WordPress Plugins Explained

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

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Using WordPress Plugins To Enhance Your Web Site's FeaturesOne of the main advantages of using WordPress is the ability to quickly increase your WP site’s functionality using plugins.

What Are Plugins?

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

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a little software that is easy to install and adds new functionality to your mobile phone.

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

A WordPress plugin is similar to an app. You install and activate a software application that adds new functionality to your WordPress site …

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Almost always, adding a new feature to an already-built web site involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancements, things could get fairly expensive, particularly if web developers have to add new code or edit templates or install programs to integrate with your existing site.

This also applies when developing a new website. Companies often invest money on added components they may never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we recommend a modular strategy when growing your website and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get your web presence up and running quickly, then …

2) As the need for new capabilities and functionality becomes apparent, add new software modules with a couple of clicks of the mouse that integrate with your current web site, and give your website or blog an entirely new and expanded range of practical features and capabilities, and …

3) Cost not a single cent extra to install on your site?

Well, that’s exactly what a WordPress plugin enables you to do!

Benefits Of Using WP Plugins

Earlier, we compared WP plugins with mobile apps. In a similar way that many apps are free to download and some apps cost a little bit of money, the same applies with plugins.

In fact, thousands of plugins can be installed and activated on your websites.

WordPress plugins that cost money are referred to as “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of investing in web development services to get the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are priced quite cheaply.

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

  • Plugins allow you to start off with a basic website and then add new features and enhancements to your site only when required.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically unlimited features to your online business presence easily, quickly and very inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give your site practically unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow anyone to have a website that they can fully manage.
  • Most plugins typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your website or blog with new capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins are a little more complex and could require some initial configuration.

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

Like WordPress themes, tens of thousands of great WP plugins are currently available to WP users … for FREE!

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As previously mentioned, you can find WordPress plugins that can do just about everything you can think of.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Blog Administration
  • Content Management
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • User Engagement
  • Social Monitoring
  • Adding Media – Video, Graphics & Images, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales & Advertising Automation
  • Improving Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Reporting
  • Web Site SEO

For example, you can add features to your WordPress site with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Social contests
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Automatic language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content from English to Norwegian)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your site
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links on your pages and send you reports
  • Redirect web pages
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide specific from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide post content
  • Migrate data from other publishing applications
  • Search and replace data
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Insert code and code elements into your posts and pages
  • Add formatted tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search results
  • Add business location maps
  • Publicize your posts automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom 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 your existing web site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider choosing WordPress in the future.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible WP plugins are, let me show you some practical uses of adding a plugin to your website.

For example, if you want content protection, you can use plugins to make an area of your post or page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a complete membership site with personal login details for each member …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, free plugins can be used to improve your web presence in lots of different ways. From adding functionality that improve your business, your visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add advanced features to your website using inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that integrate and automate functions on your site such as managing customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

And also set up a custom bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to build similar functionality for you …

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

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Leave 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 the visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on social media.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with your support team through online forums or even set up an online social network on your own domain.
  • Engage with your support staff through live chats
  • Dial your business from their cellphones when browsing your website
  • Open a support ticket
  • And much more …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also integrate sophisticated 3rd-party solutions using a WordPress “front end”. This allows you to manage your business marketing, while your third-party application handles the technical functions …

A Non-Technical Guide To WordPress Plugins

Some Useful Information About WP Plugins

  • There are loads of great plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your server with too many plugins, as this will affect your site’s resources and site loading times. It also creates more maintenance work for you as a result of potential conflicts.
  • 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 typically come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium plugins, ensure that you check around a little and understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of our WP plugin recommendations for more useful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before installing it on your website. WordPress changes often and older plugins that have not been updated can cause errors.
  • Always update your plugins. Outdated plugin not only can cause conflicts, they may also have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most powerful, flexible and scalable CMS in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand quickly without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing on the subject of plugins:

If there is any feature or functionality you need for your web presence, you can be sure that a WP plugin already exists that will do what you want it to do, and that it can either be downloaded at no cost, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the cost will be reasonable.

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 is not available, then a custom plugin that does precisely what you would like it to do can certainly be created for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can help to improve your web site. See our related posts to learn about more useful plugins that we recommend using.

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