WordPress Plugins Explained

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

WP Plugins - Improving Your Web Site's Features And FunctionalityOne of the most unique benefits of WordPress is that you can easily expand your WP website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding WP Plugins

Like most people, you most likely have a mobile phone. What happens when you want access to something new on your phone like a new game or a productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just like you will find social sharing apps …)

A WP plugin is similar to an app. You simply install and activate an application that provides new functionality to your WordPress site …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

Normally, adding a new feature to an existing site involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the new features or enhancement, the cost can be fairly significant, especially if it involves website development.

This also applies to starting a new website. Companies will often fork out money for extra features they probably will never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend a cost-effective approach to developing your web site and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply with minimal cost involved. Get a web presence up and running quickly, then …

2) As more features and functionality become necessary, add new applications with only a few clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your current website, giving your site a completely new range of capabilities and functionality, and also …

3) Cost not a single cent more to install on your website?

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

Plugins – Benefits

I began this article by comparing plugins with mobile apps. Just like many apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little bit of money, so do plugins.

In fact, many wonderful plugins are freely available for WordPress users.

WP plugins that you buy are called Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to get similar functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are generally very inexpensive.

Also, as WordPress makes its source code publicly available, anybody can create, edit and customize any part of the code. This has enabled many third-party software development professionals to enhance the core software application.

  • Plugins let you start off with a simple site and then add new features and enhancements to your site when necessary.
  • WordPress plugins allow you to add almost unlimited features to your web site easily and inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give you practically unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow ”non-techies” to own a web presence that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your site instant new capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more extensive options and may require some configuring.

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

Just like WP themes, thousands of plugins are currently available to WordPress users … often at no cost!

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WordPress plugins that can do almost anything you need done.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Website Management
  • Content Management
  • Increasing Site Visitors
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Connectivity
  • Adding Media Files – Videos, Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Monitoring & Reporting
  • Site SEO

You can add features to a WordPress site with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer feedback forms
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your pages from English to Portuguese)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Making pages load faster
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your site
  • Set up client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and send you reports
  • Redirect web links
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Exclude specific from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect page content
  • Import content from different publishing applications
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook posts)
  • Inserting HTML and code elements into your posts and pages
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search listings
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Publish your content automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you practically endless possibilities. If you are planning to build a website or blog, or your existing site wasn’t built using WordPress, then consider getting one in the future, 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 some practical advantages of adding an inexpensive plugin to your site.

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to improve your web presence in lots of different ways. From adding new features that improve your business, your web users’ experience and your ability to analyze visitor metrics …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that automate tasks on your site like managing customer testimonials and booking events …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also set up a complete bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying programmers to create custom functionality for you …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will make your site even more interactive …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Post comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then shared throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on bookmarking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online directly with your team members using online forums or even set up a private community on your own site.
  • Engage with your staff through live web conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Call your business from their cellphones when visiting your pages
  • Get help and support via a dedicated customer help desk
  • And much more …

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also integrate complex enterprise-level applications with a WP “front end”. This lets you control your business marketing, while the third-party application handles the technical side of things …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Plugins – Some Useful Information

  • There are lots of awesome plugins available. Be careful not to overload your site with too many plugins, as this will invariably affect your site’s performance and site loading times. It can also mean more maintenance issues for you as a result of potential errors.
  • Only keep those plugins you really need. Delete all deactivated plugins from your site, as these utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid WordPress plugins, we recommend that you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check our WordPress plugin reviews for additional helpful information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think carefully before installing it on your site. The WordPress core application changes often and older plugins that have not been updated can create conflicts.
  • Make sure that you always upgrade your plugins to their latest version. Older plugin not only can cause errors, they may also have security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important aspect of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most used CMS available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add instant functionality to their web presence without having to spend thousands of dollars on web development.

One last thing regarding WordPress plugins:

If there is a functionality you want for your web presence, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already developed one that will do just what you need it to do, and that this plugin can either be downloaded for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be reasonably 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 any chance this plugin is not available, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you want it to do can probably be created for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of plugins – what plugins are and how they can help to improve your website. See our related posts to learn more about usingplugins.


"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)


Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.