WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Using WordPress Plugins Extend Your Website's FunctionalityOne of the main benefits of WordPress is that you can easily enhance your WordPress website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

What Are WordPress Plugins?

No doubt, you most likely use a cell phone. What happens when you would like to access something new on your device like a new game or business productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a software that is easy to install and integrates new features and functionality into any mobile device.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A WordPress plugin is very much like an app. You install a software that adds new functionality to your website or blog …

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

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

Almost always, expanding the functionality of a website involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancement, this cost can be fairly significant, especially if web developers have to create new code or edit programs or develop scripts to integrate with your current site.

This also applies to developing a website or business blog. Business owners often invest money on added components they probably will never need.

To keep costs to a minimum, we suggest a cost-effective approach to setting up your web site and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get a professional business website up and running fast, then …

2) As more features are required, simply install new software modules with only a few clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your existing web site, giving your website or blog an entirely new and expanded range of possibilities, and …

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

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

WP Plugins – Benefits & Advantages

I started this blog post by comparing plugins with mobile apps. Just like some apps are free to download and some cost a little bit of money, the same is true for WP plugins.

In fact, loads of plugins can be downloaded to your website at no cost.

WP plugins that you have to buy are referred to as “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of hiring a professional web developer to add the same functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are generally very inexpensive.

Also, as WordPress makes its source code available to everyone, anyone can create, rewrite and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has enabled many professional software development professionals to enhance and contribute to the WordPresssoftware.

  • WordPress plugins allow you to start off with a basic yet professional web presence and expand only when required.
  • WP plugins let you add practically unlimited functionality to your online business presence easily and inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give you virtually unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow non-technical website owners to have a site that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your web site with new capabilities and features.
  • Some plugins provide more advanced features and could require some configuring.

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

Just like themes, tens of thousands of WP plugins are made available to WordPress users … for FREE!

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

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Plugin categories cover:

  • Site Administration
  • Content Syndication
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Monitoring
  • Inserting Media – Video, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales And Advertising Automation
  • Improving Sales & Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Analysis
  • WordPress Security

You can expand your business online presence with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Social contests
  • Rotating banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce stores with online shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Instant language translation (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.
  • Media integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your website
  • Set appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Hide pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content
  • Import data from non-WordPress platforms
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Prevent SPAM
  • Customize guest discussions (e.g. displaying Facebook posts)
  • Insert code and script elements into your content
  • Add formatted tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search listings
  • Add a map
  • Distribute your content automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and many others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you practically endless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website or blog for your business, or your existing web site wasn’t built using WordPress, then consider getting a WordPress site or blog built on your domain, or you could 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 adding an inexpensive plugin to your site.

For example, if you want to protect your content, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a post or page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a professional membership site with customized login details for each user …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex features to your site using inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can download plugins that automate features on your website like customer testimonial and event registrations management …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And even run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying programmers to build custom functionality for you …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that can make your site even more interactive …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with added exposure).
  • Share your content with other web users on bookmarking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with other users through forums or even set up a private community on your site.
  • Engage with members of your team using live chats
  • Call your business directly from their mobile phones while visiting your pages
  • Open support tickets
  • And much more …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate complex third-party solutions using a WordPress “front end”. This enables you to control the content that your visitors will see on your site, while the third-party application handles the technical functions …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

Plugins – Additional Information

  • There are loads of great WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your server with too many plugins, as this can start to affect your site’s performance and site loading speed. It can also create more maintenance work for you as a consequence of possible conflicts.
  • Only keep those plugins you really need. Delete any plugins you don’t use from your site, as these utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically come with very little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing paid plugins, we recommend that you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we publish here for additional helpful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think carefully before using it on your website. The WordPress application changes regularly and out-of-date WP plugins can create conflicts.
  • Make sure to always keep your plugins updated to their latest software version. Older plugins not only can cause problems, they may also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most powerful, flexible and scalable CMS in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add new functionality to their website without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web developers.

One last thing regarding plugins:

Whatever feature you need for your website, you can be sure that a WP plugin probably exists that will do what you need it to do, and that it will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the cost will be very 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 one can probably be coded for you at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of WP plugins – what they are and how they can significantly improve your blog. See our related posts section to learn more about usingplugins.

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