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 - Enhance Your Blog's FunctionalityOne of the main benefits of using WordPress is the ability to quickly and easily increase your WP site’s functionality using inexpensive called ’plugins’.

What Are Plugins?

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

You download and install an app!

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

(Just like there are social sharing apps …)

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

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Generally, expanding the functionality of an existing website involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, the cost can be significant, particularly if it involves website development.

This also applies when setting up a new web site. Business owners tend to invest in features they probably will never need.

To keep costs low, we recommend using a modular approach when setting up a digital presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine if you could:

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

2) As the need arises, you can add new applications with a few clicks of the mouse directly from within your administration area, and give your site a completely new and expanded range of possibilities, and …

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

Well, this is precisely what plugins allow you to do!

Plugins – Benefits

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

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

Plugins that you purchase are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to add the same functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. ”paid”) plugins are priced quite low.

Also, since WordPress makes its source code publicly available, anybody can create, modify and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has allowed many third-party web developers to enhance and contribute to the WordPresssoftware.

  • Plugins let you start off simply with just a basic yet professional online business presence and add new features and enhancements to your site as required.
  • WordPress plugins allow you to add practically unlimited features to your online business presence easily and quite inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give your website virtually endless expanding capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow anyone to have a site that they can fully manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your site with immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced features and require some initial configuring.

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

Like many themes, thousands of great plugins are currently available for WordPress users … for FREE!

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

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find plugins that will do just about everything you can possibly need a web site to do.

There are plugins for:

  • Website Administration
  • Content Distribution
  • Web Traffic Generation
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Engagement
  • Inserting Media – Videocasts, Images, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales & Advertising Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting Applications
  • WordPress SEO

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

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Rotating banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to enterprise scale e-commerce with online shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User feedback forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your website from English to Portuguese)
  • 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 & bookings
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your site
  • Set up appointments and appointment reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect users from specific pages to other pages on your site or other sites
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Hide pages from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide page content sections
  • Import data from other publishing platforms
  • Perform bulk data replacements
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize visitor commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook posts)
  • Inserting HTML and code elements into your posts, pages and sidebar menus
  • Add formatted tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map
  • Publish your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you limitless business flexibility. If you plan to build a website or blog, or your existing website was not built using WordPress, then consider getting one added to your domain, or you will be missing out on some serious functionality.

If you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let’s take a look at how you can benefit by adding an inexpensive plugin to your website.

For example, if you want content protection, you can use plugins to make an area of a page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full membership site with personal login details for each user …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to improve your site in lots of different ways. From installing features that improve your business, your web users’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Non-Technical Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that integrate and automate functions on your pages such as customer feedback and event registrations management …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also set up a complete bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying programmers to code custom applications for you …

A Non-Technical Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your web 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 then get shared throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with additional exposure).
  • Share your content with other web users on social networking sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with other users using forums or even set up an online community on your domain.
  • Engage with your team using live chats
  • Dial your business directly from their laptops while browsing your site
  • Get help and support via a dedicated client helpdesk
  • And so much more …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can even integrate complex third-party applications with a WordPress “front end”. This enables you to control your business marketing, while your third-party application handles the technical areas …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins – Some Useful Things To Know

  • There are lots of plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your server with too many plugins, as this will affect your website’s performance and site loading speed. It also creates more maintenance issues for you as a consequence of possible conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep the plugins that you really use. Delete any plugins from your site, as these utilize resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium plugins, make sure you check around a little and understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we publish here 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 site. The WordPress platform changes often and older plugins that have not been updated can cause issues.
  • Ensure that you always upgrade your plugins to the latest version. Outdated plugins not only can cause errors and conflicts, they may also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most powerful, flexible and scalable website open source solution in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to expand quickly without having to spend thousands of dollars on web development costs.

One last thing on the subject of WordPress plugins:

If there is a functionality you want for your web site, you can be sure that a WordPress plugin already exists that will do just what you need, and that it can either be downloaded at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be surprisingly 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 WordPress plugin is not available, then a custom plugin that does precisely what you need it to do can most certainly be written for you 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 blog. See our published posts to learn more about using WP plugins.

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