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 - The Easy Way To Extend Your Blog's Features And FunctionalityOne of the main advantages of using the WordPress website management software is that you can quickly expand your WordPress website’s functionality using plugins.

About Plugins

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

You download and install an app!

An app is a little piece of software that is very simple and easy to install and instantly integrates new features into your smart phone.

A Practical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just as there are social sharing apps …)

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

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Normally, expanding the functionality of your site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the feature or enhancement is, the cost can be fairly significant, particularly if it involves editing code.

This is also applicable to creating a new website or business blog. Business owners tend to pay money in advance for bells and whistles they may not ever need.

For this reason, we suggest considering a modular strategy to setting up your web site and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply with minimal expense involved. Get your business web presence up and running quickly, then …

2) As the need becomes evident, install new software modules with only a few clicks of the mouse that integrate with your current website or blog, to give your website or blog a whole new and expanded range of useful functionality, and …

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

Well, this is exactly what WordPress plugins let you do!

WordPress Plugins – Benefits And Advantages

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

In fact, loads of wonderful plugins can be downloaded to your website at no cost.

Plugins that you buy are referred to as Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the price of paying for professional web development services to add similar functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are priced quite cheaply.

Also, since WordPress makes its code available to everyone, anyone can create, rewrite and customize any portion of the WP code. This has allowed many third-party web development professionals to create more new applications that “plug into” WordPress than you can imagine.

  • Plugins let you get started with a simple yet professional online business presence and expand if required.
  • Plugins let you add practically unlimited features to your website quickly and really cheaply.
  • WordPress plugins give your site practically unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow non-technical website owners to own a website that they can fully manage.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your website with new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins are a little more advanced and could require some initial configuration.

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

Like WordPress themes, thousands of great WordPress plugins are available to WordPress users … for FREE!

You can view and 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 anything you can imagine.

There are plugins for:

  • Blog Administration
  • Content Management
  • Traffic
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Engagement
  • Adding Media – Videocasts, Graphics, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales And Advertising Automation
  • Increasing Website Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Analysis Tools
  • Securing Your

For example, you can enhance your WordPress site with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Surveys
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single sales with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to Portuguese)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your site
  • Set appointments and appointment reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect web links
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide post content sections
  • Migrate content from non-WP applications
  • Search and replace data
  • Fight SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Inserting scripts and code elements into your posts and pages
  • Add formatted tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add business location maps
  • Post your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you virtually limitless business flexibility. If you are planning to build a web site for your business, or your existing site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting one in the future, 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 advantages of adding an inexpensive plugin to your website.

For example, if you need to publish content which is only accessible to some users, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a page or post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a complete membership site with customized login details for users …

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

To increasing your business reach across a number of social media and search engines …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex features to your website using inexpensive paid WP plugins. For example, you can install plugins that integrate and automate functionality on your website such as displaying customer testimonials and booking events …

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

And even run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring software developers to create the same applications for you …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other web visitors on various social sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with other online users through online forums or even set up an online community on your own site.
  • Engage with your staff via live chats
  • Call your business from their cellphones while browsing your pages
  • Get support via a customer helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also integrate sophisticated enterprise-level solutions with a WordPress “front end”. This lets you control your business sales and marketing, while the 3rd-party application handles the technical areas …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins – Some Useful Things You Should Know

  • There are many great WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can begin to affect your website’s performance and page loading speed. It also creates more maintenance work for you as a consequence of 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 come with little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing paid plugins, make sure you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of our WordPress plugin reviews for additional expert information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think twice before installing it on your site. WordPress updates on a regular basis and older WordPress plugins can cause conflicts.
  • Make sure to always maintain your plugins updated. Older plugin not only can create errors, they could also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, WP plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most downloaded CMS in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to expand quickly without having to spend thousands of dollars on web development costs.

One last thing about WP plugins:

If there is a feature or functionality you want for your web presence, you can be sure that a WP plugin currently exists that will do exactly what you want it to do, and that it will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the price 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 plugin is not available, then a custom plugin that does just what you want it to do can most certainly be coded for you for a very reasonable price.

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

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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