What Are WordPress Plugins? Detailed Definition & What They Do
Most WordPress-beginners usually ask what WordPress-plugins are and how they work. However, the answer is very simple whereby you should know that plugins are very essential when it comes to building great websites using WordPress. So, I have decided to create a beginners guide that helps to explain what WordPress-plugins are and how they work on a WordPress-website.
Section-1: What are WordPress Plugins?
WordPress-plugins are apps designed to allow users add new features and functionalities to their WordPress-websites. For example, plugins will allow you to add tables, buttons, forms and several other functions into your WordPress-website thus achieving optimum performance.
Additionally, there are more than 48,000 free-plugins available on the wordpress.org plugin-directory but there are also more WordPress-plugins available from third-party websites like; Github, etc. on top of that, there are even a lot of premium WordPress-plugins that are sold by individual-developers and companies on the market today.
Note: WordPress started in 2003 as a simple-tool for helping people start a blog. However, WordPress has evolved into a powerful content-management system and application-framework due to plugins.
Section-2: What Can WordPress-Plugins Do?
Since WordPress-plugins are software-apps that integrate and run over WordPress core-software, this will allow the user to create almost any kind of website within WordPress. For example;
- WooCommerce-Plugin: you can start an online-store within WordPress using the WooCommerce-Plugin.
- Job-Manager plugin: this plugin enables you to create a job-board within a WordPress-website.
- Directory-plugins: these plugins will help you build a business-directory within your WordPress-website.
- Coupon-plugins: these plugins will help you startup a coupon WordPress-website easily without requiring any coding.
- Gallery-plugins: gallery-plugins like the Envira-Gallery-plugin will help you build a great photography-website using WordPress.
- Knowledge Base plugin: the knowledge-base-plugin will enable you to create a Wiki-website while using WordPress.
- Podcast-plugins: there are also several podcast-plugins on the market that will enable you to create a podcast-website using WordPress.
- Form-plugins: these plugins will help you add and create different form-types into your WordPress-website. So, you can create a contact-form, login-form and a lot more using WordPress form-plugins like; the WPForms-plugin.
- Table-plugins: WordPress features a lot of table-plugins which are designed to help users to easily add or create within their WordPress posts/pages. Some of the common table-plugins include; TablePress, UltimateTables, etc
- SEO-Plugins: these plugins help to improve on search-engine-optimization of your website and a common example of such a plugin is UltimateSEO.
Note: WordPress actually has a plugin for whatever you wish to add or do within your WordPress-website. In fact, some WordPress-plugins do little-features like adding a contact-form, an image to the sidebar, etc while other plugins have their own platforms like; WordPress eCommerce-plugins and WordPress Membership-plugins. Lastly, some feature-rich plugins can have their own Addon-plugins which are meant for extension-purposes.
Section-3: How WordPress plugins work:
WordPress core-software was written in such a way that other developers can also add their own code into it. In fact, the WordPress Plugin-API offers access to access to several hooks and filters which allow developers to modify the existing WordPress-functionality or even add new-functionality.
Additionally, WordPress allows developers to store data into the WordPress-database. This implies that plugins can created can utilize WordPress content-types, taxonomies and custom-fields hence allowing user to store different types of content.
On the other hand, each WordPress-plugin installed on your website is registered into the WordPress-database and you can actually activate and deactivate the installed-plugins at any time you want. So, below is a simple illustration of the installed plugins within my WordPress-account.
Note: whenever you log into your WordPress-account, WordPress immediately connects to the database, loads the core-software and then loads-up all the active plugins. However, this entire process is done on the server and then the information sent to the user’s-browser.
Section-4: How to find WordPress-plugins and install them:
- Visit the WordPress plugin-directory: in order to find free WordPress-plugins, you will need to log into your WordPress-account and then visit the wordpress.org plugin-directory by simply going to the Dashboard >> Plugins >> Add New as shown in the illustration below;
- Search for a preferred plugin: after accessing the plugin-directory, you now need to search for a preferred WordPress-plugin by typing-in the name/type of plugin you want. In fact, after typing in the keyword in the search-box, the plugin-directory will display a list of available plugins as shown in the illustration below;
- Install and activate a selected plugin: after selecting a preferred plugin, click on the “Install Now” button to begin the installation process and afterwards click on the “Activate” button to make the installed plugin active as shown in the illustrations below;
Below is an illustration on how to activate your plugin after the installation process. In fact, after pressing on the “Activate” button, the installed plugin will become functional immediately so that you can be able to use it within your WordPress-website.
Note: after installing and activating the plugin, you will be redirected to plugin-page so that you can use it immediately. On the other hand, you can even just go to Plugins >> Installed Plugins in order to access all the installed plugins. However, if your plugin is activated but you can find it or use it, then consider going to the “Settings” link under the Dashboard-menu and look for your plugin in the drop-down-list that appears.
Lastly, the search-results within the plugin-directory are usually limited to free-plugins but the good thing is that some free-plugin will ask for an upgrade after installation and activation in case you want to use all the features. So, you will need to pay small-fee in order to get an upgraded version of some installed plugins. All in all, most WordPress-plugins are very easy to install and use although most WordPress-beginners may find a hard-time deciding on which plugin is best to use since WordPress offers thousands of plugins. So, my advice is to make some research on different plugins before installing any plugin in order to achieve optimum-performance within your WordPress-website