WordPressOne of the main features of the WordPress software is that you can easily enhance your WP site’s functionality using applications called plugins.

About Plugins

Like most of us, you probably have a device like a mobile phone. What do you do when you would like to access something new on your device like a new game or business productivity tool?

You download and install an app!

An app is a piece of software that is really simple and easy to install and integrates new features and functionality into any mobile device.

A Newbie's Guide To WP Plugins

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

A plugin is very much like an app. You install a software that adds new functionality to your website or blog …

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

Typically, adding a new feature to an already-built site involves additional cost. Depending on the complexity of the new features or enhancement, things can become fairly expensive, particularly if website developers have to create new code or modify code or install scripts that integrate into your current site.

This also applies to creating a new website. Companies often spend up front on bells and whistles they may simply not need.

As part of sound strategic business planning, we recommend a modular approach when growing a website and WP plugins are ideal for doing this.

Imagine being able to:

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

2) As new features are required, add new software modules with a few mouse clicks that integrate seamlessly with your existing website or blog, to give your web site an entirely new range of practical functionality, and …

3) Cost not a single dollar more to download and install on your site?

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

Benefits Of Using WP Plugins

We started this article by comparing plugins with smartphone apps. In the same way that some apps are free to download and some may cost a little bit of money, so do WP plugins.

In fact, many plugins can be installed on your sites.

Plugins that cost money are called Premium plugins. The good news, is that when you compare these to the cost of hiring a professional web developer to add similar features and functionality on your site, most Premium (i.e. “paid”) plugins cost very little.

Also, since WordPress is an Open Source application, any person can create, modify and customize any portion of the WP code. This has enabled thousands of professional web development companies to enhance the WPsoftware.

  • WP plugins allow you to get started simply with a basic web site and then add new features and enhancements to your site only as necessary.
  • WP plugins let you add almost unlimited functionality to your website easily, quickly and cheaply.
  • WP plugins give you virtually unlimited expansion capabilities.
  • WP plugins allow anyone to have a website that they can manage themselves.
  • Most plugins will work “right out of the box” and only require installation and activation to give your web site instant new enhancements and features.
  • Some plugins can be slightly more advanced and could require some configuring.

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

Like WordPress themes, thousands of plugins are available to WordPress users … often at no cost!

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

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

As previously mentioned, you will find WP plugins that can do just about anything you could possibly need a site to do.

WP plugin categories cover:

  • Web Site Administration
  • Content Management
  • Online Traffic Generation
  • User Engagement
  • Social Media
  • Media Utilities Automation
  • Improving Sales Conversions And Lead Generation
  • Data Monitoring & Reporting
  • Web Site SEO

You can expand a WP site with plugins such as:

  • Contact forms
  • Quizzes and polls
  • Social contests
  • Rotating advertising banners
  • E-commerce (from managing single-item sales with PayPal buttons, to enterprise scale e-commerce with online shopping carts, payment processing, recurring billing, discount codes, etc …)
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Membership sites
  • Newsletter opt-in forms
  • Sales workflow
  • Mobile conversion
  • Improving your site’s SEO
  • Image galleries (with rotating images, lightboxes, etc.)
  • User feedback forms
  • Language translation (e.g. you can instantly change your website’s content from English to German)
  • Statistical reporting (e.g. number of visitors, pages visited, keywords searched, etc.)
  • Custom navigation menus
  • Customer interactivity – contest, live chat, currency conversion, etc.
  • Cloud storage integration
  • Faster page loading
  • Event management
  • Niche directories
  • Automatically sell and manage advertising on your blog
  • Set appointments and appointment reminders
  • Automate reservations and bookings
  • Detect broken hyperlinks and email you reports
  • Redirect website pages
  • Monitor what other sites are posting about your business
  • Make your pages available for printing or downloading as PDF
  • Add a site map
  • Hide specific from displaying on areas of your site (e.g. sitemaps, feeds, etc.)
  • Hide content on your pages and posts
  • Migrate content from non-WordPress applications
  • Search and replace content
  • Block SPAM commenting
  • Customize guest comment displays (e.g. displaying Facebook posts)
  • Inserting HTML and script elements into your posts, pages and sidebar menus
  • Add formatted tables
  • Add animated graphics and advanced content formatting options
  • Add and manage QR codes
  • Improve your local search listings on Google
  • Add location maps
  • Post your posts automatically on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and many others
  • Display countdown timers (for expiring offers, discount coupons, etc …)
  • Display personal greetings, timed offers, etc …
  • And so much more!

As it’s clear to see, plugins give you practically endless possibilities. If you are currently planning to build a website for your business, or your existing site was not built with WordPress, then consider getting one built on your domain, or you could be missing out on some serious features.

In case you’re still wondering just how powerful and flexible plugins are, let’s take a look at how you can benefit instantly by installing a plugin on your web 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 a post inaccessible, or create a full membership site with separate login details for users …

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

As mentioned before, free plugins can be used to enhance your web presence in lots of ways. From installing features that will enhance your business, your visitors’ experience and your ability to review visitor metrics …

A Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

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

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

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

A Guide To WP Plugins

And even set up a complete bookings and reservations system online … all for a small fraction of the cost of paying web developers to create custom functionality for you …

A Basic Guide To WordPress Plugins

Additionally, you can take advantage of native WP commenting features and plugins that can make your site even more interactive …

A Practical Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

For example, your web visitors can easily:

  • Leave comments on your site (which can turn into online discussions) using either the built-in WordPress commenting feature, or integrated Facebook comments (which are then displayed throughout the visitors’ Facebook pages, providing you with added exposure).
  • Bookmark your posts on various social sites.
  • Contact you using contact forms
  • Engage in online discussions with your team members through online forums or even set up a private social network on your own site.
  • Engage with members of your team via live webcam conferencing and chatroom facilities
  • Call your business from their mobile phones while browsing your pages
  • Open a support ticket
  • And so much more …

A Guide To Understanding WP Plugins

You can also integrate sophisticated enterprise applications with a WP “front end”. This lets you control the content that your visitors will see on your site, while your 3rd-party application handles the technical aspects …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Plugins

Some Useful Things You Should Know About Plugins

  • There are many plugins to choose from. Be careful of overloading your site with an excessive amount of plugins, as this will inevitably start to affect your website’s resources and site loading times. It can also create more maintenance issues for you as a result of potential conflicts.
  • Install only those plugins you really need to use. Delete all deactivated plugins from your site, as these use server resources.
  • Many free plugins normally come with little to no support from the plugin developer. 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 publish here for additional information.
  • If you see that an unsupported plugin has not been updated for a very long time (e.g. two years), then think twice before using it on your site. WordPress is updated often and older plugins can create issues.
  • Ensure to always maintain your plugins updated. Older plugins not only can create errors, they could also have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and malware.

A Guide To WP Plugins

As you can see, plugins are an important feature of WordPress and contribute to making it the most popular content management system available. Plugins also provide WordPress users with easy, simple and inexpensive ways to add instant functionality to their website without having to spend thousands of dollars on outsourced web developers.

One last thing on the topic of plugins:

If there is any feature you want for your website, you can be sure that a someone has probably already created one 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 the cost will be quite reasonable.

And, if by chance such a WordPress plugin is not available, then one can probably be created for your business for a very reasonable price.

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

Want more help with WordPress? Please tell us what you think below and feel free to share this article with your friends.

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Disclaimer: This site is not associated with WordPress or any of the WP products reviewed on this site. We may derive a financial benefit from sales of products advertised, reviewed or linked to from this site. The product images and information on this page have been supplied from the plugin’s own website and sites that provide Premium WordPress Services