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 - The Easy Way To Expand Your Site's CapabilityOne of the most useful benefits of building a website using the WordPress software is that you can easily increase your WordPress website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding WP Plugins

Like most of us, you most likely own a device like a cell phone. What do you do when you would like access to something new on your phone like a new application, game or a business productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software application that is really simple and easy to install and adds new features and functionality to any smart phone.

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

A plugin is similar to an app. You install a software that adds new functionality to your website …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(… you can also find social sharing plugins for WordPress users!)

Normally, expanding the functionality of an already-built site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, this can get quite expensive, particularly if web developers have to create new code or edit programs or develop scripts that integrate into your current site.

This is also applicable when creating a web site. Business owners often spend up-front on bells and whistles they probably will never need.

To save money and keep your expenses to a minimum, we suggest considering a cost-effective approach when setting up your web site and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

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

2) As you need more features or functionality, install new applications with a couple of mouse clicks that integrate with your current website and blog, to give your web site an entirely new range of possibilities, and also …

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

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

Benefits And Advantages Of Plugins

Earlier, we compared 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, many great plugins can be installed on your sites.

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 paying for web development services to get the same functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. ”paid”) plugins cost very little.

Also, because WordPress makes its code publicly available, anyone can create, edit and customize any part of the WP code. This has enabled thousands of third-party web developers to enhance the WPsoftware.

  • WordPress plugins let you start simply with a basic website and then expand as necessary.
  • Plugins let you add almost endless functionality to any web site quickly, easily and quite inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give your site practically endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow anyone to own a website that they can manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your website new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced options and may need some initial configuring.

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

Just like WordPress themes, loads of plugins are currently available for WordPress users … often at no cost!

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find plugins that will do just about everything you want done.

There are plugins for:

  • Site Management
  • Content Distribution
  • Traffic
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Connectivity
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Improving Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting
  • Website Optimization

You can expand a business online presence with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • User Surveys
  • Display ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single sales with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content from English to Spanish)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your website
  • Set client appointments and reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Exclude specific from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content
  • Import data from non-WP platforms
  • Search and replace data
  • Fight SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Inserting HTML and script elements into your pages
  • Add and format tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map
  • Distribute your content automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for scarcity offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As you can clearly see, WordPress plugins give you limitless business flexibility. If you plan to build a website, or your existing website was not built using WordPress, then consider choosing WordPress in the future.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let’s take a look at some practical advantages of installing an inexpensive plugin on your website.

For example, if you need content protection, you can install plugins to make an area of a page or post inaccessible, or create a professional membership site with separate login details for all users …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to enhance your site in lots of different ways. From installing new features that improve your business, your site’s user experience and your ability to review website data …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex features to your site using relatively inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can install plugins that automate functions on your pages such as managing customer testimonials and event registration details …

A 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 paying software developers to design similar applications for you …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will make your site even more interactive …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Post comments on your blog posts (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site added exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on bookmarking sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with your team via online forums or even set up a private community on your site.
  • Engage with your team via live web conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Call your business from their smart phones when visiting your pages
  • Get help via a dedicated user help desk
  • And so much more …

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

You can even integrate complex third-party applications using a WP “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors will see on your site, while your 3rd-party application handles the technical aspects …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Some Useful Tips About WP Plugins

  • There are many fantastic plugins available. Be careful of overloading your server with too many plugins, as this will invariably begin to affect your site’s resources and site loading times. It also creates more maintenance issues for you resulting from potential conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep those plugins you really need. Delete any plugins you don’t need from your site, as these utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins often receive very little to no support from the plugin author. When considering premium plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check our plugin recommendations for additional helpful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think twice before installing it on your website or blog. WordPress changes on a regular basis and outdated WP plugins can create conflicts.
  • Ensure that you always upgrade your plugins to the most recent version. Older plugins not only can cause errors and conflicts, they could also contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important aspect of WordPress and contribute to making it the most powerful, flexible and scalable content management system in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to add new features to their website without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing about plugins:

If there is any functionality you need for your web site, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already authored one that will do what you want, and that it will either be available at no cost, 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 such a plugin has not been created yet, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you would like it to do can probably be coded for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can improve your web site. See our related posts to learn more about usingplugins.


"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now