WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Using WP Plugins To Expand Your Web Site's Features And FunctionalityOne of the most powerful benefits of WordPress is the ability to quickly expand your WordPress site’s functionality using inexpensive called ’plugins’.

What Are Plugins?

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

You download and install an app!

An app is a software application that is very simple and easy to install and instantly adds new functionality to your smart device.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A WP plugin is quite similar to an app. You simply install an application that adds new functionality to your website …

A Guide To WP Plugins

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

Almost always, if you want to expand the functionality of a website, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the feature or enhancements, the cost can be fairly significant, particularly if it requires website development.

This is also applicable when setting up a website or business blog. Many business owners sometimes pay for extra features they may not need.

To save money and keep your business costs to a minimum, we recommend a cost-effective strategy when developing a digital presence presence and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply with minimal expense involved. Get your business website up and running fast, then …

2) As the need becomes apparent, simply add new software modules with just a couple of mouse clicks directly from your WP administration panel, giving your web site a whole new range of practical features and capabilities, and …

3) Cost not a single dollar extra to add to your website?

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

Benefits & Advantages Of Using Plugins

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

In fact, many plugins are available at no cost to WP users.

Plugins that cost money are referred to as Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare it to the price of paying for web development services to add similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. paid) plugins cost very little.

Also, since WordPress distributes its software as an Open Source application, anybody can create, modify and customize any part of the code. This has allowed thousands of professional software development companies to enhance and contribute to the core WP software application.

  • Plugins allow you to start off with a simple web site and then expand when necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add almost endless features to any web site easily, quickly and cheaply.
  • WP plugins give your web site virtually endless expansion capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow anyone to own a web presence that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will normally work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to give your web site new enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins are slightly more advanced and require some configuring.

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

Just like WordPress themes, thousands of plugins are made available to WP users … and many of these great plugins are 100% FREE!

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find plugins that will do just about everything you want done.

There are WP plugins for:

  • Site Management
  • Content Management
  • Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Connectivity
  • Uploading Media – Video, Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales & Marketing Automation
  • Increasing Sales & Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting Applications
  • Optimizing Your

You can enhance your business online presence with plugins like the following:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Managing ad banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item ordering with PayPal buttons, to full scale e-commerce stores with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring payments, coupons, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Private Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your site’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • Customer testimonial forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your site’s content from English to Portuguese)
  • 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
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell advertising on your website
  • Set up appointments and reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add sitemaps
  • Exclude certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect page content
  • Migrate content from non-WP platforms
  • Search and replace content
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize visitor discussions (e.g. displaying Facebook posts)
  • Inserting scripts and script elements into your posts
  • Add and format tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search results
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Distribute your posts automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so many other features!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you virtually limitless business flexibility. If you are planning to build a website or blog for your business, or your existing web site wasn’t built using WordPress, then consider getting a WordPress site or blog in the future, or you could be missing out on some serious functionality.

If you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using plugins, let’s take a look at how you can benefit instantly by installing an inexpensive plugin on your web 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 professional paid membership site with customized login details for each member …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, free plugins can be used to improve your site in lots of different ways. From adding features that will enhance your business, your website visitors’ experience and your ability to review website metrics …

A Guide To WP Plugins

To increasing your business visibility across a number of social media and search engines …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also add sophisticated functionality to your site using relatively inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can download plugins that integrate and automate tasks on your pages like user testimonial and event bookings management …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

You can also take advantage of native WP commenting features and plugins that can enhance your site’s interactivity …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can:

  • Post comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other online users on various social sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online with your support team using forums or even set up a private online community on your own domain.
  • Engage with members of your team through live video chats
  • Call your business from their mobile phones when visiting your website
  • Get help via a dedicated user helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can even integrate complex enterprise applications within a WP “front end”. This allows you to manage your business sales and marketing, while the third-party application handles the technical side of things …

A Practical Guide To WP Plugins

WordPress Plugins – Additional Things To Know

  • There are lots of plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your server with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can start to affect your website’s resources and page loading times. It also creates more maintenance work for you resulting from potential conflicts and errors.
  • Install only those plugins that you really need. Delete any plugins you don’t use from your site, as these also consume resources.
  • Many free plugins often come with very little to no support from the plugin author. When considering paid plugins, ensure that you check around a little and see what kind of reputation the developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of our WP plugin recommendations 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. WordPress is updated on a regular basis and older plugins that have not been updated can cause errors.
  • Ensure to always maintain your plugins updated to the latest software version. Older plugins not only can cause errors and conflicts, they may also have security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important aspect of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most used content management system available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to expand without having to spend thousands of dollars on web development.

One last thing on the subject of plugins:

Whatever functionality you need for your web site, you can be sure that a someone has probably already created one that will do what you need it to do, and that this plugin will either be available for FREE, 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 chance such a plugin has not been created yet, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you want it to do can probably 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 to improve your blog. See our related posts to learn about more useful WP plugins that we recommend using.

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"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)

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Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.