WordPress Plugins Explained

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

WordPress Plugins Enhance Your Blog's FeaturesOne of the most powerful advantages of choosing WordPress is the ability to easily expand your WordPress website or blog’s functionality using applications called plugins.

What Are Plugins?

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

You download and install an app!

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

A plugin is very similar to an app. You install a software application that provides new functionality to your WordPress website …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

Typically, if you need to add new features to your web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the features or enhancements are, this cost can be significant, particularly if it involves programming code.

This is also applicable when developing a new website. Businesses will often invest money up-front in features or customizations they probably will never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we suggest a modular approach when growing your web site and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get your website up and running fast, then …

2) As you need more features, you can add new applications with a few mouse clicks that integrate with your existing web site, giving your site an entirely new and expanded range of possibilities, and also …

3) Cost not one dollar more to add to your website?

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

Plugins – Benefits & Advantages

We began this post by comparing WP plugins with smartphone apps. In a similar way that some apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little bit of money, so do plugins.

In fact, many great plugins can be downloaded to your website at no cost.

Plugins that cost money are called “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of hiring a professional web developer to add similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are typically very inexpensive.

Also, because WordPress makes its source code available to everyone, any person can create, modify and customize any portion of the code. This has allowed many professional software development companies to build more tools that plug seamlessly into the WordPress platform than you can imagine.

  • Plugins let you start off with only a simple site and then expand if required.
  • Plugins let you add practically unlimited functionality to your site quickly, easily and cheaply.
  • Plugins give you virtually endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow non-technical website owners to have a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your website immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more advanced and require some initial configuring.

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

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

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As previously mentioned, you will find WP plugins that can do almost anything you could possibly want a web site to do.

WordPress plugin categories cover:

  • User Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Sharing
  • Adding Media Files – Videocasts, Graphics & Images, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales And Advertising Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Analysis
  • Blog SEO

You can enhance a website with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Rotating banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce stores with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • 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 French)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your blog
  • Set up client appointments and reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide post content sections
  • Migrate information from different publishing platforms
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Fight SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor commenting (e.g. display Facebook comments)
  • Insert code and script elements into your blog’s header or footer
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search
  • Add location maps
  • Post your content automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and others
  • Show countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you practically endless business scalability. If you are planning to build a website or blog for your business, or your existing web site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider using it in the future.

In case you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WP plugins, let’s take a look at how you can benefit by simply adding a plugin to your website.

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

A Useful Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, you can use free plugins to enhance your business site in lots of ways. From adding new features that will enhance your business, your visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is taking place on your site …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

To extending your business reach across many social media and search engines …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced features to your website using relatively inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can download plugins that integrate and automate functions on your pages such as displaying customer testimonials and event bookings …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying programmers to build custom functionality for you …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can easily:

  • Post 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, providing you with additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on social media.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with your team members via online forums or even set up a private online social network on your own site.
  • Engage with members of your team through live chats
  • Dial your business from their mobile phones when browsing your site
  • Open a support ticket
  • And so much more …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can even integrate sophisticated 3rd-party applications using a WordPress “front end”. This lets you manage your business marketing, while your 3rd-party application handles the technological side of things …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Additional Tips About WordPress Plugins

  • There are many great WordPress plugins available. Be careful not to overload your server with too many plugins, as this can begin to affect your site’s performance and page loading times. It also creates more maintenance issues for you resulting from potential conflicts.
  • Install only those plugins that you really need to use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these use server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically come with little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing paid WP plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide here for more expert 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. WordPress is updated often and older WP plugins can create issues.
  • Ensure that you always maintain all plugins updated. Outdated plugins not only can create errors, they could also contain security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important element of WordPress and contribute to making it the most popular CMS in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add instant functionality to their website without having to spend thousands of dollars on web development costs.

One last thing on the subject of plugins:

Whatever feature or functionality you want for your website, you can be sure that a WordPress plugin already exists that will do exactly what you want it to do, and that it will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be surprisingly 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 WP plugin has not been created yet, then it can most certainly be developed for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can improve your business blog. See our related posts to learn more about using WP plugins.

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