WordPress Plugins Explained

This tutorial explains what WordPress plugins are, how plugins work and how plugins help WordPress users extend their website’s functionality. 

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Using WordPress Plugins To Enhance Your Site's FeaturesOne of the most useful benefits of choosing the WordPress website publishing platform is that you can easily expand your WordPress site’s functionality using plugins.

Understanding Plugins

Like most people, you probably own a cell phone. What do you do when you would like access to something new on your device like a new game or tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a little software that is very easy to install and integrates new features into your mobile phone.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just like you will find social sharing apps …)

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Normally, expanding the functionality of a site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, this cost can be quite significant, particularly if it involves editing code.

This also applies when creating a new website or business blog. Companies often invest money in advance for features they probably will never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we recommend a modular strategy when growing your web site and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine if you could:

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

2) As new features and functionality are required, just install new software modules with just a couple of mouse clicks directly from your administration section, giving your website or blog a whole new range of features and functionality, and also …

3) Cost not one cent extra to add to your site?

Well, this is precisely what WordPress plugins allow you to do!

WP Plugins – Benefits & Advantages

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

In fact, many wonderful plugins can be downloaded to your website for free.

WordPress plugins that you buy are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to get similar functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite low.

Also, as WordPress is an Open Source application, any web developer can create, edit and customize any part of the code. This has enabled many third-party web developers to enhance the core WordPress software application.

  • Plugins let you start off with a simple yet professional web site and then add new features and enhancements to your site if necessary.
  • WordPress plugins allow you to add practically unlimited features to your web presence quickly and inexpensively.
  • WP plugins give you virtually endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow ”non-techies” to own a site 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 instant new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more advanced and could require some initial configuration.

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

Like many WordPress themes, loads of WordPress plugins are currently available for WP users … often at no cost!

You can view and download thousands of plugins from the Free WordPress Plugin Directory

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find WP plugins that will do just about anything you could imagine.

WP plugin categories cover:

  • Blog Administration
  • Content Management
  • Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Media
  • Inserting Media – Video, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales Automation
  • Improving Sales & Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Reporting
  • Optimizing Your WP Site

For example, you can expand a website with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Social contests
  • Rotating banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonial forms
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your pages from English to Spanish)
  • 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 management
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your website
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Hide specific from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your posts and pages
  • Migrate information from other publishing platforms
  • Perform bulk content edits
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Insert scripts and code elements into your website’s header or footer
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map
  • Post your content automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you virtually endless business flexibility. If you plan to build a website or blog for your business, or your existing website isn’t built with WordPress, then consider using WordPress in the future.

If you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let’s take a look at some practical advantages of installing a plugin on your website.

For example, if you need to publish private content, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a page or post inaccessible, or create a complete membership site with separate login details for users …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to improve your site in lots of ways. From installing functionality that can improve your business, your web users’ experience and your ability to analyze site metrics …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

To extending your business reach across social media and search engines …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add complex functionality to your website using inexpensive premium WordPress plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that automate functionality on your website like managing customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Guide To WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to create custom functionality for you …

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with added exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on social networking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team using forums or even set up a private online social network on your site.
  • Engage with your support team using live video chats
  • Call your business directly from their cellphones when browsing your pages
  • Get support via a dedicated customer help desk
  • And much more …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate sophisticated enterprise solutions using a WP “front end”. This lets you manage the content that your visitors see on your web site, while your third-party application handles the technical functions …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

WP Plugins – Useful Tips

  • There are lots of WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your site with too many plugins, as this can begin to affect your website’s performance and page loading times. It also means more maintenance work for you resulting from potential conflicts and errors.
  • Install only the plugins you really use. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these also utilize resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive little to no support from the plugin author. When considering paid WP plugins, ensure that you check around a little and 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 recommendations for more useful 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 using it. WordPress updates on a regular basis and older plugins that have not been updated can cause errors.
  • Ensure to always upgrade your plugins to the most recent software version. Outdated plugin not only can create problems, they could also contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most preferred content management system in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to expand without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing on the subject of WordPress plugins:

Whatever feature or functionality you need for your web presence, you can be sure that a WordPress plugin currently exists that will do just what you need, and that it will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the price to purchase it will be reasonable.

And, if by any chance this WordPress plugin is not available, then a custom plugin that does just what you want it to do can probably be created for your business for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of plugins – what plugins are and how they can help improve your WordPress web site. See our published posts to learn more about using WP plugins.

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. Our detailed step-by-step tutorials will save you money and teach you how to start, manage, and grow a website or blog using WordPress that puts you in complete control and delivers results with no coding skills required!