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 Extend Your Website's CapabilityOne of the most powerful benefits of building a website with the WordPress website management platform is that you can easily enhance your WP website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding Plugins

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

You download and install an app!

An app is a little piece of software that is really easy to install and integrates new features and functionality into a mobile device.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just like you will find social sharing apps for smart devices …)

A WordPress plugin is like an app. You simply install a little software application that provides new functionality to your website …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Generally, adding new features to a web site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new feature or enhancement is, this can get fairly expensive, especially if it involves modifying code.

This is also applicable when creating a new website. Many companies tend to invest upfront in features they probably will never need.

To keep costs low, we suggest using a cost-effective strategy when setting up your online presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

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

2) As the need for new capabilities arises, add new software modules with just a couple of clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your website, giving your website a completely new range of useful functionality, and also …

3) Cost not one dollar more to download and install on your website?

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

Plugins – Benefits And Advantages

Earlier, we compared plugins with apps. In a similar way that some apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little bit of money, the same is true with plugins.

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

WordPress plugins that cost money are called ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of investing in web development services to get the same functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. ”paid”) plugins are generally very inexpensive.

Also, since WordPress makes its code publicly available, any web developer can create, edit and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has allowed many third-party software developers to build more plugins that enhance the WordPress application than you can possibly imagine.

  • WordPress plugins let you start off with just a basic yet professional online business presence and add new features and enhancements to your site when necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add practically endless functionality to any web site quickly and inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give your website virtually endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow business owners to own a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your website or blog new capabilities and features.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced options and may require some configuration.

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

Like many WordPress themes, tens of thousands of great plugins are currently available to WP users … and many of these great plugins are 100% FREE!

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

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As previously mentioned, you can find WordPress plugins that can do just about everything you need done.

There are plugins for:

  • Website Management
  • Content Management
  • Driving Web Traffic
  • User Engagement
  • Social Media
  • Inserting Media – Videocasts, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting Tools
  • Securing Your WP Website

You can enhance a WP site with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • User Surveys
  • Rotating banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to enterprise scale e-commerce stores with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your pages from English to French)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage management
  • Making pages load faster
  • Managing events
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your site
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide page content
  • Import information from different CMS platforms
  • Search and replace data
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Inserting scripts and script elements into your website’s header or footer
  • Add formatted 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
  • Post your content automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you limitless possibilities. If you plan to build a website, or your existing website wasn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting a WordPress site or blog in the future, or you will be missing out on some serious features.

If you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WP plugins, let’s take a look at some practical uses of adding an inexpensive plugin to your web site.

For example, if you need to publish private content, you can install plugins to make a section of your post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a professional paid membership site with customized login details for users …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add sophisticated functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that integrate and automate functions on your site like managing customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

And also set up a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying web developers to create custom applications for you …

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that can allow you to engage even more with your web visitors, clients and registered site users …

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then shared throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Share your content with other web visitors on various social sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with other customers through forums or even set up a private online social network on your domain.
  • Engage with members of your team via live video chats
  • Call your business directly from their devices while browsing your site
  • Get help and support via a dedicated user support helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate complex “back end” applications using a WordPress “front end”. This lets you manage your business marketing, while the third-party application handles the technical functions …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Plugins – Useful Things You Should Know

  • There are many plugins available. Be careful of overloading your server with too many plugins, as this will affect your website’s resources and page loading speed. It also means more maintenance work for you resulting from possible conflicts.
  • Only keep those plugins that you really use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these use extra resources.
  • Many free plugins often receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing paid plugins, make sure you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide on this site for more helpful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two or more years), then think carefully before installing it. The WordPress core application is updated regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can cause problems.
  • Always update your plugins. Older plugins not only can cause conflicts, they could also contain security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WP plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most powerful, flexible and scalable website open source software 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 costs.

One last thing regarding WP plugins:

If there is a functionality you want for your web site, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already authored one that will do just what you need it to do, and that it will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be fairly 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 such a plugin does not exist, then a custom plugin that does just what you want it to do can probably be coded for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of WP plugins – what they are and how they can help enhance the functionality of your web site. See our published posts to learn more about using WordPress plugins.


"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group