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.

Adding New Functionality To Your Blog With WP PluginsOne of the most useful advantages of choosing WordPress is the ability to easily expand your WP site’s functionality using applications called plugins.

What Are Plugins?

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

You download and install an app!

An app is a software application that is really easy to install and adds new functionality to a mobile phone.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

(Just as you can find social sharing apps …)

A WordPress plugin is very similar to an app. You install a software that adds new functionality to your WP web site …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

Almost always, expanding the functionality of your website involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the new features or enhancements, things can get fairly expensive, particularly if it involves modifying code.

This also applies to creating a website or business blog. Businesses often spend money on extra bells and whistles they probably will never need.

To save money and keep your business costs down, we recommend considering a modular approach when setting up a website and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As new features or functionality are required, install new applications with only a few mouse clicks that integrate seamlessly with your website, to give your website a completely new and expanded range of useful capabilities, and also …

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

Well, this is just what WP plugins let you do!

Benefits Of Using WordPress Plugins

Earlier, we compared plugins with smartphone apps. Just like some apps are free to download and some cost a little money, the same applies to plugins.

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

WP plugins that you have to pay for are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of paying for web development services to add the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, as WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, any web developer can create, edit and customize any portion of the code. This has allowed thousands of professional web developers to enhance and contribute to the core WP software application.

  • WP plugins let you start off with just a basic web presence and then add new features and enhancements to your site when required.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically unlimited features to any site easily, quickly and cheaply.
  • WP plugins give your web site virtually endless expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow anyone to have a website that they can fully manage.
  • Most plugins normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your web site with immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more complex and require some configuring.

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

Just like WP themes, tens of thousands of great plugins are currently available to WP users … often at $0 cost!

You can access thousands of WP plugins from the Free WP Plugin Repository

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WordPress plugins that will do almost everything you can imagine.

WP plugin categories cover:

  • Website Administration
  • Content Distribution
  • Increasing Web Visitors
  • User Engagement
  • Social Monitoring
  • Adding Media Files – Videocasts, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Monitoring & Reporting
  • Optimizing Your

You can add features to a business online presence with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • User Surveys
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Private Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to German)
  • 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
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your website
  • Set appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks on your pages and send you reports
  • Redirect affiliate links
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Hide certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your pages and posts
  • Import content from non-WP applications
  • Perform bulk data edits
  • Fight SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Inserting HTML and script elements into your website’s header or footer
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search results
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Publish your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you practically limitless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website or blog for your business, 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 about the power and flexibility of using WP plugins, let’s take a look at how you can benefit by adding an inexpensive plugin to your web site.

For example, if you need to protect your content, you can install plugins to make a section of a post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full membership site with customized login details for users …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

To increasing your business visibility across social media and search engines …

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

You can also add sophisticated features to your site using relatively inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that integrate and automate functions on your pages such as customer testimonial and event registrations management …

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

And even run a custom bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to create these applications for you …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of built-in WP commenting features and plugins that can make your site even more interactive …

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can easily:

  • 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, providing you with additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on social networks.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online directly with your team members via online forums or even set up a private social network on your own site.
  • Engage with your support staff via live chats
  • Dial your business from their laptops when browsing your pages
  • Get help and support via a client support helpdesk
  • And so much more …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate complex enterprise solutions using a WP “front end”. This enables you to manage the content that your visitors see on your web site, while the 3rd-party application handles the technical areas …

A Guide To WP Plugins

WP Plugins – Some Useful Information

  • There are loads of WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will begin to affect your website’s resources and page loading times. It can also mean more maintenance issues for you as a result of potential conflicts.
  • Install only those plugins that you really need. Delete any plugins from your site, as these utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive very little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium WordPress plugins, ensure 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 our plugin reviews for more 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 using it on your website or blog. WordPress changes regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can create problems.
  • Ensure that you always keep all plugins updated. Outdated plugin not only can cause conflicts, they may also contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

One last thing about plugins:

Whatever feature you need for your web presence, you can be sure that a someone has probably already authored one that will do what you want, and that this plugin can either be accessed for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the cost to buy it will be very affordable.

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 this WordPress plugin does not exist, then one can probably be created for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of WP plugins – what plugins are and how they can help improve your WordPress web site. See our related posts to learn about more great WP plugins that we recommend using.

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For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.
Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.