WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Adding New Features And Functionality To Your WordPress Site With PluginsOne of the most unique features of WordPress is that you can quickly and easily enhance your WP site’s functionality using inexpensive called ’plugins’.

About Plugins

Like most people, you probably own a mobile phone. What happens when you want access to something new on your phone like a new application, software or a tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a software that is really easy to install and integrates new functionality into any mobile phone.

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just like you will find social sharing apps for smart devices …)

A plugin is very much like an app. You install and activate an application that adds new functionality to your web site …

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

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

Generally, adding new features to your web site involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the features or enhancement, things can get fairly expensive, particularly if it involves website development.

This also applies to setting up a website. Business owners sometimes pay upfront for bells and whistles they may never need.

To reduce expenses, we recommend using a modular strategy when developing a web presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get a website up and running quickly, then …

2) As the need for new features and functionality becomes apparent, simply install new applications with a couple of clicks of the mouse that integrate with your website and blog, giving your website a whole new and expanded range of possibilities, and also …

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

Well, this is exactly what plugins let you do!

Benefits And Advantages Of Using WordPress Plugins

I began this post by comparing plugins with smartphone apps. Just like many apps are free to download and some cost a little bit of money, the same is true for WordPress plugins.

In fact, thousands of plugins are freely available for WordPress users.

WordPress plugins that you purchase are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of paying for professional web development services to add similar functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, as WordPress makes its source code publicly available, any web developer can create, modify and customize any part of the code. This has enabled thousands of professional software development professionals to enhance and contribute to the core WordPress software application.

  • WP plugins allow you to start off with a basic web site and add new features and enhancements to your site only when necessary.
  • WP plugins allow you to add practically unlimited functionality to any website quickly and cheaply.
  • WP plugins give you virtually unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow non-technical website owners to have a website that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your web site with instant new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins provide more extensive features and may need some configuration.

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

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

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

WP plugin categories cover:

  • Blog Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Increasing Web Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Sharing
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Improving Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Reporting Applications
  • Optimizing Your

You can add features to your business online presence with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • User Surveys
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce stores with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your website 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 integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your blog
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Help customers make reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks 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 displaying on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect post content sections
  • Migrate data from other CMS applications
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Prevent SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. displaying Facebook discussions)
  • Insert scripts and code elements into your website’s header or footer
  • Add and format tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google local search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Publicize your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, WordPress plugins give you practically endless business scalability. If you plan to build a web site, or your existing website wasn’t built using WordPress, then consider getting a WP site or blog added to your domain, or you could be missing out on some serious functionality.

If you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WP plugins, let’s take a look at some practical advantages of adding a plugin to your web site.

For example, if you want to publish content which is only accessible to some users, you can use plugins to make a section of your page or post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a full membership site with customized login details for every member …

A Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to improve your website in so many different ways. From installing new features that improve your business, your website visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

To increasing your business reach across many social networks and search engines …

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

You can also add sophisticated functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive paid WP plugins. For example, you can download plugins that automate functions on your website such as user testimonial and event bookings management …

A Guide To WP Plugins

And even set up a custom bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring web developers to code the same applications for you …

A Non-Technical Guide To WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that will enhance your site’s interactivity …

A Useful Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the built-in WP commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other online visitors on social networking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online directly with your support staff using forums or even set up a private online social network on your own domain.
  • Engage with members of your team using live webcam conferencing and chatrooms
  • Dial your business directly from their devices when browsing your site
  • Get help via a dedicated user helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can even integrate sophisticated enterprise-level solutions using a WP “front end”. This enables you to manage the content that your visitors will see on your web site, while the 3rd-party application handles the technological side of things …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Some Useful Information About WordPress Plugins

  • There are many plugins available. Be careful of overloading your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will eventually start to affect your site’s resources and page loading times. It also means more maintenance work for you as a consequence of possible errors.
  • Only keep those plugins you really use. Delete any plugins you don’t need from your site, as these also consume resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive very little to no support from the plugin author. When considering paid plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide here for more 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 on your website or blog. WordPress updates on a regular basis and outdated WP plugins can create problems.
  • Make sure that you always update your plugins. Outdated plugin not only can cause problems, they may also contain security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

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

One last thing regarding plugins:

If there is a feature you want for your web presence, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already authored one that will do just what you want it to do, and that it can either be accessed for FREE, or if it’s a premium plugin, that it will be reasonably inexpensive.

And, if by chance this plugin is not available, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you want it to do can probably be developed for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of WordPress plugins – what they are and how they can expand your website. See our published posts to learn about more popular plugins that we recommend using.


"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

Disclaimer: WordPress and its related trademarks are registered trademarks of Automattic, Inc. This site and the services and products offered on this site are not affiliated, associated, sponsored, or endorsed by WordPress, nor have they been tested, reviewed, or certified by WordPress. The owner, contributors and/or advertisers may derive financial benefit from sales of items advertised, linked to, or reviewed on this site.


Did you enjoy this article? If so, please share this post with anyone thinking of starting a business online using the share buttons below.

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!