much more …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can even integrate complex third-party solutions with a WordPress “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors see on your web site, while the 3rd-party application handles the technological areas …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Useful Information About WP Plugins

  • There are many plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will inevitably affect your website’s performance and page loading speed. It also creates more maintenance issues for you resulting from possible errors.
  • Only keep the plugins you really need. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these also use resources.
  • Many free plugins typically come with very little to no support from the plugin author. When considering paid plugins, we recommend that you check around a little and understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we publish on this site for more helpful information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think carefully before using it on your website. WordPress is updated regularly and out-of-date WP plugins can create problems.
  • Always update your plugins. Older plugins not only can create errors, they could also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most popular content management system available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand quickly without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web developers.

One last thing on the subject of plugins:

Whatever feature or functionality you want for your web presence, you can guarantee that a WP plugin probably exists that will do exactly what you need, and that this plugin 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 any chance such a WordPress plugin does not exist, then one can certainly be coded for you at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can to improve your website. See our published posts to learn about more popular 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)