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 Features And Functionality To Your Site With WordPress PluginsOne of the main advantages of choosing the WordPress platform is that you can quickly and easily increase your WP website or blog’s functionality using inexpensive called ’plugins’.

What Are Plugins?

Like most people, you probably use a device like a cell phone. What happens when you would like to access something new on your phone like a new application, software or business tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a little piece of software that is really easy to install and instantly integrates new features into any smart phone.

A Practical Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

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

A Useful Guide To WP Plugins

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

Typically, adding new features to an already-built website involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the feature or enhancement, this cost can be significant, especially if website developers need to add new code or modify code or install scripts to integrate with your existing site.

This also applies when setting up a website. Companies often fork out money upfront on features they may never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we suggest a cost-effective approach to developing your presence online 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 web site up and running fast, then …

2) As the need becomes apparent, install new software modules with a few clicks of the mouse directly from within your WP admin panel, giving your website an entirely new and expanded range of possibilities, and also …

3) Cost not a single cent more to install on your site?

Well, that’s precisely what WordPress plugins allow you to do!

Benefits And Advantages Of Using Plugins

Earlier, we compared WP plugins with apps. Just like some apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little money, so do plugins.

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

Plugins that cost money are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when you compare it to the cost of paying for professional web development services to get the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite cheaply.

Also, since WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, anybody can create, edit and customize any part of the code. This has allowed many third-party software development professionals to enhance and contribute to the core WordPress software application.

  • Plugins let you start off simply with just a simple yet professional site and expand only as necessary.
  • Plugins allow you to add almost unlimited functionality to your site quickly, easily and really cheaply.
  • Plugins give you practically endless expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow ”non-techies” to have a digital presence that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your site with immediate capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins are a little more advanced and may need some configuring.

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

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

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As previously mentioned, you will find WordPress plugins that will do almost anything you need done.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Web Site Management
  • Content Syndication
  • Web Traffic Generation
  • User Engagement
  • Social Engagement
  • Media Management Automation
  • Increasing Sales & Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data & System Reporting Tools
  • Securing Your

You can add features to a website with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • User Surveys
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to complete e-commerce stores with shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • Newsletter subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonial forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to Italian)
  • 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 spots on your blog
  • Set up appointments and reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and email you reports
  • Redirect visitors from missing pages to other areas 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 specific from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your pages and posts
  • Import content from different publishing applications
  • Search and replace data
  • Fight SPAM
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Insert scripts and code elements into your pages
  • Add tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Distribute your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and others
  • Show countdown timers (for expiring offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personalized greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As you can clearly see, plugins give you endless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website for your business, or your existing web site wasn’t built using WordPress, then consider choosing WordPress in the future.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible WordPress plugins are, let me show you how you can benefit by simply installing an inexpensive plugin on your site.

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

As mentioned before, you can use free plugins to enhance your web site in lots of different ways. From adding functionality that improve your business, your site’s user experience and your ability to review website data …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

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

You can also add advanced functionality to your website using relatively inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can purchase plugins that automate processes on your site like displaying customer testimonials and event bookings …

A Non-Technical User's Guide To WP Plugins

And even run a complete bookings and reservations system on your site … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring software developers to design custom functionality for you …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can grow into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Share your content with other web users on various social sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with your team using forums or even set up a private online social network on your own site.
  • Engage with your team using live video chats
  • Dial your business from their smart phones while visiting your site
  • Open a support ticket
  • And much more …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can also integrate complex “back end” solutions with a WP “front end”. This lets you manage the content that your visitors see on your site, while the third-party application handles the technical areas …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

Plugins – Some Useful Information

  • There are many plugins available. Be careful not to overload your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will begin to affect your website’s resources and page loading times. It also creates more maintenance work for you as a result of possible conflicts and errors.
  • Install only those plugins that you really use. Delete any plugins you don’t need from your site, as these utilize additional server resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing paid WP plugins, make sure you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we publish here for additional information.
  • If you see that a plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before using it. The WordPress platform changes often and older plugins that have not been updated can create errors.
  • Make sure that you always maintain all plugins upgraded to their most recent version. Outdated plugin not only can create issues, they may also contain security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malicious software.

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important aspect of WordPress and contribute to making it the most powerful, flexible and scalable content management system in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with an easy, simple and inexpensive way to add new features to their web presence without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web development.

One last thing on the subject of plugins:

Whatever feature you need for your web site, you can be sure that a someone has probably already developed one that will do what you need it to do, and that this plugin can either be downloaded at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the cost 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 any chance such a plugin does not exist, then one can most certainly be coded for your business for a very reasonable price.

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


"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)


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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.