WordPress Plugins Explained

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

For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.

WP Plugins - Improving Your Web Site's Features And FunctionalityOne of the most unique benefits of the WordPress website publishing platform is the ability to quickly increase your WP website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding WordPress Plugins

Like most of us, you most likely own a device like a mobile phone. What do you do when you want to access something new on your device like a new application, game or a productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a software that is simple and easy to install and instantly integrates new functionality into any smart phone.

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

(Just like you can find social sharing apps …)

A plugin is like an app. You download and install a software application that provides new functionality to your WordPress website or blog …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

(… there are also social sharing plugins for WP!)

Generally, if you want to expand the functionality of your website, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, this can get fairly expensive, especially if it requires editing code.

This is also applicable to setting up a new website or business blog. Business owners often pay up-front for additional components they probably will never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we suggest a sustainable strategy when growing your website and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As you need more features, you can add new applications with just a couple of mouse clicks directly from within your WordPress dashboard section, giving your website or blog an entirely new range of practical functionality, and also …

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

Well, this is just what a WP plugin enables you to do!

Plugins – Benefits And Advantages

We started this blog post by comparing plugins with ’apps’. In a similar way that many apps are free to download and some apps cost a little money, so do plugins.

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

WP plugins that you have to pay for 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 plugins cost very little.

Also, since WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, any person can create, edit and customize any portion of the code. This has enabled many third-party software development companies to enhance and contribute to the WordPresssoftware.

  • Plugins allow you to start off with only a basic web presence and then expand only when necessary.
  • WordPress plugins let you add almost unlimited features to any web presence quickly, easily and inexpensively.
  • Plugins give your digital presence practically unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow non-technical users to own a web presence that they can manage.
  • Most plugins normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your web site with new capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more extensive options and could require some configuring.

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

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

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As previously mentioned, you can find plugins that will do almost everything you need done.

WP plugin categories cover:

  • Web Site Management
  • Content Management
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Engagement
  • Uploading Media Files – Videos, Graphics, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting Applications
  • Blog SEO

You can add features to a WordPress site with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with online shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • 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 interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your blog
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect website links
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Exclude certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide page content sections
  • Migrate content from other CMS applications
  • Search and replace data
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook discussions)
  • Insert scripts and code elements into your posts
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced font display formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Post your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and many others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you limitless possibilities. If you plan to build a web site for your business, or your existing site was not built with WordPress, then consider getting a WP site or blog built on your domain, or you will be missing out on some serious functionality.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible WP plugins are, let me show you how you can benefit by simply adding a plugin to your site.

For example, if you want content protection, you can install plugins to make an area of your post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a complete paid membership site with separate login details for users …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to improve your site in so many ways. From installing features that can enhance your business, your website visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

To increasing your site’s reach and visibility across a number of social networks and search engines …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And even run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring web developers to code these applications for you …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WP commenting features and plugins that will let you engage more with web visitors, customers and registered site users …

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can easily:

  • Post comments on your blog posts (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site added exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on bookmarking sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with other users through forums or even set up a private online community on your domain.
  • Engage with members of your team through live video chats
  • Call your business directly from their mobile phones when visiting your website
  • Get help via a dedicated user help desk
  • And much more …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate sophisticated third-party applications with a WP “front end”. This allows you to manage your business sales and marketing, while your 3rd-party application handles the technological areas …

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

Additional Tips About Plugins

  • There are many great WordPress plugins available. Be careful of overloading your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will eventually begin to affect your site’s performance and page loading speed. It also creates more maintenance work for you resulting from possible conflicts and errors.
  • Install only those plugins that you really need to use. Delete any plugins from your site, as these also consume server resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid plugins, we recommend that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we publish on this site for more information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two or more years), then think twice before using it. The WordPress application changes on a frequent basis and older plugins that have not been updated can cause issues.
  • Always maintain all plugins up-to-date. Outdated plugins not only can create issues, they could also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most downloaded CMS available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to add new functionality to their website without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing regarding plugins:

Whatever feature or functionality you need for your web presence, you can be sure that a someone has probably already authored one that will do just what you want, and that this plugin will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the price to purchase it will be reasonable.

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 does not exist, then it can probably be developed for you for a reasonable price.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of WP plugins – what they are and how they can significantly to improve your WP web site. See our published posts to learn about more useful 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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For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.
Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.