What Do WordPress Plugins Do in 3 Easy Parts

What Do WordPress Plugins Do logo

Knowing what do WordPress plugins do is paramount for those who deal with websites (which should be all of us) when 64.2% of all the websites that use a known content management system, are running WordPress according to w3techs. WordPress plugins help web designers add features and functions to websites without having to write software for those functions from scratch. They can be either freemium or paid for before installing them on the site. We’ll go over what do WordPress plugins do in three parts:

  • What are WordPress Plugins?
  • What can WordPress Plugins do?
  • How to add WordPress Plugins.

What is WordPress?

To understand what do WordPress plugins do, we need to go over what WordPress is first.

WordPress Origins

WordPress.org and WordPress.com are two different things. WordPress.org is a free and open-source (anyone can add to or alter the code) website building software while WordPress.com is a hosting company that has a version of WordPress website building software. (I cringe every time I see a WordPress.com site; they are difficult to work with because they have a limited amount of tools that designers can use on them)

WordPress logo on a Rocket taking off

WordPress.org is a type of software called a ‘content management system’. Content management systems simplify managing critical elements of a site such as making content, creating product pages, etc. eliminating the requirement of understanding or having skills for programming, software, code, or other technical elements. The best part about WordPress is that it is free to download and use and available to alter to your and your website’s specifications.

How WordPress is used

WordPress software works well on different platforms and devices while allowing designers to customize their website and its design to their heart’s content. Users can even run multiple sites through one back-end (called a multisite) so they can have multiple companies and/or gigs on different sites running all at once. Users can design sites using the Gutenbuerg Editor that comes with wordpress.org software. This editor is also compatible with many WordPress plugins.

Benefits of WordPress

Benefits of building with WordPress software include:

  • Can be as simple or complicated as desired.
  • Requires very little tech skills, but easily customizable with self-written code.
  • Download and move entire WordPress websites easily.
  • Having many great (and some are free) plugins (Woocommerce for Ecommerce, MailChimp for email marketing, WordFence for security, bbPress for forums, etc.)
  • Allows multiple sites to be connected to each other (also known as multi-site).
  • Is free to download!

What do WordPress Plugins do?

To go over what do wordpress plugins do, we’ll go over what they are, what they do, and how to add them.

What are WordPress Plugins?

WordPress plugins are a combination of privately and open-source developed, so users have a spectrum of options of theme, style, what kind of website to run, which plugins to use, etc. WordPress plugins help web designers and owners add tools, features, and functions to their site to make their site better for users and make it more appealing for customers than competitors’ sites. Some plugins even have additional plugins that expand on the features of the initial plugin! For example, Woocommerce has plugins that allow users to use Stripe, a online banking service that is like PayPal but does not come with Woocommerce, when checking out.

What can WordPress Plugins do?

If you don’t want to use the basic design and tools for adding features that came with your hosting (and I don’t recommend them), you will need to add plugins to your site. Some plugins are free while others are not. I don’t think you need to pay for plugins to have a decent site since there are good freemium plugins that have good enough free versions that you don’t need to pay for the paid version:

How to add WordPress Plugins

To see what plugins are installed on a site or add new ones, go to the website’s WordPress admin area, look at the long black sidebar on the left of the area, and find the ‘Plugins’ tab. To see the plugins already on the site, go to ‘Installed Plugins’. To add plugins to the site, click on ‘Add New’.

To add new plugins, either search using the search bar on the right of the ‘Add New’ page (as seen below) or upload a plugin after downloading a zip file of the plugin from a developer’s site. When using the search method, a number of plugins will show up below this bar. Pick the desired plugin, and click install. After installing, if you want to use the plugin immediately, click activate either in the current ‘Add New’ area or on the ‘Installed Plugins’ page, where the new plugin can now be found. A plugin must be activated before it starts working on a site.

After downloading a plugin, the file should appear at the bottom of your browser window. Drag and drop it into the white box seen on the left. If you don’t see the file, click ‘Choose File’ and pick the file from the top of your downloads area on your computer.

Conclusion

WordPress plugins help web designers add features and functions to websites without having to write software for those functions themselves. These plugins can be either freemium or paid for before installing them on the site. Some plugins are better than others, so look at reviews and schedule time for experimenting with different plugins before deciding which you want to use. Keep in mind that there are perfectly good freemium versions of plugins that work fine with just the free version, so try those first before getting out a credit card for some of the more heavy-duty plugins that usually require a monthly subscription or fee to use.

We went over what do WordPress plugins do in three parts:

  • What are WordPress Plugins?
  • What can WordPress Plugins do?
  • How to add WordPress Plugins.

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