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 Web Site With PluginsOne of the main advantages of using WordPress is that you can quickly and easily increase your WordPress web site’s functionality using plugins.

What Are Plugins?

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

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software application that is very simple and easy to install and immediately integrates new features into any smart phone.

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just like you will find social sharing apps …)

A WP plugin is like an app. You simply install and activate a software that provides new functionality to your WP website or blog …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

Almost always, if you plan to expand the functionality of a website, additional cost is involved. Depending on how complex the features or enhancements are, this could become quite expensive, especially if it involves programming code.

This is also applicable to creating a web site. Many companies sometimes spend money up-front on extra features they may probably never need.

To reduce expenses, we suggest a sustainable strategy when developing your web presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As you need new features, just add new applications with just a few mouse clicks that integrate with your existing site, and give your site a completely new and expanded range of practical functionality, and also …

3) Cost not one dollar extra to download and install on your website?

Well, this is exactly what plugins allow you to do!

Benefits & Advantages Of Using Plugins

I started this post by comparing WP plugins with mobile apps. Just like some apps are free to download and some apps cost a little bit of money, so do WP plugins.

In fact, thousands of plugins can be downloaded to your site for free.

WordPress plugins that cost money are referred to as Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare the price of buying a Premium plugin to the price of paying for web development services to add similar functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. ”paid”) plugins are typically quite inexpensive.

Also, as WordPress is an Open Source application, anybody can create, edit and customize any part of the WordPress code. This has allowed many professional web developers to enhance and contribute to the WPsoftware.

  • WP plugins allow you to get started with a basic site and expand only as necessary.
  • WordPress plugins let you add almost endless functionality to any web site quickly and inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give you almost endless expansion capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow business owners to own a site that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to provide your website or blog with new capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced options and could require some initial configuration.

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

Like many WordPress themes, loads of great plugins are currently available for WP users … for FREE!

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

Plugin categories cover:

  • Website Management
  • Content Management
  • Web Traffic Generation
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Social Monitoring
  • Uploading Media Files – Video, Graphics, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales And Advertising Automation
  • Improving Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data And System Reporting Tools
  • Website Optimization

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

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Managing banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single sales with PayPal buttons, to full scale e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Instant language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to Portuguese)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Cloud storage integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your website
  • Set client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • 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 post content sections
  • Migrate data from other CMS platforms
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Prevent SPAM
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Inserting scripts and script elements into your site’s header and footer
  • Add and format tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search listings
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Distribute your content automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and others
  • Show countdown timers (for expiring offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you limitless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website or blog, or your existing website was not built using WordPress, then consider getting a WP site or blog in the future, or you could be missing out on some serious features.

In case you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using plugins, let’s take a look at how you can benefit by adding a plugin to your site.

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to enhance your web site in so many ways. From adding new features that can enhance your business, your visitors’ experience and your ability to analyze visitor metrics …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also add sophisticated features to your website using inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can download plugins that integrate and automate functionality on your pages like customer testimonial and event registration management …

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 design similar functionality for you …

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

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

A Beginner's Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Post comments on your site (which can grow into online discussions) using either the built-in WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on social networks.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team via forums or even set up an online social network on your own site.
  • Engage with members of your team using live webcam conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Dial your business from their mobile phones while visiting your pages
  • Get help via a dedicated customer helpdesk
  • And so much more …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate complex 3rd-party applications within a WordPress “front end”. This lets you manage your business sales and marketing, while the 3rd-party application handles the technical side of things …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

Plugins – Additional Tips

  • There are so many plugins available. Be careful of overloading your server with too many plugins, as this can inevitably start to affect your website’s resources and page loading times. It can also mean more maintenance work for you as a result of possible errors.
  • Install only those plugins you really plan to use. Delete all inactive plugins from your site, as these use resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium plugins, ensure that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we publish on this site for more information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two or more years), then think twice before using it. The WordPress core application changes regularly and older plugins that have not been updated can cause problems.
  • Ensure that you always upgrade your plugins. Older plugins not only can cause conflicts, they may also have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WordPress 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 add instant features to their website without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web developers.

One last thing about WordPress plugins:

Whatever functionality 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 can either be accessed for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the cost to purchase it will be 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 chance such a plugin is not available, then it can most certainly be developed for your business at a reasonable cost.

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

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"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

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Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.