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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Add New Features And Functionality To Your WordPress Website With PluginsOne of the most unique features of WordPress is that you can quickly and easily enhance your WordPress web site’s functionality using inexpensive (even completely free) software called ’plugins’.

What Are Plugins?

Like most people, you probably use a device like a cell phone. What do you do when you would like access to something new on your device like a new application, game or business tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software that is really simple and easy to install and instantly adds new features and functionality to a mobile device.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just like you will find social sharing apps …)

A WordPress plugin is very much like an app. You simply install and activate a software application that adds new functionality to your web site …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Normally, if you need to add new features to a website, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, things can become fairly expensive, particularly if it requires website development.

This also applies when setting up a new website or business blog. Organizations sometimes invest money up front in features they probably will never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend considering a sustainable approach when growing your website and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine if you could:

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

2) As the need for new features or functionality becomes apparent, you can add new applications with a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from within your admin area, giving your web site an entirely new range of practical capabilities, and …

3) Cost not a single dollar more to download and install on your site?

Well, that’s precisely what a WP plugin enables you to do!

Benefits & Advantages Of Using WP Plugins

Earlier, we compared WordPress plugins with ’apps’. Just like some apps are free to download and some cost a little bit of money, the same is true of WordPress plugins.

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

Plugins that cost money are called Premium plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of hiring a professional web developer to add similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite low.

Also, because WordPress is an Open Source application, any person can create, modify and customize any portion of the WordPress code. This has enabled thousands of professional web development professionals to build more new applications that “plug into” the WordPress platform than you can probably imagine.

  • Plugins let you get started simply with only a simple yet professional site and expand as necessary.
  • WordPress plugins let you add practically endless functionality to your web site quickly, easily and very inexpensively.
  • Plugins give your website almost unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow business owners to own a site that they can self-manage.
  • 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 functionality.
  • Some plugins can be a little more advanced and may require some configuring.

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

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

You can download thousands of WordPress plugins from the Free WP Plugin Directory

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WP Plugins

As previously mentioned, you can find plugins that will do just about anything you can possibly want a site to do.

There are WordPress plugins for:

  • Blog Management
  • Content Management
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Monitoring
  • Managing Media – Videocasts, Images, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Monitoring & Reporting Tools
  • Site Optimization

For example, you can expand a website with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single sales with PayPal buttons, to enterprise scale e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your site from English to German)
  • 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
  • Managing events
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your website
  • Set up appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and send you reports
  • Redirect visitors from certain pages to other pages on your site or other websites
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Exclude certain from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content
  • Import data from other CMS platforms
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. display Facebook comments)
  • Insert HTML and script elements into your pages
  • Add formatted tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced font display formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add location maps
  • Post your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, WordPress plugins give you limitless business flexibility. If you plan to build a web site, or your existing site was not built with WordPress, then consider choosing WordPress in the future.

In case you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WordPress plugins, let’s take a look at how you can benefit by adding an inexpensive plugin to your website.

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, free plugins can be used to improve your web presence in so many different ways. From adding functionality that will enhance your business, your web users’ experience and your ability to review site data …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your site using inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can install plugins that automate processes on your website like customer feedback and event registrations management …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

And also set up a complete bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to design the same functionality for you …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WP commenting features and plugins that can enhance your site’s interactivity …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Leave 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 your visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Share your posts with other web users on social media.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with other customers using forums or even set up a private community on your site.
  • Engage with your support team via live chats
  • Dial your business directly from their mobile phones when visiting your website
  • Get support via a user help desk
  • And so much more …

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

Finally you, can even integrate sophisticated 3rd-party solutions within a WordPress “front end”. This enables you to control your business sales and marketing, while the 3rd-party application handles the technical side of things …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

Useful Things You Should Know About Plugins

  • There are many terrific plugins available. Be careful not to overload your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will begin to affect your website’s resources and site loading times. It can also mean more maintenance issues for you resulting from potential conflicts and errors.
  • Install only those plugins that you really use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these utilize extra server resources.
  • Many free plugins often come with little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid plugins, make sure you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check our WP plugin reviews for additional information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before installing it on your website or blog. WordPress updates regularly and out-of-date plugins can cause conflicts.
  • Make sure to always upgrade your plugins. Older plugin not only can cause conflicts, they may also have security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an important element of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most used digital content publishing software available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add new features to their web presence without having to spend thousands of dollars on web developers.

One last thing about plugins:

If there is any feature you want for your web site, you can be sure that a WordPress plugin currently exists that will do exactly what you want it to do, and that it can either be accessed for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be reasonably 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 chance such a WordPress plugin has not been created yet, then a custom plugin that does precisely what you would like it to do can certainly be written for you at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of WP plugins – what they are and how they can help enhance the functionality of your WordPress site. See our related posts section to learn about more great WordPress plugins that we recommend using.


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)