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 Web Site's CapabilitiesOne of the most useful benefits of WordPress is the ability to quickly and easily enhance your WordPress site’s functionality using plugins.

What Are WP Plugins?

No doubt, you most likely use a smart phone. What do you do when you would like access to something new on your phone like a new application, game or business productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software application that is really simple and easy to install and instantly integrates new features into your mobile phone.

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A WP plugin is very much like an app. You simply download and install a software application that adds new functionality to your WordPress website …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

Almost always, if you plan to expand the functionality of an already-built site, additional cost is involved. Depending on the complexity of the feature or enhancements, things can get fairly expensive, especially if it involves website development.

This is also applicable when setting up a new website. Companies often invest up-front for added features or customizations they may probably never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend a modular strategy when growing a web site and WordPress plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get your business website up and running quickly, then …

2) As you need more features, add new applications with only a few clicks of the mouse directly from within your WP admin area, giving your website or blog a whole new range of useful functionality, and …

3) Cost not a single dollar extra to install on your web site?

Well, this is precisely what a WP plugin enables you to do!

Plugins – Benefits & Advantages

Earlier, we compared plugins with apps. In the same way that some apps are free to download and some may cost a little bit of money, the same is true of plugins.

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

Plugins that you purchase are called ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of paying for professional web development services to get similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, as WordPress makes its code publicly available, anybody can create, modify and customize any portion of the code. This has allowed thousands of professional web developers to enhance the core WordPress software application.

  • WP plugins allow you to start simply with just a basic yet professional web site and then add new features and enhancements to your site if necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add practically endless features to your web site quickly, easily and inexpensively.
  • Plugins give your web site practically endless expanding capabilities.
  • Plugins allow business owners to have a site that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins normally work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your website new capabilities and functionality.
  • Some plugins offer more advanced features and may need some configuration.

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

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

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

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you will find WP plugins that will do almost everything you need done.

WordPress plugin categories cover:

  • User Management
  • Content Distribution
  • Driving Web Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Connectivity
  • Media Management Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting Applications
  • Securing Your WordPress Web Site

For example, you can add features to your WordPress site with plugins like:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single sales with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce stores with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social media integration
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your website’s SEO
  • Image galleries (including rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonials
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change all content on your website from English to Spanish)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Offline storage management
  • Faster page loading
  • Managing events & bookings
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage spots on your site
  • Set up appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and send you reports
  • Redirect URLs
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide certain from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your posts and pages
  • Import content from non-WP platforms
  • Search and replace content
  • Block SPAM
  • Customize guest discussions (e.g. display Facebook posts)
  • Inserting code and code elements into your pages
  • Add and format tables
  • Display animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google local search
  • Add business location maps
  • Post your posts automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for special offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you endless business scalability. If you are planning to build a website or blog for your business, or your existing site isn’t built with WordPress, then consider choosing it in the future.

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

For example, if you want to publish private content, you can use plugins to make a section of a page or post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a complete paid membership site with separate login details for all users …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, you can use free plugins to enhance your web presence in lots of ways. From installing functionality that improve your business, your web users’ experience and your understanding of what is taking place on your site …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

You can also add complex features to your website using inexpensive premium WP plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that automate functions on your site like displaying customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

And even run a custom bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of paying programmers to design custom applications for you …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of built-in WordPress commenting features and plugins that can let you engage in various ways with web visitors, clients and registered site members …

A Basic 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 function, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout your visitors’ Facebook pages, giving your site increased exposure).
  • Share your content with other web visitors on various social sites.
  • Contact you via contact forms
  • Engage online with other users using forums or even set up a private online community on your domain.
  • Engage with your team through live webcam conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Call your business from their devices while visiting your website
  • Open a support ticket
  • And so much more …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Finally you, can even integrate sophisticated “back end” solutions using a WordPress “front end”. This allows you to control your business sales and marketing, while the third-party application handles the technological functions …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

Plugins – Useful Information

  • There are lots of great WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this can start to affect your website’s performance and site loading speed. It also means more maintenance work for you resulting from potential conflicts.
  • Install only the plugins that you really need to use. Delete any plugins you don’t need from your site, as these use resources.
  • Many free plugins typically receive very little to no support from the plugin developer. When considering premium plugins, we recommend that you do a little research first to understand what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to offering support, updates, new features, etc. Be sure to check some of the plugin reviews we provide here for more expert information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two or more years), then think carefully before installing it. WordPress is updated regularly and outdated WordPress plugins can cause issues.
  • Always update your plugins. Outdated plugins not only can cause issues, they may also contain security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important feature 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 instant functionality to their website without having to spend thousands of dollars on web developers.

One last thing regarding WP plugins:

Whatever functionality you want for your web site, you can be sure that a someone has probably already created one that will do what you want it to do, and that this plugin will either be available for FREE, or if it’s a paid plugin, that it will be surprisingly inexpensive.

And, if by any chance such a WP plugin is not available, then it can probably be created for you for a very reasonable price.

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of plugins – what plugins are and how they can help enhance the functionality of your web site. See our related posts to learn more about using WordPress plugins.

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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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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 detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.