WordPress Plugins Explained

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

WordPress Plugins - The Easy Way To Enhance Your Site's Features And FunctionalityOne of the main advantages of using WordPress is that you can quickly and easily enhance your WP website or blog’s functionality using inexpensive called plugins.

What Are WP Plugins?

Like most people, you probably have a device like a smart phone. What happens when you would like access to something new on your phone like a new game or productivity tool?

Why, simple … you download and install an app!

An app is a software that is really easy to install and integrates new features and functionality into your smart device.

A Basic Guide To WP Plugins

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

A WP plugin is like an app. You install a software application that adds new functionality to your WP website …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, expanding the functionality of your site involves additional cost. Depending on how complex the new feature or enhancement is, the cost can be significant, especially if it requires website development.

This also applies to setting up a new web site. Businesses will often invest upfront in components they probably will never need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend considering a sustainable strategy to developing your web site and WP plugins are ideal for helping you achieve this.

Imagine being able to:

1) Start simply and inexpensively. Get your business web presence up and running fast, then …

2) As you need more features and functionality, add new applications with only a few clicks of the mouse that integrate seamlessly with your web site, giving your web site a completely new range of practical functionality, and also …

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

Well, this is precisely what WP plugins let you do!

Benefits Of WordPress Plugins

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

In fact, many great plugins are freely available for WP users.

WP plugins that you have to buy are referred to as ’Premium’ plugins. The good news, is that when compared to the price of hiring a professional web developer to get similar functionality on your site, most Premium plugins cost very little.

Also, because WordPress makes its code publicly available, anyone can create, rewrite and customize any part of the WP code. This has allowed thousands of professional software development companies to create more plugins that plug seamlessly into the WordPress platform than you can imagine.

  • WP plugins let you start off with just a basic website and then add new features and enhancements to your site only if necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add practically endless functionality to any website quickly, easily and inexpensively.
  • WordPress plugins give your site practically endless expansion capabilities.
  • WordPress plugins allow non-technical users to have a website that they can self-manage.
  • Most plugins will typically work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your site immediate capabilities, enhancements and functionality.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more complex and may require some initial configuring.

WP Plugins – Powerful, Flexible … And (Often) 100% FREE!

Just like themes, tens of thousands of great plugins are made available to WordPress users … often at no cost!

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

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

As previously mentioned, you will find plugins that will do just about everything you need done.

Plugin categories cover:

  • Web Site Administration
  • Content Syndication
  • Driving Web Traffic
  • Visitor Interactivity
  • Social Media
  • Adding Media Files – Videocasts, Images, Podcasts, Multimedia, etc.
  • e-Commerce And Online Sales & Marketing Automation
  • Increasing Sales And Opt-In Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Reporting
  • Optimizing Your WP Web Site

You can enhance your website with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Polls and quizzes
  • User Surveys
  • Rotating banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single ordering with PayPal buttons, to full e-commerce with online shopping carts, invoicing, recurring billing, coupons, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • List-building opt-in forms
  • Sales funnels
  • Mobile integration
  • Improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization
  • 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 Portuguese)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer engagement – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Media management
  • Making pages load faster
  • Managing events
  • Business listing directories
  • Automatically sell spots on your blog
  • Set up client appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken links and send you reports
  • Redirect visitors from broken pages to other pages on your site or other sites
  • Monitor what social media users are posting about your business
  • Make your pages printable or downloadable as a PDF file
  • Add a site map
  • Hide pages from showing on areas of your site (e.g. site maps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your pages and posts
  • Migrate information from non-WordPress applications
  • Perform bulk content replacements
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook comments)
  • Inserting HTML and code elements into your posts
  • Add formatted tables
  • Display animated graphics and advanced font display formatting options
  • Create and manage QR codes
  • Improve Google search
  • Add a map of your business location
  • Publish your posts automatically on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for scarcity offers, coupons, etc …)
  • Display custom greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And hundreds of other features!

As it’s clear to see, WordPress plugins give you virtually limitless possibilities. If you are planning to build a web site, or your existing web site isn’t powered by WordPress, then consider choosing WordPress in the future.

If you’re still wondering about the power and flexibility of using plugins, let me show you some practical advantages of installing an inexpensive plugin on your site.

For example, if you need to publish private content, you can use plugins to make just a couple of paragraphs on a post or page inaccessible, or transform your WordPress site into a complete paid membership site with customized login details for all users …

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

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

A Beginner's Guide To WP Plugins

To increasing your business reach across social sites and search engines …

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

You can also add advanced features to your site using relatively inexpensive paid WordPress plugins. For example, you can buy plugins that integrate and automate processes on your pages like managing customer testimonials and event registration details …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

And also run a custom bookings and reservations system online … all for a tiny fraction of the cost of paying programmers to code custom functionality for you …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WordPress commenting features and plugins that can allow you to engage in various ways with your visitors, clients and registered site users …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your visitors can:

  • Leave comments on your blog posts (which can grow into online discussions) using either the built-in WordPress commenting function, or integrated Facebook comments (which then get displayed throughout a visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with increased exposure).
  • Share your posts with other online visitors 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 domain.
  • Engage with members of your team through live webcam conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Call your business from their smart phones when browsing your pages
  • Open support tickets
  • And so much more …

A Guide To WP Plugins

You can also integrate complex enterprise applications using a WordPress “front end”. This enables you to manage your business marketing, while the third-party application handles the technological areas …

A Guide To WP Plugins

Useful Things To Know About Plugins

  • There are many WordPress plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your server with too many plugins, as this can start to affect your website’s resources and page loading speed. It can also create more maintenance issues for you resulting from possible conflicts and errors.
  • Only keep those plugins you really need. Delete inactive plugins from your site, as these also utilize server resources.
  • Many free plugins normally receive little to no support from the plugin developer. When choosing paid plugins, ensure that you check some reviews online and see what kind of reputation the plugin developer has when it comes to providing support, upgrades, new improvements, etc. Be sure to check the plugin reviews we provide here for more helpful information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a while (e.g. two years), then think carefully before installing it. The WordPress platform updates on a frequent basis and older plugins that have not been updated can create errors.
  • Always keep your plugins updated. Outdated plugin not only can cause problems, they could also contain security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and malicious users.

A Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, WordPress plugins are an important element of WordPress and contribute to making WordPress the most powerful, flexible and scalable content publishing solution in the world. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to expand without having to spend thousands of dollars on web developers.

One last thing about plugins:

If there is any feature you need for your web presence, you can be sure that a WordPress plugin already exists that will do exactly what you want it to do, and that this plugin will either be available for FREE, 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 any chance such a WordPress plugin has not been created yet, then a custom plugin that does exactly what you would like it to do can probably be written for your business at a reasonable cost.

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


"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)


Originally published as WordPress Plugins Explained.