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 - Extending Your Website's FeaturesOne of the main features of the WordPress software is that you can quickly and easily increase your WP website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding Plugins

No doubt, you most likely have a mobile phone. What happens when you want to access something new on your phone like a new application, software or a business productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software application that is simple and easy to install and integrates new functionality into your smart phone.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A WordPress plugin is similar to an app. You install a software application that provides new functionality to your website …

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

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

Almost always, if you need to expand the functionality of an existing web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the feature or enhancement is, this could become fairly expensive, especially if website developers have to add new code or edit templates or develop scripts that integrate with your existing site.

This also applies to creating a website. Organizations sometimes invest money up front for bells and whistles they probably will never need.

For this reason, we recommend a modular strategy to setting up a website and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As you need more features and functionality, you can install new applications with a few mouse clicks directly from your admin section, giving your website a completely new range of features and functionality, and …

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

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

Plugins – Benefits And Advantages

Earlier, we compared plugins with ’apps’. In a similar way that some apps are free to download and some may cost a little money, so do plugins.

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

WordPress plugins that you have to buy are called “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to get the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are priced quite cheaply.

Also, because WordPress makes its source code publicly available, anybody can create, edit and customize any portion of the code. This has allowed thousands of third-party software development professionals to build more new applications that “plug into” the WordPress application than you can possibly imagine.

  • Plugins let you start off with a basic site and then add new features and enhancements to your site when necessary.
  • Plugins let you add practically endless functionality to your web presence easily and cheaply.
  • WordPress plugins give you virtually endless expanding capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow ”non-techies” to own a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your site instant new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced options and may need some configuring.

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

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

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

As previously mentioned, you will find WordPress plugins that can do just about everything you want done.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Site Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Driving Web Visitors
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Engagement
  • Uploading Media – Videos, Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Analysis Tools
  • Securing Your

You can expand your website with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Instant language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to Italian)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your site
  • Set up client appointments and reminders
  • Set up reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and send you reports
  • Redirect users from old pages to other areas 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 pages from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your posts and pages
  • Import data from other CMS platforms
  • Perform bulk data edits
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Insert code and script elements into your posts, pages and sidebar menus
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google local search
  • Add location maps
  • Post your content automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you virtually limitless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a web site for your business, or your existing web site isn’t powered by WordPress, then consider choosing it in the future.

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

For example, if you need content protection, you can install plugins to make an area of a page inaccessible, or create a complete paid membership site with separate login details for users …

A Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, you can use free plugins to enhance your web presence in lots of different ways. From adding features that improve your business, your visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced features to your site using relatively inexpensive premium WordPress plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that automate functions on your site like displaying customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Guide To WP Plugins

And also run a complete bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to build custom applications for you …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will increase user engagement …

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site added exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on bookmarking sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with your support team through forums or even set up a private online social network on your site.
  • Engage with your support team through live chats
  • Dial your business from their mobile phones while browsing your site
  • Get support via a dedicated client support helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

You can also integrate sophisticated third-party applications within a WordPress “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors see on your site, while your third-party application handles the technological aspects …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

Plugins – Additional Tips

  • There are lots of great plugins available. Be careful not to overload your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can invariably affect your site’s resources and site loading speed. It can also create more maintenance work for you as a consequence of potential conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep the plugins you really need to use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins often receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering paid plugins, make sure you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check some of our plugin recommendations 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 installing it. The WordPress platform updates often and older plugins that have not been updated can create conflicts.
  • Always update your plugins. Outdated plugin not only can cause conflicts, they may also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

One last thing about plugins:

If there is any functionality you need for your website, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already authored one that will do exactly what you want, and that this plugin will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the cost will be surprisingly 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 plugin has not been created yet, then it can most certainly be created for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can significantly enhance the functionality of your business blog. See our published posts to learn more about usingplugins.

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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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Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.