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 - Improve Your Website's FeaturesOne of the main advantages of building a website using WordPress is the ability to quickly expand your WP web site’s functionality using plugins.

About WP Plugins

No doubt, you probably own a device like a cell phone. What happens when you would like to access something new on your device like a new application, game or tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a software application that is really easy to install and immediately adds new functionality to any mobile device.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just as there are social sharing apps …)

A plugin is similar to an app. You download and install a little piece of software that provides new functionality to your web site …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

Typically, expanding the functionality of an existing website involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the feature or enhancement is, this cost can be significant, particularly if it requires website development.

This is also applicable when creating a new website. Many businesses often fork out money in advance on components they probably will never need.

To keep your business expenses down, we suggest a sustainable strategy when setting up your web site and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine if you could:

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

2) As more features become necessary, just install new software modules with just a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from your WP admin panel, and give your website a completely new range of useful capabilities, and …

3) Cost not a single cent more to add to your web site?

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

Benefits & Advantages Of Using Plugins

I began this blog post by comparing plugins with ’apps’. In the same way that many apps are free to download and some cost a little money, the same is true of plugins.

In fact, thousands of plugins are freely available for WordPress users.

WordPress plugins that you purchase are called ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of hiring a professional web developer to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite low.

Also, since WordPress is an Open Source application, anyone can create, edit and customize any part of the code. This has allowed thousands of professional software development professionals to enhance the WordPresssoftware.

  • WordPress plugins allow you to get started with a basic website and then add new features and enhancements to your site only when necessary.
  • WP plugins allow you to add almost unlimited features to any site quickly and inexpensively.
  • Plugins give you almost endless expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow non-technical website owners to own a website that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your web site new capabilities and features.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more complex and may require some configuring.

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

Like themes, loads of great WP plugins are available to WP users … often at no cost!

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find WordPress plugins that can do almost everything you could imagine.

There are plugins for:

  • Website Administration
  • Content Management
  • Traffic
  • User Engagement
  • Social Media
  • Adding Media – Videocasts, Images, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales Automation
  • Improving Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting
  • Site Security

For example, you can enhance a website with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Social contests
  • Rotating advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (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
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your site
  • Set appointments and reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect visitors from specific pages to other pages on your site or other websites
  • Monitor what social media users are posting about your business
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your pages and posts
  • Migrate information from different publishing platforms
  • Perform bulk content edits
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting HTML and code elements into your content
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Syndicate your content automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you virtually limitless business scalability. If you are currently planning to build a website for your business, or your existing web site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting one added to your domain, or you will be missing out on some serious functionality.

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

For example, if you need to publish private content, you can use plugins to make a section of your post or page inaccessible, or create a full paid membership site with separate 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 different ways. From installing features that improve your business, your web users’ experience and your ability to review visitor data …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

To increasing your business reach and visibility across social sites and search engines …

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive paid WP plugins. For example, you can download plugins that integrate and automate functionality on your pages like displaying customer testimonials and event bookings …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of paying software developers to code the same applications for you …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WP commenting features and plugins that will make your site even more interactive …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Post comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the built-in WP commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other web visitors on various social sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your staff through online forums or even set up a private online community on your own site.
  • Engage with your support team via live chats
  • Dial your business directly from their cellphones while browsing your site
  • Open a support ticket
  • And so much more …

A Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate sophisticated 3rd-party applications using a WP “front end”. This enables you to manage the content that your visitors see on your web site, while the third-party application handles the technical aspects …

A Guide To WP Plugins

WordPress Plugins – Useful Things To Know

  • There are loads of plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can start to affect your site’s performance and page loading times. It also creates more maintenance work for you as a result of potential conflicts.
  • Only keep the plugins you really need. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these also consume resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing premium WordPress plugins, make sure you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we publish here for more useful information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think carefully before installing it. WordPress updates often and outdated plugins can cause conflicts.
  • Always keep your plugins updated to their latest version. Older plugins not only can create errors, they could also contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most preferred content management system in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to add new functionality to their website without spending thousands of dollars on web development.

One last thing regarding plugins:

Whatever functionality you want for your web presence, you can be sure that a plugin probably exists that will do what you want, and that it will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be reasonably inexpensive.

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 does not exist, then a custom plugin that does precisely what you need it to do can certainly be coded for your business for a very reasonable price.

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

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