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 Enhance Your Blog's CapabilityOne of the main benefits of the WordPress platform is the ability to quickly expand your WordPress website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding Plugins

Like most people, you probably use a cell phone. What do you do when you want to access something new on your phone like a new application, software or a tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a piece of software that is easy to install and adds new functionality to your smart device.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A WP plugin is like an app. You simply install and activate a little piece of software that provides new functionality to your WordPress site …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(… there are also social sharing plugins for WP!)

Typically, if you plan to add a new feature to an already-built web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the new feature or enhancements, things could become quite expensive, especially if it involves modifying code.

This is also applicable to developing a website. Organizations will often invest in additional bells and whistles they may not ever need.

For this reason, we recommend a modular approach when setting up your website and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

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

2) As the need arises, just add new software modules with only a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from your administration area, giving your website or blog an entirely new range of practical features and capabilities, and also …

3) Cost not one dollar more to download and install on your web site?

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

Benefits And Advantages Of WordPress Plugins

Earlier, we compared WP plugins with smartphone apps. Just like many apps are free to download and some cost a little bit of money, the same applies with plugins.

In fact, loads of plugins can be installed and activated on your websites.

WP plugins that you have to pay for are called Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the price of hiring a professional web developer to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, because WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, any person can create, modify and customize any part of the code. This has allowed many professional software developers to enhance and contribute to the core software application.

  • Plugins let you start off with just a simple online business presence and then add new features and enhancements to your site when required.
  • WP plugins let you add practically unlimited functionality to your site easily, quickly and inexpensively.
  • Plugins give you practically endless expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow ”non-techies” to have a website that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your web site with immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more extensive options and could require some initial configuring.

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

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

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

A Practical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As previously mentioned, you can find WordPress plugins that can do almost anything you can imagine.

WP plugin categories cover:

  • Website Administration
  • Content Distribution
  • Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Connectivity
  • Media Management Automation
  • Improving Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting Tools
  • Securing Your WP Website

For example, you can enhance your WP site with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Managing advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • 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 your website’s content from English to Norwegian)
  • 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 integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your blog
  • Set up client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send 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 sitemaps
  • Exclude certain from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your pages and posts
  • Migrate information from non-WP platforms
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Fight SPAM
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook posts)
  • Inserting code and script elements into your posts and pages
  • Add formatted tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map
  • Post your posts automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and others
  • Display countdown timers (for scarcity offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, WordPress plugins give you practically endless business flexibility. If you plan to build a website, or your existing site isn’t powered by WordPress, then consider using WordPress in the future.

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

For example, if you want content protection, you can use plugins to make a section of a page or post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a professional membership site with personal login details for all users …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to improve your web presence in so many different ways. From installing functionality that can improve your business, your site’s user experience and your ability to review website metrics …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

To extending your business reach across social networks and search engines …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add sophisticated features to your site using inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that automate functionality on your website like displaying customer testimonials and booking events …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

And also run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to design similar applications for you …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will allow you to engage more with your visitors, customers and registered site users …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other online users on various social sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your staff using forums or even set up a private online community on your own site.
  • Engage with your support staff through live webcam conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Dial your business directly from their smart phones while browsing your pages
  • Open a support ticket
  • And so much more …

A Useful Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate complex 3rd-party solutions using a WP “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors will see on your web site, while the 3rd-party application handles the technological side of things …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Useful Information About Plugins

  • There are loads of plugins available. Be careful not to overload your site with too many plugins, as this will inevitably begin to affect your website’s resources and page loading times. It can also create more maintenance work for you as a result of potential conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep the plugins you really need. Delete any plugins you don’t use from your site, as these utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium 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, updates, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide on this site for more useful information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two or more years), then think twice before using it on your website. The WordPress core software is updated frequently and older plugins can cause problems.
  • Always keep your plugins up-to-date. Older plugins not only can cause problems, they may also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WP plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most downloaded online publishing platform in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add new features to their website without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing regarding plugins:

If there is a feature or functionality you want for your website, you can be sure that a plugin probably exists that will do exactly what you want it to do, and that this plugin will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be reasonably 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 such a WP plugin does not exist, then a custom plugin that does precisely what you would like it to do can most certainly be developed for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can significantly expand your web site. See our published posts to learn about more popular WP plugins that we recommend using.

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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