What Are WordPress Plugins? And How Do They Work?

When it comes to blogging platform, WP has emerged as the unbeatable leader. WP has no limits to its functionality. The default WordPress does not offer additional functionality so from where do these extra functions come from. They come from plugins.

What are WP plugins?

Do not confuse plugins with themes. The themes are for beautifying the front end of a website. In layman terms, plugins are like apps that enhance the smartphone functionality. Similarly the plugins also provide the necessary features and functionality to the WP sites. There are 2 types of plugins – one is like drag and drop. Here you just need to download, install and activate them. The handling is done from the admin panel. And the second type of plugin is where one has to modify the code to attain the desired feature. WordPress plugins are apps that allow you to add functionality and new features to your site. There are nearly 48000 free plugins available on the WordPress.org plugin directory.

And there are thousands of premium WP plugins which are sold by individual developers like us. In the year 2003, the WP started as a simple tool to assist you start a blog. And as the years passed it became a robust CMS and app framework, thanks to plugins. WP plugins are code snippets that are uploaded to expand and extend the functionality of your WP site.

WHAT CAN WP PLUGINS DO:

The plugins are small software apps which integrate and run on top of the WP software. With this you can create any type of website with WP.

For example, one can:

  • create an online store with WP using WOOCommerce plugin
  • Make a job board with WP by using the Job Manager plugin
  • Start a business directory with the best directory plugins for WP
  • Make a coupon website like RetailMeNot
  • Start your photography website by using the Envira Gallery plugin
  • Start a wiki website by using the knowledge based plugin
  • You can start your own podcast website using the WP

In order for the plugin to be useful we have to:

-> Add some piece of code

-> Tell that code when to execute

This is may be a little of oversimplification. First let’s get familiar with the most important and useful tool in plugin development.

WHERE PLUGINS ARE NEEDED?

  • Designing: one can change designs, layouts etc for your blog. Or you may perform a complete makeover of your blog like adding navigation, calendars, highlighting text etc.
  • Admin panel: tweaking, customizing admin tools, posing restrictions etc.
  • Multimedia integration: record lightbox effects, video files, record audio to your images integrating any video from tube channels that are famous.
  • Formatting: change the default way of formatting and editing post, the way links are presented, linking process.
  • Social integration: these are the most famous ones. Be it on twitter profile linking, or Facebook integration. It is all done in just 1 install of a plugin.
  • Miscellaneous: boosting performance, improving SEO, current affairs, news, Google maps integration, weather forecasting and more.

HOW DO WP PLUGINS WORK?

Let us discuss how to find them first and then discuss how to install them.

FINDING A PLUGIN:

For free plugins go to WP.org plugin directory. All you have to do is to type the required functionality or the plugin name. It will show a range of plugins. And choose the one which suits you. Alternatively, you can also search for them in the admin panel of your site.

INSTALLING THEME:

In case you are downloading the plugin from the admin area, you can see the install now. You just have to download first, in the other two cases. Then you have    to extract it from the compressed folder (if it is in that format), then go to the plugins folder. You will need an FTP client with a username and password to enter your website server area if the site is live.

WORKING:

Whenever a plugin is installed, it registers itself in WP database. The code is checked for the required functionality when the page is loaded. After this the plugin is loaded into memory. Then it is initialized and a new instance of the plugin is then created.

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE CHOOSING OR INSTALLING A PLUGIN:

Compatibility:

You have to check for the compatibility of the WP version that you are using before installing or downloading and plugin.

Conflict:

It may so happen that your plugin is not at all working or not working properly. This may arise as a case of conflict between any other plugin that has been previously installed. Check for this by activating only this one and deactivating all the other plugins.

Cannot install:

It may so happen that you are not able to install or see the plugin. The reason behind this is that you can install WP plugins on self hosted WP.org websites.

Reduced website speed:

It is a misapprehension that in case you install too many plugins, it might affect your website’s speed and make it slow. The speed has nothing to do with the number of plugins but it depends up on the code. A plugin that is badly coded will definitely hamper the speed of the website.

Free or paid:

It is your choice. If you find any free plugin which offers a similar type of functionality as a paid one then go for a free one. However if you want support and updates then it is advisable to go in for a paid one. And the paid ones are backed by full customer support and offer warranty. And moreover the programmers of the free ones can stop working anytime without any regard to the problems faced by the user.

WordPress Forum:

It does not mean to say that all the free ones are bad. The WP Forum advisors are always there to help you out. If you have any query then let them know and it will be answered asap. Before contacting the advisors you better research your problem in Google. Or look for your problems in any of the threads.

Review and ratings:

Always be sure to verify the plugin’s overall reviews and ratings before downloading it. And also checkout how many downloads has been there for that plugin. And you can try for as many plugins as you want till you have the right one.