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 Blog's CapabilityOne of the most unique advantages of using the WordPress platform is the ability to quickly enhance your WordPress web site’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding Plugins

Like most of us, you most likely use a mobile phone. What happens when you want access to something new on your device like a new application, game or productivity tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

(Just like you can find social sharing apps for smart phones …)

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, if you decide to expand the functionality of your web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancement, the cost can be significant, particularly if website developers have to add new code or edit templates or develop programs that integrate into your existing set up.

This is also applicable to starting a website or business blog. Many business owners sometimes spend up-front on additional bells and whistles they may not need.

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

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get a basic, professional business website up and running quickly, then …

2) As the need for new capabilities and functionality becomes evident, just add new software modules with a few clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your current web site, and give your website or blog a completely new and expanded range of capabilities and functionality, and …

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

Well, that’s exactly what a plugin enables you to do!

Benefits Of Using Plugins

I started this article by comparing WP plugins with ’apps’. In a similar way that some apps are free to download and some apps cost a little money, so do WP plugins.

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

Plugins that cost money are called ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins cost very little.

Also, as WordPress is an Open Source application, anybody can create, modify and customize any part of the code. This has allowed many third-party web developers to enhance and contribute to the core software application.

  • Plugins let you start simply with only a simple web site and add new features and enhancements to your site as necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add almost unlimited features to your online business presence easily, quickly and inexpensively.
  • WP plugins give your web site virtually endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow non-technical website owners to own a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your site new enhancements and features.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced features and may need some initial configuring.

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

Like WordPress themes, tens of thousands of great WordPress plugins are currently available for WordPress users … for FREE!

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find plugins that will do almost everything you need done.

There are plugins for:

  • Website Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Monitoring
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Improving Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Monitoring & Reporting
  • Securing Your

You can enhance your business online presence with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with online shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer feedback forms
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content from English to Italian)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage management
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your site
  • Set up client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect visitors from missing pages to other pages on your site or other websites
  • Monitor what social media users 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. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect page content
  • Import content from different publishing platforms
  • Perform bulk data replacements
  • Fight SPAM
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Inserting code and code elements into your posts, pages and sidebars
  • Add and format tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search listings
  • Add location maps
  • Syndicate your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others
  • Show countdown timers (for scarcity offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you virtually endless business flexibility. If you plan to build a website or blog, or your existing website was not built with WordPress, then consider getting a WordPress site or blog added to your domain, or you could be missing out on some serious features.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let’s take a look at some practical advantages of adding an inexpensive plugin to your site.

For example, if you need 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 personal login details for all users …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to enhance your site in lots of ways. From installing functionality that will enhance your business, your site’s user experience and your ability to review site data …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

To extending your business visibility across a number of social networks and search engines …

A Useful Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also add complex features to your website using inexpensive premium WordPress plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that integrate and automate functionality on your website like user feedback and event registrations management …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And even run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring software developers to build the same applications for you …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will allow you to engage more with web visitors, clients and registered site members …

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • 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 displayed throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site increased exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on bookmarking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online directly with your team members through forums or even set up a private online community on your own site.
  • Engage with members of your team through live chats
  • Dial your business directly from their laptops while browsing your website
  • Open a support ticket
  • And so much more …

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate complex enterprise-level solutions using a WP “front end”. This enables you to control the content that your visitors will see on your web site, while the 3rd-party application handles the technological functions …

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Additional Things To Know About WP Plugins

  • There are lots of great WordPress plugins available. Be careful of overloading your site with too many plugins, as this can inevitably affect your website’s resources and site loading times. It also means more maintenance issues for you resulting from potential conflicts.
  • Install only the plugins that you really need to use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these use server resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with very little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing paid WP plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide on this site for more expert information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two or more years), then think twice before installing it. WordPress updates regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can cause errors.
  • Always keep all plugins up-to-date. Outdated plugin not only can create errors, they could also contain security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most used website publishing solution in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand quickly without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing regarding WordPress plugins:

If there is a functionality you want for your web presence, you can be sure that a plugin already exists that will do just what you want, and that this plugin will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the cost 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 such a WordPress plugin is not available, then it can probably be created for you for a reasonable price.

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of plugins – what plugins are and how they can help expand your blog. See our published posts to learn about more popular WordPress plugins that we recommend using.


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