WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Adding New Features And Functionality To Your Site With WordPress PluginsOne of the most powerful benefits of using WordPress is that you can easily enhance your WordPress website’s functionality using inexpensive (even 100% free) software called plugins.

What Are Plugins?

No doubt, you most likely use a mobile phone. What do you do when you want access to something new on your phone like a new game or a new tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a piece of software that is easy to install and adds new features and functionality to any mobile device.

A Guide To WP Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

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

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, if you want to expand the functionality of a web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the new feature or enhancement is, this can get quite expensive, particularly if website developers need to add new code or modify templates or develop programs that integrate with your existing set up.

This is also applicable to creating a new web site. Companies will often pay money upfront for extra features they probably will never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend using a modular strategy when developing your web presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As the need for new features arises, just install new applications with only a few clicks of the mouse that integrate with your web site, to give your website or blog an entirely new range of useful features, and also …

3) Cost not one cent extra to download and install on your website?

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

Benefits & Advantages Of Using WordPress Plugins

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

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

WordPress plugins that you buy are called Premium plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of paying for professional web development services to add similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, as WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, anyone can create, modify and customize any portion of the code. This has allowed thousands of third-party web development professionals to enhance and contribute to the core WordPress software application.

  • Plugins let you start simply with only a simple web site and add new features and enhancements to your site as necessary.
  • WP plugins allow you to add practically endless features to your web presence quickly, easily and cheaply.
  • WordPress plugins give you practically unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow business owners to have a digital presence that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your site immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more extensive features and require some initial configuring.

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

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

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

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find WP plugins that will do just about anything you can possibly want your website to do.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Site Administration
  • Content Management
  • Traffic
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Monitoring
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Improving Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting Applications
  • Securing Your WordPress Web Site

You can enhance a website with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Social contests
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Private Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your pages from English to Spanish)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Managing events
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your blog
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide pages from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your posts and pages
  • Import information from non-WordPress applications
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Insert scripts and code elements into your posts
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map
  • Publish your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and others
  • Show countdown timers (for expiring offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you virtually limitless possibilities. If you are planning to build a website for your business, or your existing site isn’t powered by WordPress, then consider getting a WordPress site or blog in the future, or you will be missing out on some serious features.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible WP plugins are, let’s take a look at how you can benefit by simply installing a plugin on your web site.

For example, if you want to protect your content, you can install plugins to make an area of your page or post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full paid membership site with separate login details for users …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced features to your website using relatively inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that automate functions on your pages like user testimonial and event registrations management …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

And even run a complete bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to code the same functionality for you …

A Guide To WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that will allow you to engage in various ways with visitors, clients and registered site users …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Post comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site increased exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on social networks.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with other users using forums or even set up a private community on your own site.
  • Engage with members of your team through live chats
  • Dial your business directly from their smart phones while browsing your pages
  • Get help and support via a dedicated customer help desk
  • And so much more …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate complex enterprise applications using a WP “front end”. This allows you to control the content that your visitors will see on your website, while the third-party application handles the technical side of things …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

Useful Information About WP Plugins

  • There are loads of plugins available. Be careful of overloading your site with too many plugins, as this can eventually start to affect your site’s performance and site loading speed. It also creates more maintenance work for you as a result of possible conflicts.
  • Install only the plugins that you really need. Delete any plugins from your site, as these also consume resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid plugins, we recommend 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 some of the plugin reviews we provide on this site for more information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two or more years), then think carefully before installing it on your website or blog. WordPress changes often and older plugins can create errors.
  • Always keep all plugins up-to-date. Older plugin not only can create issues, they could also have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an important feature of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most used content management system available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add instant features to their website without having to spend thousands of dollars on web developers.

One last thing about plugins:

Whatever functionality you need for your web site, you can be sure that a someone has probably already authored one that will do just what you want, and that this plugin will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a paid 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 such a plugin is not available, 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 to improve your business blog. See our related posts to learn about more useful plugins that we recommend using.

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"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

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