It's a common question for the beginner's that what are WordPress plugins, what they do, and how do they work? Plugins add important functions to the default WordPress system, and they are necessary for building great websites using WordPress. In this tutorial, we will explain what are WordPress plugins, how do they work, and how can you find & install them?
What Are WordPress Plugins?
WordPress plugins are small apps (or extensions) that provide you the facility to add new features and functionalities to your WordPress website. This is the same thing as we install apps on our smartphone.
Moreover, there are also thousands of premium WordPress plugins (paid plugins) that are sold by individual developers and companies.
Though you can start a WordPress blog by using the core WordPress application only, plugins add functionalities to make your blog more engaging to users.
What You Can Do with WordPress Plugins:
WordPress plugins are small applications (extensions) that integrate with and run on top of the WordPress CMS. These plugins provide you a way to create virtually any sort of website with WordPress (not just blogs).
For example, you can:
- Start an online your own store with WordPress using the WooCommerce plugin
- Create a job website with WordPress using the Job Manager plugin
- Build a business directory using any of the directory plugins for WordPress
- Create a coupon sharing website like Retailmenot
- Start your photography gallery website using the Envira Gallery or NextGEN Gallery Plugin
- Build a Wiki website using the Knowledgebase plugin
… and lots of other types of website.
No matter what you are trying to create using WordPress, it’s possible. If the feature you require is not available in default WordPress installation, then there is surely a plugin available for that.
Plugins can be as small as for just adding one tiny little feature (like adding an image widget) or can be as large as they can act as a whole platform (Example: WordPress membership plugins or eCommerce plugins etc). Some of the advanced plugins also have their own add-ons to further extend their features (such as TablePress).
There are WordPress plugins to boost performance, improve SEO, add social media buttons, contact forms, create galleries, and so on.
How WordPress Plugins Work?
The core WordPress application is written in a way so that other developers can add their own code into it. Even you can create site-specific plugins to enhance functionality. The official WordPress plugin API offers a rich set of filters and hooks which allow developers to add/modify WordPress functionality. WordPress also allows developers to store data in the main WordPress database.
When a user visits your site, WordPress connects to the database, loads the core software, and then loads codes from your active plugins. The entire code is then processed on your server side and then sent to user’s browser for rendering.
Each and every WordPress plugin installed on your website is registered in your WordPress database. You can activate and deactivate them from the plugin page any time you want by going to Plugins⇒Installed Plugins page.
How to Find WordPress Plugins and Install Them?
You can find free WordPress plugins by visiting WordPress.org's official plugin directory or you can also find them directly from your WordPress admin Dashboard.
Simply click on the Plugins ⇒ Add New option and search by typing the feature you want or by plugin name you want to add.
WordPress will search the entire plugin directory and display a list of relevant plugins. You need to review the results (especially the compatibility), and click on the install now button next to the plugin you wish to install.
However, for beginners, it is not always helpful to search inside the WordPress admin area, as they may find it difficult to decide which plugin is best for the job. The alternative approach is to look for plugin recommendations and tutorials on sites like certguidance.com.
Some FAQs About WordPress Plugins:
Why Can't I see or install plugins on my WordPress blog?
The most common answer is that you are most probably using WordPress.com. You can only install WordPress plugins either on self-hosted WordPress.org websites or in the business plan of WordPress.com. See our guide on the difference between WordPress.org vs WordPress.com websites.
Should I install plugins that are not tested with my WordPress version?
Sometimes authors of free plugins may not update their plugin files with every new release of WordPress. Simply because if it works with the current release, they don’t feel the need to update it. You should first test those plugins in local installation before installing it on a live server. See our guide on how to install WordPress locally on Windows PC.
What is the maximum number of WordPress plugins should I install?
The most common misconception among beginner users is that plugins can slow down their website. Although this is somewhat true if you are not using any caching technology, the actual fact is that only poorly coded plugins degrade the performance of website to a noticeable amount. In case you are using multiple plugins, you should also periodically check for any plugin conflicts that may degrade the performance.
Should I use free plugins or paid plugins?
More than 50K free plugins are available in the WordPress plugin directory, hence, you have a good chance to find a free plugin that offers the functionality you require. If it satisfies your needs, then go ahead and use it.
But you must remember that free plugins are offered as they are, with no warranties, and no promise of support. Plugin authors can stop updating a plugin at any time they want. If you think that you will require lots of support and regular updates, then paid plugins are the best option for you. We also use both free and paid plugins on all our websites.
How do I get support for free WordPress plugins?
Free WordPress plugins are offered without any promise of regular update and support. However, most good plugin authors offer a limited amount of free support through the official WordPress support forums. To avail the free support, simply visit the official plugin page and click on the support tab to post your issue or question.
We hope that you have enjoyed the above article describing how to use WordPress plugins. Be with us to explore free training on Leading Technologies and Certifications.
Leave us some comments if you have any question about using plugins in WordPress, we will be happy to help you.