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 - Extend Your Blog's CapabilityOne of the most useful benefits of the WordPress platform is the ability to quickly and easily expand your WP site’s functionality using inexpensive (and often 100% free) applications called plugins.

About Plugins

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

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a little software application that is really easy to install and instantly integrates new features and functionality into your smart device.

A Non-Technical Guide To WP Plugins

(Just as you can find social sharing apps …)

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

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

(… you can also find social sharing plugins for WP sites!)

Generally, if you need to expand the functionality of an already-built site, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, this can become fairly expensive, especially if website developers need to add new code or modify code or install programs that integrate with your current set up.

This is also applicable when setting up a new website or business blog. Many organizations tend to fork out money on features or customizations they may not need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend using a sustainable approach when developing a web site and WP plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply with minimal cost involved. Get your web presence up and running quickly, then …

2) As you need new features or functionality, add new applications with just a few mouse clicks that integrate seamlessly with your current website or blog, and give your web site a whole new and expanded range of practical functionality, and …

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

Well, that’s just what WordPress plugins allow you to do!

Benefits Of WP Plugins

Earlier, we compared WordPress plugins with apps. Just like many apps are free to download and some apps cost a little bit of money, so do plugins.

In fact, thousands of plugins can be downloaded and installed on your sites.

Plugins that cost money are referred to as “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of paying for web development services to add the same functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, as WordPress is an Open Source application, anyone can create, rewrite and customize any part of the WP code. This has enabled many professional web developers to build more new plugins that integrate with WordPress than you can possibly imagine.

  • WP plugins allow you to start off with only a basic web site and then expand as necessary.
  • Plugins let you add almost endless functionality to your website quickly, easily and quite inexpensively.
  • Plugins give your site almost endless expansion capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow ”non-techies” to have a site that they can manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your site with immediate capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more extensive features and could require some initial configuring.

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

Like many themes, tens of thousands of great WP plugins are available for WP users … often at $0 cost!

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WordPress plugins that will do just about anything you could imagine.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Website Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Monitoring
  • Inserting Media – Video, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales And Advertising Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting Tools
  • Web Site SEO

You can enhance your business online presence with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Social contests
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content from English to Italian)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Cloud storage management
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your blog
  • Set appointments and appointment reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect users from broken pages to other pages on your site or other sites
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your pages and posts
  • Import content from other publishing applications
  • Search and replace content
  • Prevent SPAM
  • Customize visitor commenting (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Insert scripts and script elements into your posts
  • Add and format tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Post your content automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for scarcity offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you practically endless business flexibility. If you plan to build a website or blog for your business, or your existing website was not built with WordPress, then consider choosing WordPress in the future.

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

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

And even set up a complete bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying programmers to design the same applications for you …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WP commenting features and plugins that can let you engage in various ways with web visitors, clients and registered site users …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Post comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on social networking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with other users using online forums or even set up a private community on your site.
  • Engage with members of your team via live video chats
  • Dial your business from their smart phones when browsing your site
  • Open support tickets
  • And so much more …

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

You can also integrate complex enterprise-level solutions using a WordPress “front end”. This lets you control your business sales and marketing, while the 3rd-party application handles the technological areas …

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Additional Tips About WordPress Plugins

  • There are loads of useful plugins available. Be careful not to overload your server with too many plugins, as this will affect your website’s performance and site loading speed. It also means more maintenance work for you as a consequence of possible conflicts and errors.
  • Install only the plugins you really need to use. Delete all deactivated plugins from your site, as these use server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing paid plugins, we recommend that you check around a little and understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check our plugin recommendations for additional information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before using it. WordPress is updated regularly and out-of-date plugins can cause errors.
  • Always maintain your plugins updated. Outdated plugin not only can create problems, they could also contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WP 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 add instant functionality to their website without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web developers.

One last thing about plugins:

If there is a feature or functionality you need for your website, you can be sure that a plugin already exists that will do exactly what you want, and that this plugin will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be fairly 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 this plugin has not been created yet, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you would like it to do can certainly be coded for your business for a reasonable price.

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


"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)