WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Adding New Features And Functionality To Your Blog With PluginsOne of the main features of the WordPress web content management software is that you can quickly enhance your WordPress website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

What Are WordPress Plugins?

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

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a software application that is very simple and easy to install and immediately adds new features and functionality to your smart phone.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A WP plugin is very much like an app. You install a software that provides new functionality to your website …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, if you decide to add a new feature to an already-built website, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancements, this cost can be significant, especially if it involves website development.

This is also applicable to developing a website or business blog. Companies sometimes spend money up-front on components they may simply not need.

To reduce your business expenses, we suggest considering a modular strategy when developing your web presence and WP plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

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

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

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

Well, that’s exactly what a plugin allows you to do!

WP Plugins – Benefits

I started this article by comparing plugins with apps. In a similar way that some apps are free to download and some apps cost a little money, the same is true of plugins.

In fact, thousands of plugins are available at no cost to users.

Plugins that you purchase are called Premium plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are typically quite inexpensive.

Also, since WordPress is an Open Source application, anyone can create, rewrite and customize any part of the code. This has enabled thousands of third-party software developers to enhance the WPsoftware.

  • Plugins let you get started with just a basic web site and add new features and enhancements to your site if necessary.
  • WP plugins allow you to add practically unlimited features to your site quickly, easily and very inexpensively.
  • Plugins give your web site virtually unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow business owners to have a website that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your web site new capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced options and may need some initial configuration.

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

Just like WordPress themes, thousands of great plugins are made available to WordPress users … often at $0 cost!

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find WordPress plugins that will do almost anything you can possibly need your web site to do.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Website Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Sharing
  • Adding Media Files – Videos, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales & Marketing Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting Tools
  • WordPress Security

For example, you can expand a business online presence with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Rotating ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to full scale e-commerce stores with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Private Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer feedback forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your site from English to Spanish)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your website
  • Set up client appointments and reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect users from specified pages to other areas on your site or other websites
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude pages from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect page content
  • Import information from non-WordPress applications
  • Search and replace content
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Inserting HTML and code elements into your pages
  • Add formatted tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google local search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Post your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and many others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you practically limitless business scalability. If you are planning to build a web site, or your existing web site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting a WordPress site or blog built on 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 some practical uses of installing a plugin on your site.

For example, if you need to protect your content, you can install plugins to make a section of a post inaccessible, or create a professional paid membership site with separate login details for every member …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to improve your business site in lots of ways. From installing features that enhance your business, your web users’ experience and your ability to analyze visitor data …

A Guide To WP Plugins

To extending your business visibility across multiple social media and search engines …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add sophisticated functionality to your website using inexpensive premium WP plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that integrate and automate tasks on your site like displaying customer testimonials and booking events …

A Useful Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

And also run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring software developers to code the same applications for you …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can grow into online discussions) using either the built-in WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on bookmarking sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with other customers via forums or even set up an online social network on your site.
  • Engage with your staff via live video chats
  • Dial your business from their cellphones while visiting your website
  • Get help via a dedicated user help desk
  • And so much more …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate complex enterprise-level applications with a WordPress “front end”. This allows you to manage your business marketing, while your third-party application handles the technical aspects …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins – Useful Information

  • There are loads of WordPress plugins available. Be careful not to overload your server with too many plugins, as this will eventually affect your site’s resources and site loading speed. It can also mean more maintenance work for you resulting from potential conflicts and errors.
  • Install only the plugins that you really use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these use resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive little to no support from the plugin author. When considering premium WP plugins, we recommend that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we provide on this site for more information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think carefully before installing it on your website. The WordPress platform updates regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can cause conflicts.
  • Make sure to always keep your plugins updated. Older plugins not only can cause conflicts, they may also have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, WP plugins are an important part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most used CMS available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to expand without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing about WP plugins:

If there is a feature or functionality you want for your website, you can be sure that a plugin probably exists that will do exactly what you need it to do, and that it can either be accessed at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the price will be minimal.

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 such a plugin is not available, then it can most certainly be developed for you 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 website. See our published posts to learn about more popular WP plugins that we recommend using.

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"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum

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