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 - Extend Your Blog's FeaturesOne of the main features of the WordPress web content management software is that you can quickly enhance your WP site’s functionality using inexpensive called ’plugins’.

About WordPress Plugins

Like most people, you probably use a device like a mobile phone. What do you do when you want to access something new on your device like a new application, software or a business productivity tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a little software that is easy to install and immediately adds new functionality to a mobile device.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just as you will find social sharing apps …)

A WP plugin is very much like an app. You simply install a software that provides new functionality to your site …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Generally, if you want to add new features to your web site, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the feature or enhancement is, this could become quite expensive, particularly if website developers have to add new code or modify code or develop programs that integrate with your current site.

This also applies when creating a website. Companies often invest money in advance in extra bells and whistles they may simply not need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend a sustainable strategy to setting up your website and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As the need becomes apparent, add new applications with a couple of mouse clicks that integrate seamlessly with your existing web site, giving your site a completely new and expanded range of practical capabilities, and also …

3) Cost not a single dollar more to install on your web site?

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

WordPress Plugins – Benefits

We started this article by comparing WordPress plugins with apps. In the same way that many apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little bit of money, the same applies with plugins.

In fact, loads of plugins can be installed and activated on your sites.

WordPress plugins that you purchase are referred to as Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the cost of investing in professional web development services to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are generally very inexpensive.

Also, because WordPress makes its source code available to everyone, any person can create, modify and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has allowed many third-party software developers to enhance the WordPresssoftware.

  • Plugins allow you to get started with just a simple yet professional web presence and then add new features and enhancements to your site only as necessary.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically endless features to your site easily, quickly and quite cheaply.
  • WordPress plugins give your web site practically unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow ”non-techies” to own a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your website or blog new capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more extensive options and may require some configuring.

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

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

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

WP plugin categories cover:

  • Blog Management
  • Content Management
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Monitoring
  • Uploading Media Files – Videocasts, Images, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales Automation
  • Improving Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting Applications
  • Optimizing Your WP Blog

For example, you can expand your website with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Rotating advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single ordering with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupons, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User feedback forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content 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.
  • Offline storage integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your website
  • Set up client appointments and reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide pages from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content sections
  • Import information from non-WordPress applications
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Fight SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting HTML and script elements into your website’s header or footer
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced font display formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map
  • Post your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, WordPress plugins give you practically limitless business scalability. If you plan to build a web site, or your existing site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider using WordPress 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 instantly by adding a plugin to your website.

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

A Non-Technical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Useful Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

To increasing your site’s reach across social sites and search engines …

A Non-Technical Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that integrate and automate processes on your website like customer testimonial and event registration management …

A Guide To WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to code these applications for you …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that can let you engage even more with visitors, clients and registered site members …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the built-in WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then shared throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on social networks.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your support team via forums or even set up a private community on your own site.
  • Engage with your team via live chats
  • Dial your business directly from their cellphones when browsing your site
  • Get help via a dedicated client help desk
  • And so much more …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can even integrate complex “back end” solutions with a WordPress “front end”. This enables you to control the content that your visitors will see on your website, while your third-party application handles the technological side of things …

A Guide To WP Plugins

WP Plugins – Additional Things You Should Know

  • There are lots of great WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your site with too many plugins, as this can affect your website’s performance and page loading speed. It can also mean more maintenance work for you as a result of possible conflicts and errors.
  • Install only those plugins you really use. Delete any plugins you don’t use from your site, as these use extra resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with very little to no support from the plugin author. 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, updates, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we publish on this site for more helpful information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think carefully before installing it. The WordPress software changes on a frequent basis and outdated plugins can create errors.
  • Ensure that you always update your plugins to their most recent software version. Older plugin not only can cause errors and conflicts, they could also have security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

One last thing about WP plugins:

Whatever feature you need for your web site, you can be sure that a WP plugin currently exists that will do what you want it to do, and that this plugin can either be downloaded at no cost, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be fairly 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 any chance this plugin has not been created yet, then it can probably be developed for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of WP plugins – what they are and how they can help enhance the functionality of your business blog. See our related posts to learn about more popular WP plugins that we recommend using.

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Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.