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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WP Plugins Expand Your Blog's CapabilityOne of the most powerful benefits of the WordPress website management platform is that you can easily enhance your WP website or blog’s functionality using plugins.

What Are WP Plugins?

Like most people, you most likely use a smart phone. What do you do when you would like to access something new on your device like a new software or a productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

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

A Practical Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just as you will find social sharing apps …)

A plugin is quite similar to an app. You install a little piece of software that adds new functionality to your WP web site …

A Useful Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, adding a new feature to an existing website involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the new feature or enhancements, the cost can be significant, particularly if it requires editing code.

This is also applicable when creating a new website or business blog. Many organizations will often invest money in advance in features they may probably never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we suggest a cost-effective approach when developing your website and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply with minimal cost involved. Get a professional business website up and running fast, then …

2) As more features or functionality are needed, simply add new applications with a couple of mouse clicks that integrate seamlessly with your web site, giving your web site a completely new and expanded range of practical functionality, and …

3) Cost not a single cent extra to add to your web site?

Well, that’s exactly what a plugin allows you to do!

Benefits Of Using WP Plugins

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

In fact, loads of plugins can be installed and activated on your sites.

Plugins that you purchase are called ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the price of investing in web development services to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins are priced quite cheaply.

Also, since WordPress is an Open Source application, any person can create, modify and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has allowed many professional web developers to create more plugins that expand the WordPress application than you can probably imagine.

  • WordPress plugins let you get started with a basic site and expand only when required.
  • WP plugins allow you to add practically unlimited functionality to any online business presence quickly and really cheaply.
  • WP plugins give your website practically unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow ”non-techies” to have a web presence that they can fully manage.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your web site new capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins are a little more advanced and require some configuration.

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

Just like WP themes, tens of thousands of plugins are available for WordPress users … often at $0 cost!

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

A Useful Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As previously mentioned, you will find plugins that will do almost everything you could think of.

There are plugins for:

  • User Management
  • Content Management
  • Traffic
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Connectivity
  • Media Management Automation
  • Improving Sales & Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting
  • Optimizing Your

For example, you can enhance your website with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Social contests
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with online shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User feedback forms
  • Instant language translation (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your website 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
  • Managing events
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your website
  • Set up client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect users from missing pages to other areas on your site or other sites
  • Monitor social signals
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Hide certain from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect page content sections
  • Migrate information from different CMS platforms
  • Perform bulk content edits
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Insert HTML and code elements into your posts and pages
  • Add tables
  • Display 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 social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and others
  • Show countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, WP plugins give you virtually limitless business flexibility. If you are currently planning to build a website for your business, or your existing website isn’t powered by WordPress, then consider using WordPress in the future.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let me show you some practical advantages of installing an inexpensive plugin on your site.

For example, if you need to publish content which is only accessible to some but not all users, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a post or page inaccessible, or create a complete membership site with personal login details for each user …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, you can use free plugins to improve your business site in lots of ways. From installing features that will improve your business, your site’s user experience and your ability to analyze visitor data …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add sophisticated features to your website using relatively inexpensive paid plugins. For example, you can install plugins that integrate and automate functions on your pages like displaying customer testimonials and event bookings …

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

And also set up a complete bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring web developers to code the same functionality for you …

A Useful Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Post comments on your blog posts (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get shared throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on social networking sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team through forums or even set up a private online social network on your own domain.
  • Engage with your support staff through live video chats
  • Dial your business directly from their mobile phones while browsing your pages
  • Open support tickets
  • And so much more …

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can even integrate complex enterprise-level applications within a WordPress “front end”. This lets you manage the content that your visitors see on your web site, while the 3rd-party application handles the technological areas …

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

Additional Tips About Plugins

  • There are many plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can affect your website’s resources and site loading speed. It can also mean more maintenance issues for you as a consequence of possible conflicts.
  • Only keep those plugins you really need. Delete any plugins you don’t use from your site, as these use extra resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing premium WP plugins, make sure you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check our plugin recommendations for more useful 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 site. WordPress is updated on a regular basis and older plugins can create conflicts.
  • Make sure that you always upgrade your plugins to their most recent software version. Outdated plugin not only can cause issues, they may also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making it the most downloaded web management software in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add instant functionality to their website without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing on the topic of plugins:

If there is any feature or functionality you need for your website, you can guarantee that a WP plugin probably exists that will do what you want it to do, and that it will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be fairly inexpensive.

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 chance this plugin is not available, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you need it to do can certainly be created for your business at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of plugins – what plugins are and how they can enhance the functionality of your website. See our related posts to learn about more popular WP plugins that we recommend using.

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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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.