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 - Improve Your Web Site's Features And FunctionalityOne of the main features of the WordPress platform is that you can easily expand your WordPress web site’s functionality using plugins.

What Are WP Plugins?

No doubt, you probably use a mobile phone. What do you do when you would like to access something new on your device like a new game or a tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little piece of software that is simple and easy to install and instantly adds new features and functionality to a smart device.

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WP Plugins

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

A WP plugin is very similar to an app. You install and activate a software that provides new functionality to your WP site …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

Almost always, if you plan to add new features to an already-built website, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the new feature or enhancements, this cost can be fairly significant, especially if web developers need to add new code or edit templates or develop programs to integrate with your existing set up.

This also applies when creating a new website. Businesses tend to spend money for components they probably will never need.

To reduce unnecessary expenses, we recommend a sustainable strategy to growing a web site and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply with minimal expense involved. Get a basic, professional business web presence up and running quickly, then …

2) As more features or functionality become necessary, add new software modules with just a couple of clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your existing website, and give your website or blog an entirely new and expanded range of possibilities, and also …

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

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

Benefits & Advantages Of Using WordPress Plugins

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

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

Plugins that you buy are called “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of hiring a professional web developer to get similar functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, since WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, any web developer can create, modify and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has allowed many third-party software developers to enhance the WordPresssoftware.

  • WP plugins let you get started with a basic website and add new features and enhancements to your site when required.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically endless functionality to any web site quickly and inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give your web site practically endless expanding capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow business owners to have a site that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your site immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins provide more advanced features and could require some initial configuration.

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

Like themes, thousands of great WordPress plugins are available for WordPress users … for FREE!

You can download thousands of plugins from the Free WordPress Plugin Directory

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WP plugins that will do just about everything you need a web site to do.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Website Management
  • Content Distribution
  • Increasing Web Visitors
  • User Engagement
  • Social Engagement
  • Adding Media – Videocasts, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales & Advertising Automation
  • Improving Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Monitoring & Reporting
  • WP SEO

For example, you can add features to your WP site with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Social contests
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single ordering with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with online shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Automatic language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your pages 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
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your blog
  • Set up appointments and appointment reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide page content sections
  • Import content from other publishing platforms
  • Perform bulk data replacements
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook posts)
  • Insert code and code elements into your posts
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Publish your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and others
  • Show countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As it’s clear to see, WP plugins give you virtually endless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website or blog, or your existing site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting one in the future, or you will be missing out on some serious functionality.

In case you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WordPress plugins, let’s take a look at how you can benefit by installing an inexpensive plugin on your site.

For example, if you need to protect your content, you can install plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full paid membership site with separate login details for all users …

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add sophisticated features to your website using relatively inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that automate functions on your site like user testimonial and event registration management …

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

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that will increase user engagement …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Post comments on your blog posts (which can turn into online discussions) using either the built-in WP commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Share your content with other online visitors on social networking sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with other members through online forums or even set up an online social network on your domain.
  • Engage with members of your team via live web conferencing and chatrooms
  • Call your business from their laptops when visiting your website
  • Get help via a dedicated user support helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate sophisticated “back end” solutions within a WordPress “front end”. This allows you to manage your business sales and marketing, while the third-party application handles the technical aspects …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Useful Tips About WP Plugins

  • There are loads of plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your site with too many plugins, as this will start to affect your site’s performance and site loading speed. It can also mean more maintenance issues for you as a result of potential conflicts.
  • Only keep those plugins that you really need. Delete all deactivated plugins from your site, as these use server resources.
  • Many free plugins often receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid WP plugins, we recommend that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we publish 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 carefully before installing it on your site. WordPress updates regularly and older WP plugins can create errors.
  • Ensure that you always upgrade your plugins to their most recent software version. Older plugins not only can create conflicts, they could also contain security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most downloaded content management system available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand quickly without having to spend thousands of dollars on web developers.

One last thing regarding plugins:

Whatever feature or functionality you need for your web site, you can be sure that a WP plugin already exists that will do just what you want, and that this plugin will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the price will be minimal.

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 this plugin has not been created yet, then one can probably be developed for you at a reasonable cost.

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

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