WordPress Plugins Explained

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

WP Plugins Expand Your Site's FunctionalityOne of the most useful benefits of WordPress is that you can quickly enhance your WordPress site’s functionality using applications called ’plugins’.

What Are WordPress Plugins?

Like most of us, you most likely have a mobile phone. What happens when you want access to something new on your phone like a new application, game or a business productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

(Just as there are social sharing apps for smart phones …)

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

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

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

Typically, adding new features to your site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new feature or enhancement is, this could get quite expensive, particularly if web developers need to create new code or modify programs or develop programs that integrate with your current site.

This is also applicable when creating a website. Business owners tend to spend money up-front on bells and whistles they may never need.

To save money and keep expenses down, we recommend a sustainable approach when developing your web site and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could:

1) Start simply and with minimal expense involved. Get a professional-looking website up and running fast, then …

2) As you need more features or functionality, install new applications with only a few clicks of the mouse directly from within your administration section, and give your website an entirely new range of capabilities and functionality, and …

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

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

Benefits Of WordPress Plugins

Earlier, we compared plugins with ’apps’. Just like some apps are free to download and some apps cost a little money, the same is true of plugins.

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

WP plugins that you purchase are called ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to add similar functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are generally very inexpensive.

Also, since WordPress is an Open Source application, any web developer can create, edit and customize any portion of the WP code. This has allowed thousands of third-party software developers to create more plugins that “plug into” the WordPress software than you can probably imagine.

  • WP plugins let you get started with a basic web presence and then expand only when necessary.
  • Plugins allow you to add practically endless functionality to any web presence easily and really inexpensively.
  • Plugins give your web site practically unlimited expanding capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow ”non-techies” to own a site that they can manage.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your web site immediate capabilities and features.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced features and may need some configuring.

WP Plugins – Powerful, Flexible … And (Often) Completely FREE!

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

You can access thousands of WP plugins from the Free WordPress Plugin Repository

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

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

WP plugin categories cover:

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

For example, you can expand your business online presence with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Display ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single sales with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with shopping carts, payment processing, recurring payments, coupon codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building subscription forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content from English to Spanish)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Business directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your site
  • Set appointments and reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor social conversations
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect page content
  • Import information from different publishing applications
  • Search and replace content
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. display Facebook comments)
  • Inserting code and code elements into your posts and pages
  • Add formatted tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced text formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add location maps
  • Publicize your content automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for scarcity offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, WordPress plugins give you virtually endless business flexibility. If you plan to build a web site, or your existing web site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider using it in the future.

If you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible WordPress plugins are, let me show you some practical uses of adding a plugin to your site.

For example, if you need to publish content which is only accessible to some users, you can use plugins to make an area of your page or post inaccessible, or create a professional membership site with separate login details for every member …

A Useful Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to improve your web site in so many different ways. From installing functionality that improve your business, your website visitors’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

To extending your business reach across many social sites and search engines …

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add advanced features to your website using inexpensive premium plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that automate functionality on your website such as displaying customer testimonials and booking events …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And even run a custom-branded bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring programmers to design these functionality for you …

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WP commenting features and plugins that can allow you to engage in various ways with web visitors, customers and registered site users …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Post comments on your blog posts (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WP commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site additional exposure).
  • Bookmark your content on social networks.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with your staff via online forums or even set up a private online community on your own site.
  • Engage with your staff using live video chats
  • Dial your business directly from their devices when browsing your pages
  • Get help and support via a client support helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also integrate sophisticated “back end” applications with a WP “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors will see on your web site, while your third-party application handles the technical functions …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

Useful Tips About WordPress Plugins

  • There are so many useful plugins available. Be careful not to overload your site with too many plugins, as this will invariably start to affect your website’s resources and site loading speed. It can also mean more maintenance work for you as a consequence of possible errors.
  • Install only those plugins you really use. Delete any plugins you don’t need from your site, as these utilize additional server resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing paid plugins, we recommend that you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we publish here for more information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think carefully before installing it on your website or blog. The WordPress application is updated often and older WordPress plugins can create problems.
  • Make sure that you always keep your plugins upgraded to their most recent version. Outdated plugins not only can create conflicts, they could also contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an integral part of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most preferred content management system 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.

One last thing regarding WordPress plugins:

Whatever feature you want for your web presence, you can be sure that a someone has probably already developed one that will do just what you want it to do, and that it can either be downloaded at no cost, or if it’s a premium 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 has not been created yet, then one can probably be created for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of plugins – what plugins are and how they can significantly expand your WordPress web site. See our related posts section to learn more about using WP plugins.


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Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.