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 WP Plugins - The Easy Way To Expand Your Web Site's CapabilitiesOne of the main benefits of WordPress is that you can easily expand your WP website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

What Are WP Plugins?

No doubt, you probably have a cell phone. What do you do when you would like to access something new on your device like a new software or a tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software application that is easy to install and instantly adds new functionality to any mobile device.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps for smart phones …)

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

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, adding new features to an existing web site involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the new feature or enhancement, the cost can be significant, particularly if web developers need to add new code or edit templates or develop programs to integrate into your current set up.

This also applies to setting up a web site. Businesses often invest money in additional features or customizations they may not ever need.

For this reason, we recommend considering a cost-effective approach when growing a web presence presence and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As you need new features and functionality, you can install new software modules with a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from within your admin area, to give your website or blog an entirely new range of possibilities, and …

3) Cost not a single cent more to add to your website?

Well, this is just what plugins let you do!

WordPress Plugins – Benefits

We started this post by comparing WordPress plugins with apps. In the same way that many apps are free to download and some may cost a little money, so do WP plugins.

In fact, loads of useful plugins can be installed on your sites.

WordPress plugins that you buy are called “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of paying for professional web development services to add the same functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins cost very little.

Also, since WordPress makes its code available to everyone, anyone can create, edit and customize any part of the WP code. This has allowed thousands of professional software developers to create more new tools that work seamlessly with the WordPress application than you can possibly imagine.

  • WordPress plugins allow you to get started with a simple web site and then add new features and enhancements to your site only as necessary.
  • WordPress plugins allow you to add practically unlimited features to your website easily, quickly and cheaply.
  • Plugins give your online presence almost unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow non-technical users to own a website that they can fully manage.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your web site immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins are slightly more complex and require some configuring.

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

Like WP themes, tens of thousands of great WP plugins are currently available for WP users … often at no cost!

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find plugins that can do almost everything you want done.

There are WordPress plugins for:

  • Website Management
  • Content Distribution
  • Increasing Web Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Engagement
  • Adding Media Files – Videocasts, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales And Marketing Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Reporting Tools
  • Optimizing Your WordPress Website

You can enhance a WordPress site with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Surveys
  • Rotating advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonial forms
  • Automatic language translation (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 engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Cloud storage management
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your site
  • Set appointments and reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide certain from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide post content sections
  • Import information from non-WordPress applications
  • Perform bulk data edits
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Insert scripts and script elements into your pages
  • 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 a map
  • Post your posts automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

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

If you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let me show you some practical uses of installing a plugin on your web site.

For example, if you want content protection, you can install plugins to make a section of your post or page inaccessible, or create a professional membership site with customized login details for all users …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, free plugins can be used to enhance your web site in so many ways. From installing new features that can enhance your business, your site’s user experience and your ability to review site data …

A Guide To WP Plugins

To extending your business visibility across a number of social sites and search engines …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex functionality to your site using inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can download plugins that integrate and automate functionality on your site like customer testimonial and event bookings management …

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And even set up a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to design similar applications for you …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that can increase user engagement …

A Non-Technical User's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on social media.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team via forums or even set up a private online social network on your own domain.
  • Engage with your staff using live chats
  • Call your business from their laptops while visiting your website
  • Get help and support via a dedicated customer support helpdesk
  • And so much more …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can even integrate sophisticated “back end” applications with a WordPress “front end”. This lets you manage the content that your visitors will see on your web site, while the third-party application handles the technological aspects …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

WP Plugins – Useful Tips

  • There are many WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your site with too many plugins, as this will invariably begin to affect your site’s performance and page loading times. It also creates more maintenance issues for you resulting from potential conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep those plugins you really need to use. Delete all unnecessary plugins from your site, as these also use resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid 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, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide on this site for additional information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two or more years), then think twice before installing it on your site. The WordPress application changes frequently and older plugins that have not been updated can cause conflicts.
  • Always maintain all plugins up-to-date. Older plugin not only can create conflicts, they could also have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most preferred digital content open source tool in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand quickly without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web developers.

One last thing regarding plugins:

Whatever functionality you need for your web site, you can be sure that a someone has probably already created one 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 premium plugin, that it will be fairly 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 chance such a plugin does not exist, then one can probably 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 help improve your web site. See our related posts section to learn more about usingplugins.

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