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 WordPress Plugins - The Easy Way To Enhance Your Web Site's CapabilitiesOne of the main advantages of using the WordPress content management platform is the ability to quickly and easily enhance your WordPress site’s functionality using applications called ’plugins’.

What Are Plugins?

Like most people, you most likely own a smart phone. What happens when you would like access to something new on your device like a new application, software or a new business tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a software that is very easy to install and adds new features and functionality to your smart phone.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps for mobile devices …)

A plugin is very much like an app. You install a software application that provides new functionality to your website or blog …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Generally, adding new features to your site involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the new features or enhancements, things could become fairly expensive, especially if web developers have to create new code or edit programs or develop programs to integrate into your existing site.

This is also applicable when creating a website. Business owners sometimes invest money in advance in extra features or customizations they probably will never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we suggest a cost-effective strategy when setting up a digital presence presence and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine if you could:

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

2) As you need more features or functionality, you can add new applications with only a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from your admin section, giving your website a completely new range of features and functionality, and also …

3) Cost not one dollar extra to add to your web site?

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

WP Plugins – Benefits

We began this blog post by comparing WordPress plugins with apps. In the same way that some apps are free to download and some may cost a little bit of money, the same is true of WordPress plugins.

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

WordPress 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 add the same functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite cheaply.

Also, since WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, anybody can create, modify and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has enabled thousands of professional web development companies to build more new applications that plug seamlessly into WordPress than you can imagine.

  • WordPress plugins let you get started with a simple yet professional site and expand as required.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically unlimited features to your web presence quickly, easily and cheaply.
  • WP plugins give your web site almost endless expanding capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow non-technical website owners to have a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your website instant new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins provide more extensive features and require some initial configuring.

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

Like WP themes, loads of plugins are available for WP users … often at no cost!

You can view and download thousands of plugins from the Free WP Plugin Repository

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find plugins that can do just about anything you can imagine.

There are plugins for:

  • Website Administration
  • Content Management
  • Driving Site Traffic
  • User Engagement
  • Social Engagement
  • Adding Media – Video, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales And Advertising Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Reporting Tools
  • Web Site Optimization

For example, you can enhance a business online presence with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Surveys
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to enterprise scale e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User feedback forms
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to German)
  • 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
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your website
  • Set client appointments and reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect web links
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your posts and pages
  • Migrate information from non-WordPress platforms
  • Search and replace content
  • Fight SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest discussions (e.g. displaying Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting scripts and code elements into your content
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search results
  • Add a map
  • Post your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, 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 or blog, or your existing web site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting a WordPress site or blog built on your domain, or you will be missing out on some serious functionality.

If you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let me show you how you can benefit instantly by installing an inexpensive plugin on your web site.

For example, if you want to publish content which is only accessible to some but not all users, you can install plugins to make an area of a post or page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full paid membership site with separate login details for all users …

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, you can use free plugins to improve your website in so many different ways. From installing functionality that can improve your business, your website visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add sophisticated features to your site using relatively inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can install plugins that automate tasks on your site like managing customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also set up a custom-branded bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to create custom functionality for you …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also take advantage of built-in WP commenting features and plugins that can make your site even more interactive …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your web 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 displayed throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on various social sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online directly with other customers via online forums or even set up an online community on your site.
  • Engage with your support team via live video chats
  • Dial your business directly from their cellphones while visiting your website
  • Open a support ticket
  • And so much more …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate complex third-party applications within a WP “front end”. This enables you to manage the content that your visitors will see on your web site, while your third-party application handles the technological side of things …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Plugins – Some Useful Things You Should Know

  • There are many useful plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your site with too many plugins, as this will affect your site’s performance and page loading speed. It can also mean more maintenance work for you resulting from potential conflicts and errors.
  • Install only the plugins you really use. Delete any plugins you don’t need from your site, as these use server resources.
  • Many free plugins often receive little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing premium WordPress plugins, we recommend that you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check our plugin recommendations for more information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think carefully before using it on your website or blog. The WordPress platform updates on a frequent basis and older plugins that have not been updated can create problems.
  • Always update your plugins. Older plugin not only can cause issues, they could also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WP plugins are an important aspect of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most powerful, flexible and scalable CMS in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add instant functionality to their web presence without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing about WP plugins:

If there is any functionality you need for your web site, you can guarantee that a plugin already exists that will do just what you need it to do, and that this plugin will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a paid 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 plugin does not exist, then one can most certainly be written for you for a reasonable price.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of WordPress plugins – what they are and how they can help to improve your WP web site. See our published posts to learn more about usingplugins.


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