WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Add New Functionality To Your Blog With PluginsOne of the main benefits of using WordPress is the ability to quickly enhance your WordPress website or blog’s functionality using inexpensive (even completely free) applications called plugins.

What Are Plugins?

No doubt, you most likely own a device like a cell phone. What do you do when you would like to access something new on your device like a new application, game or business productivity tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a little software that is very simple and easy to install and integrates new functionality into a smart phone.

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just like you can find social sharing apps …)

A WordPress plugin is like an app. You download and install a little software application that adds new functionality to your WP website …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Generally, if you decide to add new features to an already-built website, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancement, the cost can be quite significant, particularly if website developers need to create new code or edit templates or develop scripts that integrate into your current set up.

This is also applicable to setting up a website or business blog. Companies often invest up front in components they probably will never need.

For this reason, we recommend a sustainable strategy when developing a website and WP plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As the need for new capabilities or functionality arises, just install new applications with a couple of clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your current website or blog, giving your website or blog a completely new and expanded range of useful functionality, and also …

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

Well, this is just what plugins let you do!

Benefits And Advantages Of Plugins

We began this blog post by comparing plugins with smartphone apps. Just like some apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little bit of money, the same applies with WordPress plugins.

In fact, thousands of plugins can be downloaded to your site for free.

WP plugins that cost money are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the cost of investing in professional web development services to get similar functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins cost very little.

Also, because WordPress is an Open Source application, anyone can create, modify and customize any part of the code. This has allowed many professional software developers to create more tools that add new features to the WordPress software than you can possibly imagine.

  • WordPress plugins allow you to get started with only a basic website and expand if required.
  • WordPress plugins let you add almost unlimited features to any site quickly, easily and inexpensively.
  • WP plugins give you almost endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow ”non-techies” to have a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your website or blog with immediate capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins are a little more complex and require some configuring.

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

Like many themes, tens of thousands of great plugins are currently available to WordPress users … often at no cost!

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find WordPress plugins that can do almost anything you need a web site to do.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Web Site Administration
  • Content Management
  • Increasing Site Traffic
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Monitoring
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Monitoring & Reporting Applications
  • Securing Your

You can expand your business online presence with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single ordering with PayPal buttons, to enterprise scale e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonial forms
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your website from English to French)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Cloud storage management
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your site
  • Set up appointments and appointment reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • 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
  • Import information from non-WP applications
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Fight SPAM
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting scripts and script elements into your posts, pages and sidebars
  • Add formatted tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add location maps
  • Post your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you virtually limitless business flexibility. If you are currently planning to build a web site, or your existing web site wasn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting a WP site or blog in the future, or you will be missing out on some serious features.

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

For example, if you need content protection, you can install plugins to make a section of a post or page inaccessible, or create a full membership site with customized login details for every member …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to enhance your web site in lots of ways. From adding features that can enhance your business, your web users’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using inexpensive premium WordPress plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that integrate and automate functionality on your website such as customer feedback and event registrations management …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring software developers to code the same functionality for you …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Practical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Post comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site added exposure).
  • Share your content with other web users on social networking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team members using online forums or even set up a private social network on your own domain.
  • Engage with members of your team using live video chats
  • Call your business directly from their devices when browsing your site
  • Get help and support via a customer helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

You can even integrate complex enterprise-level solutions using a WordPress “front end”. This allows you to manage your business marketing, while the third-party application handles the technological areas …

A Guide To WP Plugins

Additional Things To Know About WordPress Plugins

  • There are many WordPress plugins available. Be careful not to overload your server with too many plugins, as this will affect your website’s resources and page loading speed. It also means more maintenance work for you resulting from potential errors.
  • Install only those plugins you really use. Delete all deactivated plugins from your site, as these use resources.
  • Many free plugins typically come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing paid WP plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check our plugin reviews for additional helpful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two or more years), then think carefully before installing it. The WordPress core application is updated frequently and older plugins that have not been updated can cause issues.
  • Make sure to always maintain all plugins up-to-date. Older plugin not only can create errors, they could also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, WP plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress 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 spending thousands of dollars on web developers.

One last thing about WP plugins:

If there is a functionality you need for your web presence, you can be sure that a WP plugin probably exists that will do what you need, and that it will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be reasonably inexpensive.

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 WordPress plugin has not been created yet, then it can probably be developed for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can significantly enhance the functionality of your web site. See our related posts section to learn about more useful plugins that we recommend using.

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