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.

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WordPress Plugins Expand Your Website's CapabilitiesOne of the main advantages of building a website using the WordPress platform is the ability to quickly and easily expand your WP website’s functionality using inexpensive (and often free) applications called plugins.

What Are Plugins?

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

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a piece of software that is easy to install and integrates new features into your mobile device.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just as there are social sharing apps for mobile phones …)

A plugin is similar to an app. You install and activate an application that provides new functionality to your WP website or blog …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

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

Normally, adding new features to an existing site involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancement, the cost can be significant, particularly if it requires website development.

This also applies when setting up a new web site. Organizations sometimes invest up front for components they may never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we suggest a modular approach to developing your web presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get a web presence up and running fast, then …

2) As you need new features or functionality, add new software modules with a few clicks of the mouse that integrate with your web site, and give your web site an entirely new range of practical features and capabilities, and …

3) Cost not a single cent extra to install on your website?

Well, that’s exactly what plugins allow you to do!

Benefits & Advantages Of WordPress Plugins

I started this article by comparing plugins with mobile apps. In the same way that many apps are free to download and some may cost a little money, the same is true for plugins.

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

WP plugins that you have to buy are called Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare it to the price of hiring a professional web developer to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are typically quite inexpensive.

Also, since WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, any web developer can create, modify and customize any portion of the code. This has enabled many professional software developers to enhance the core WordPress software application.

  • Plugins let you start off with a simple site and then expand only if necessary.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically endless functionality to your web site easily, quickly and cheaply.
  • WordPress plugins give you virtually endless expansion capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow non-technical website owners to have a web presence that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins typically work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your website with new capabilities and features.
  • Some plugins offer more extensive options and require some configuring.

WP Plugins – Powerful, Flexible … And (Many Of Them Are) Completely FREE!

Like themes, loads of plugins are available for WordPress users … often at $0 cost!

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

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

As previously mentioned, you can find plugins that will do just about everything you can think of.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Web Site Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Driving Site Traffic
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Monitoring
  • Managing Media Files – Videocasts, Graphics, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales & Marketing Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting
  • WP Security

For example, you can enhance your business online presence with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Social contests
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Automatic 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
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Cloud storage management
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your website
  • Set appointments and reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links on your pages and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Exclude pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content
  • Import content from non-WP applications
  • Search and replace data
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor comment displays (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Insert code and code elements into your posts, pages and sidebars
  • Add and format tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Publish your content automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon and others
  • Show countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, WordPress plugins give you endless business flexibility. If you are planning to build a website, or your existing site was not built with WordPress, then consider using it in the future.

If you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let me show you how you can benefit instantly by simply adding an inexpensive plugin to your site.

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to improve your web presence in so many different ways. From adding functionality that will enhance your business, your website visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Guide To WP Plugins

To increasing your business reach and visibility across social sites and search engines …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add sophisticated functionality to your website using inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that automate functions on your website like customer testimonial and event registrations management …

A Guide To WP Plugins

And also run a complete bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to create the same functionality for you …

A Guide To WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that will increase visitor engagement …

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

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Post 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 a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on social media.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with your team using forums or even set up a private community on your site.
  • Engage with your support team through live video chats
  • Call your business directly from their devices when visiting your website
  • Open support tickets
  • And much more …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can even integrate sophisticated “back end” solutions within a WordPress “front end”. This enables you to manage the content that your visitors will see on your website, while your third-party application handles the technological areas …

A Guide To WP Plugins

WP Plugins – Some Useful Information

  • There are loads of good plugins available. Be careful not to overload your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will affect your site’s performance and page loading times. It can also create more maintenance issues for you as a result of possible conflicts.
  • Install only the plugins you really use. Delete all inactive plugins from your site, as these use server resources.
  • Many free plugins often come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium plugins, ensure that you check around a little and understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of our WordPress plugin reviews for more information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before installing it. WordPress changes regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can cause conflicts.
  • Make sure to always update your plugins to their latest software version. Older plugins not only can create errors and conflicts, they could also contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an important 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 instant features to their website without having to spend thousands of dollars on web development costs.

One last thing on the subject of plugins:

If there is a functionality you want for your website, you can guarantee that a WP plugin currently exists that will do exactly what you need, and that this plugin can either be downloaded for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the price will be quite 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 any chance such a WP plugin is not available, then it can probably be written for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of WP plugins – what they are and how they can significantly enhance the functionality of your WP website. See our published posts to learn about more popular WP plugins that we recommend using.

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"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

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