WordPress Plugins Explained

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

Adding New Features And Functionality To Your Blog With PluginsOne of the most useful advantages of building a website with the WordPress web content management platform is that you can easily expand your WordPress web site’s functionality using plugins.

What Are Plugins?

No doubt, you probably have a device like a smart phone. What do you do when you would like access to something new on your device like a new application, game or a tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a little software that is very easy to install and adds new features and functionality to your smart device.

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

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

A plugin is quite similar to an app. You simply install and activate an application that adds new functionality to your site …

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, adding a new feature to a website involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the new feature or enhancement, things could get quite expensive, especially if it requires programming code.

This also applies when creating a web site. Companies often fork out money on features they probably will never need.

For sound, strategic business planning reasons, we recommend using a cost-effective strategy to developing a website and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get your web site up and running quickly, then …

2) As new features and functionality are required, install new software modules with only a few clicks of the mouse directly from within your WP admin panel, to give your site a completely new and expanded range of useful features, and also …

3) Cost not one dollar more to add to your website?

Well, that’s just what plugins let you do!

WP Plugins – Benefits

Earlier, we compared WP plugins with apps. Just like many apps are free to download and some apps may cost a little bit of money, the same applies to plugins.

In fact, many plugins can be installed and activated on your websites.

Plugins that you buy are referred to as Premium plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of hiring a professional web developer to add the same features and functionality on your site, most Premium plugins are priced quite low.

Also, as WordPress makes its source code publicly available, any person can create, edit and customize any part of the code. This has allowed thousands of professional web development companies to build more new applications that enhance WordPress than you can possibly imagine.

  • WP plugins let you get started with only a basic site and then add new features and enhancements to your site if required.
  • WordPress plugins let you add almost endless functionality to any web site quickly, easily and cheaply.
  • WP plugins give your digital business presence almost unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • Plugins allow anyone to have a web presence that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins typically work “right out of the box” and only require to be installed and activated to provide your website with immediate capabilities and enhancements.
  • Some plugins provide more extensive features and require some configuring.

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

Like WordPress themes, thousands of great plugins are currently available for WordPress users … for FREE!

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you can find WP plugins that can do almost anything you want done.

WordPress plugin categories cover:

  • Blog Administration
  • Content Syndication
  • Traffic
  • User Interactivity
  • Social Media
  • Uploading Media – Videos, Graphics, Audio, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Biz And Online Sales Automation
  • Increasing Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Analysis Applications
  • Web Site Security

You can expand your website with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Display banners
  • E-commerce (from setting up single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to enterprise scale e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User testimonial forms
  • Language translation plugins (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to French)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media integration
  • Making pages load faster
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your site
  • Set up client appointments and reminders
  • Manage reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links on your pages and email you reports
  • Redirect visitors from broken 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 certain from showing on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Protect content on your posts and pages
  • Import information from non-WP platforms
  • Search and replace data
  • Fight SPAM
  • Customize guest commenting (e.g. display Facebook discussions)
  • Insert code and script elements into your content
  • Add tables
  • Add animated graphic elements and advanced content formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google local search
  • Add a map
  • Publicize your content automatically on social pages like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for scarcity offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As you can clearly see, WordPress plugins give you virtually limitless possibilities. If you are planning to build a website, or your existing website was not built using WordPress, then consider getting one built on your domain, or you could be missing out on some serious functionality.

In case you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using WordPress plugins, let me show you how you can benefit instantly by adding an inexpensive plugin to your site.

For example, if you need to protect your content, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on your page or post inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a professional paid membership site with personal login details for each user …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

As mentioned previously, free plugins can be used to improve your site in lots of ways. From adding functionality that will enhance your business, your web users’ experience and your understanding of what is happening on your site …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also add complex features to your website using relatively inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can set up plugins that automate functionality on your website like customer testimonial and event registrations management …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of hiring web developers to build custom functionality for you …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also take advantage of built-in WP commenting features and plugins that will increase visitor engagement …

A Guide To WordPress Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the native 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 online users on various social sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage online directly with other customers through online forums or even set up an online social network on your own domain.
  • Engage with your staff through live video chats
  • Call your business from their laptops when visiting your website
  • Get help via a dedicated user helpdesk
  • And much more …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can even integrate sophisticated 3rd-party applications using a WP “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors will see on your site, while your third-party application handles the technological areas …

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Plugins

Additional Tips About WP Plugins

  • There are so many great plugins to choose from. Be careful not to overload your server with too many plugins, as this can affect your site’s resources and page loading times. It also creates more maintenance issues for you as a result of potential conflicts.
  • Only keep those plugins that you really use. Delete all deactivated plugins from your site, as these also use resources.
  • Many free plugins often come with little to no support from the plugin author. When choosing premium plugins, we recommend that you do a little research first to see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, updates, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide 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 software updates on a frequent basis and older plugins that have not been updated can create issues.
  • Make sure that you always maintain your plugins updated to their most recent software version. Outdated plugins not only can create problems, they could also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Non-Technical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an important component of WordPress and contribute to making it the most used web management solution available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add new features to their web presence without spending thousands of dollars on outsourced web development costs.

One last thing on the topic of WP plugins:

If there is any functionality you need for your website, you can guarantee that a WordPress plugin already exists that will do exactly what you want it to do, and that this plugin can either be downloaded at no cost, or if it’s a paid plugin, that the price will be minimal.

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 this plugin has not been created yet, then one can probably be created for you at a reasonable cost.

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of WordPress plugins – what they are and how they can enhance the functionality of your business blog. See our related posts section to learn more about usingplugins.

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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.