WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Add New Functionality To Your WordPress Blog With PluginsOne of the most powerful benefits of choosing the WordPress content management platform is the ability to easily enhance your WordPress web site’s functionality using inexpensive called plugins.

About Plugins

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

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software that is simple and easy to install and adds new features to any smart phone.

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

(Just as there are social sharing apps …)

A WP plugin is similar to an app. You download and install a little software application that provides new functionality to your web site …

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Almost always, expanding the functionality of an existing site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new features or enhancements are, this cost can be significant, especially if web developers have to add new code or modify code or install scripts to integrate with your existing site.

This is also applicable when developing a new website or business blog. Many companies tend to spend up-front on features and customizations they probably will never need.

To save money and keep your costs down, we suggest using a modular strategy when setting up a digital presence presence and WP plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

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

2) As the need for new capabilities becomes apparent, add new software modules with a couple of clicks of the mouse directly from your admin area, giving your website or blog a completely new range of useful functionality, and …

3) Cost not a single dollar more to add to your site?

Well, this is exactly what a plugin enables you to do!

Benefits Of Plugins

I began this article by comparing plugins with ’apps’. Just like many apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little money, so do WordPress plugins.

In fact, loads of wonderful plugins are freely available for WP users.

WordPress plugins that you purchase are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when you compare the cost of buying a Premium WP plugin to the price of investing in web development services to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, as WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, anyone can create, modify and customize any portion of the code. This has enabled many professional web development professionals to create more new applications that work with the WordPress engine than you can probably imagine.

  • Plugins let you get started with a simple yet professional site and then add new features and enhancements to your site when necessary.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically endless features to your web presence easily and cheaply.
  • Plugins give you almost endless expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow non-technical website owners to own a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your website instant new capabilities and features.
  • Some plugins are a little more advanced and may need some initial configuring.

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

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

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

There are plugins for:

  • User Administration
  • Content Management
  • Increasing Web Visitors
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Media
  • Inserting Media – Videocasts, Graphics & Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Analysis
  • Securing Your

For example, you can enhance a website with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User feedback forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your website from English to French)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your site
  • Set appointments and appointment reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and send you reports
  • Redirect web links
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide certain from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your posts and pages
  • Import information from non-WordPress platforms
  • Search and replace content
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting scripts and script elements into your posts
  • Add and format tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Post your content automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and others
  • Show countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you limitless business flexibility. If you are currently planning to build a website or blog, or your existing website wasn’t built with WordPress, then consider getting one in the future, or you could be missing out on some serious functionality.

If you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let me show you how you can benefit instantly by installing a plugin on your site.

For example, if you want to publish content which is only accessible to some but not all users, you can install plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full membership site with separate login details for all users …

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, you can use free plugins to improve your web site in lots of ways. From installing new features that will enhance your business, your website visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is taking place on your site …

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

To increasing your site’s visibility across a number of social media and search engines …

A Non-Technical Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex features to your site using relatively inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that automate functionality on your pages like displaying customer testimonials and booking events …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of paying programmers to create similar functionality for you …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that will make your site even more interactive …

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Post comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Share your posts with other web users on social networks.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team using forums or even set up an online community on your site.
  • Engage with your team through live web conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Call your business from their devices while visiting your site
  • Get support via a dedicated user help desk
  • And so much more …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate sophisticated enterprise applications with a WP “front end”. This lets you manage the content that your visitors will see on your site, while the 3rd-party application handles the technical side of things …

A Useful Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Some Useful Information About WordPress Plugins

  • There are lots of great WordPress plugins available. Be careful of overloading your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will affect your website’s resources and page loading speed. It also creates more maintenance work for you as a consequence of potential conflicts.
  • Install only those plugins that you really need. Delete all inactive plugins from your site, as these utilize extra server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering premium plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of our WP plugin recommendations for additional information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two or more years), then think carefully before installing it on your website or blog. The WordPress core software is updated regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can create conflicts.
  • Always upgrade your plugins. Older plugins not only can create conflicts, they may also have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important element of WordPress and contribute to making it the most preferred online management application available. 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.

One last thing on the topic of WordPress plugins:

Whatever feature you need for your web site, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already authored one that will do exactly what you want it to do, and that it will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be surprisingly 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 such a WP plugin does not exist, then a custom plugin that does just what you want it to do can certainly be developed for your business for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of plugins – what they are and how they can help improve your WP website. See our related posts section to learn more about usingplugins.


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)


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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.