WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Adding New Features And Functionality To Your Site With PluginsOne of the main advantages of building a website using WordPress is the ability to quickly and easily increase your WP site’s functionality using plugins.

About Plugins

Like most of us, you probably own a device like a cell phone. What happens when you would like to access something new on your phone like a new game or a business tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a software application that is simple and easy to install and instantly integrates new features and functionality into any smart phone.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just as you can find social sharing apps for mobile phones …)

A plugin is very much like an app. You simply install and activate a software that adds new functionality to your website or blog …

A Guide To 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 how complex the feature or enhancement is, the cost can be significant, especially if it involves modifying code.

This also applies to developing a new website or business blog. Businesses often pay up front for bells and whistles they probably will never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we suggest considering a cost-effective strategy when developing a website and WP plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As the need for new capabilities or functionality arises, add new applications with a few clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your web site, to give your site an entirely new and expanded range of practical capabilities, and also …

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

Well, this is exactly what a WP plugin lets you do!

Benefits & Advantages Of WordPress Plugins

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

In fact, loads of great plugins can be downloaded to your site at no cost.

WordPress plugins that you purchase are referred to as “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of paying for web development services to get similar functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. ”paid”) plugins are typically very inexpensive.

Also, because WordPress is an Open Source application, any web developer can create, modify and customize any portion of the WordPress code. This has enabled thousands of professional software development professionals to enhance the core software application.

  • Plugins let you get started simply with just a simple site and add new features and enhancements to your site as necessary.
  • Plugins let you add almost endless functionality to any website quickly, easily and inexpensively.
  • Plugins give your website almost endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow ”non-techies” to have a site that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your website or blog with instant new capabilities and enhancements.
  • Some plugins are slightly more advanced and require some configuration.

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

Like WP themes, loads of great plugins are currently available to WP users … often at $0 cost!

You can access thousands of WordPress plugins from the Free WP Plugin Repository

A Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WP plugins that can do just about anything you need a web site to do.

There are WordPress plugins for:

  • Site Administration
  • Content Syndication
  • Driving Web Traffic
  • User Engagement
  • Social Monitoring
  • Media Management Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Monitoring & Reporting
  • Web Site Optimization

For example, you can add features to your business online presence with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your site from English to Italian)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your website
  • Set client appointments and reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and email you reports
  • Redirect website pages
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide specific from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide page content sections
  • Migrate data from other publishing platforms
  • Search and replace content
  • Prevent SPAM
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting HTML and code elements into your pages
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Publish your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and many others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you virtually limitless business flexibility. If you plan to build a web site for your business, or your existing website isn’t powered by WordPress, then consider getting a WP site or blog added to your domain, or you could be missing out on some serious functionality.

If you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WP plugins, let me show you how you can benefit by simply installing a plugin on your site.

For example, if you want content protection, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a post or page inaccessible, or create a complete paid membership site with separate login details for each member …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned previously, you can use free plugins to improve your web site in lots of ways. From adding new features that can improve your business, your web users’ experience and your ability to review site data …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

To increasing your business reach across social media and search engines …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add complex functionality to your website using inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that integrate and automate functions on your site like managing customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

And also set up a custom bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring software developers to create these applications for you …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that can make your site even more interactive …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Post comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the built-in WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site added exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on social media.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with other customers via forums or even set up a private online social network on your own domain.
  • Engage with your support staff via live web conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Dial your business directly from their cellphones when browsing your site
  • Open a support ticket
  • And much more …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate complex enterprise-level solutions using a WP “front end”. This allows you to control your business marketing, while the 3rd-party application handles the technical aspects …

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WordPress Plugins

Plugins – Some Useful Things You Should Know

  • There are so many plugins available. Be careful not to overload your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can invariably affect your site’s performance and page loading times. It can also mean more maintenance work for you as a result of possible errors.
  • Install only those plugins you really need. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with very little to no support from the plugin author. When considering paid WordPress plugins, make sure you check around a little and understand what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check our WP plugin recommendations for additional information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think twice before installing it. The WordPress core software updates regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can create problems.
  • Always maintain all plugins up-to-date. Outdated plugins not only can cause conflicts, they may also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important element of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most popular CMS available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand without spending thousands of dollars on web development.

One last thing about WP plugins:

If there is any feature or functionality you need for your web presence, you can guarantee that a plugin already exists that will do just what you want it to do, and that it will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the price will be very 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 any chance this plugin does not exist, then it can probably be developed for you for a very reasonable price.

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

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