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 Web Site With WordPress PluginsOne of the most unique advantages of using the WordPress platform is that you can quickly expand your WP website’s functionality using applications called ’plugins’.

About WordPress Plugins

No doubt, you probably have a smart phone. What do you do when you want to access something new on your phone like a new application, game or business productivity tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just as you can find social sharing apps …)

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

Typically, if you want to add a new feature to an already-built website, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the new feature or enhancement is, this cost can be fairly significant, particularly if web developers need to create new code or edit programs or install programs to integrate into your existing site.

This is also applicable to creating a website or business blog. Businesses will often spend up-front on features and options they may never need.

For this reason, we recommend considering a cost-effective approach when developing your website and WP plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As you need more features or functionality, simply install new applications with a few clicks of the mouse directly from within your WP administration panel, and give your website a completely new range of possibilities, and also …

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

Well, that’s precisely what a plugin lets you do!

Benefits & Advantages Of Using Plugins

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

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

Plugins that cost money are referred to as “Premium” plugins. The good news, is that when you compare it to the price of hiring a professional web developer to get the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite low.

Also, since WordPress makes its code publicly available, any person can create, edit and customize any part of the code. This has enabled thousands of professional web development companies to create more new tools that integrate with the WordPress software than you can imagine.

  • Plugins let you get started simply with only a simple yet professional web site and then expand only if necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add almost unlimited functionality to any web site easily, quickly and quite cheaply.
  • Plugins give your site virtually unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow business owners to own a site that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your website with new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins provide more advanced options and could require some configuring.

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

Like themes, loads of plugins are made available to WordPress users … for FREE!

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As previously mentioned, you can find plugins that can do almost anything you could think of.

There are WP plugins for:

  • User Administration
  • Content Distribution
  • Web Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Monitoring
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Monitoring & Reporting
  • Site SEO

You can add features to a website with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Display advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single sales with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupons, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Instant language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your site 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.
  • Media management
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your blog
  • Set up appointments and reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect users from specific pages to other pages on your site or other websites
  • Monitor what social media users are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect page content sections
  • Import data from other publishing platforms
  • Perform bulk data edits
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. display Facebook comments)
  • Inserting HTML and script elements into your website’s header or footer
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Post your content automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you practically endless possibilities. If you plan to build a website or blog for your business, or your existing website isn’t powered by WordPress, then consider choosing it in the future.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let’s take a look at how you can benefit instantly by adding a plugin to your website.

For example, if you want content protection, you can use plugins to make an area of your page or post inaccessible, or create a full paid membership site with customized login details for users …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to improve your website in so many ways. From installing new features that will enhance your business, your website visitors’ experience and your ability to review website data …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also add sophisticated features to your website using relatively inexpensive premium WordPress plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that integrate and automate processes on your pages such as displaying customer testimonials and booking events …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

And also run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring web developers to code the same applications for you …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that can make your site even more interactive …

A Guide To WP Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can turn into online discussions) using either the built-in WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site added exposure).
  • Share your posts with other web users on social networking sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team using online forums or even set up a private online social network on your site.
  • Engage with your support staff using live video chats
  • Dial your business from their devices while browsing your website
  • Get help via a client help desk
  • And much more …

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also integrate complex “back end” applications within a WordPress “front end”. This enables you to manage your business marketing, while your 3rd-party application handles the technological side of things …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Useful Things To Know About Plugins

  • There are loads of fantastic plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will affect your website’s performance and page loading speed. It can also create more maintenance issues for you resulting from possible conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep the plugins that you really need. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these use extra server resources.
  • Many free plugins often come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing paid plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check our plugin recommendations for additional information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two or more years), then think twice before installing it on your website or blog. The WordPress core application updates regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can cause conflicts.
  • Always keep all plugins up-to-date. Outdated plugin not only can create errors, they could also have security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WP plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most popular online management solution available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to add new features to their website without spending thousands of dollars on web development costs.

One last thing about WP plugins:

Whatever feature you need for your web site, you can guarantee that a someone has probably already developed one that will do exactly what you want, and that this plugin will either be available at no cost, or if it’s a premium plugin, that the price to purchase it will be surprisingly 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 WordPress plugin has not been created yet, then one can probably be coded for your business for a reasonable price.

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

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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