What are WordPress Plugins? And How do they Work?

If you are new to WordPress, you may have already heard about WordPress plugins. But you may be wondering what they are and how do they work?

WordPress plugins are an essential part of building a great website in WordPress. They allow you to enhance your site with new features and functionality.

In this beginners guide, we will explain what are WordPress plugins and how do WordPress plugins work? Additionally, we will discuss what plugins do, how to choose the right ones, where to find them, and how to install a free WordPress plugin.

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What are WordPress Plugins?

WordPress plugins are applications developed by 3rd-party developers that you can plugin to your WordPress website that allow you to extend your WordPress installation with new features and functionality. Think of them as apps that you can install on your website.

Behind the scenes, a WordPress plugin is a folder with a collection of
files written in the PHP programming language. A plugin folder may also contain other file types such as JavaScript, CSS, and image files.

How Do WordPress Plugins Work?

The free and open-source WordPress.org software, a.k.a self-hosted WordPress, was created in a way that lets 3rd party developers add their own code on top of the WordPress core.

By using hooks and filters from the WordPress plugin API, developers can add and modify existing WordPress functionality. Developers can also store data in the WordPress database, create custom content types, taxonomies, and custom fields.

What Can WordPress Plugins Do?

WordPress plugins can enhance your website with new features and help you make almost any type of website.

Enhancement plugin examples:

  • Add a Contact form for people who visit your site.
  • Add a Newsletter subscription for your visitors.
  • Use custom blocks in your posts and pages.
  • Take control of your WordPress website SEO.
  • Enhance your data with advanced custom fields.

WordPress website examples:

For further reading, we recommend: What kind of websites can you make with WordPress?

How to Choose the Right WordPress Plugins

While so many WordPress plugins are free, many do not offer any tech support. This means that if you install one of these types of plugins and have a problem, you will need to figure it out on your own or hire a developer.

Before installing a plugin, review each one against the following list:

  • When was the plugin last updated?
  • Is it compatible with the current WordPress version?
  • Are people getting answers to their tech support questions?
  • Are there any ratings and reviews? If so, what are others saying?
  • If it’s a plugin outside of the WordPress plugin directory, be sure to review the company or website.

Where to Find WordPress Plugins

There are thousands of plugins in the WordPress plugin directory that are free and free-to-get-started (freemium) that include premium options to unlock additional features.

However, the plugin directory is not always helpful since it is limited to free plugins. Another way to find plugins is to look through digital marketplaces and independent studios which offer premium plugins.

If you are having trouble finding a plugin. You can perform some searches with your favorite search engine. To yield the best results, try searching for the functionality that you want the plugin to have.

For example:

  • SEO wordpress plugins
  • social media wordpress plugins
  • popup wordpress plugins

Finally, try searching for plugin recommendations, reviews, and tutorials on websites similar to TarttWeb.com.

How to Install a WordPress Plugin

In this section, we will explain how to install a plugin using the plugin directory located in the WordPress admin area.

Step 1. Go to Plugins > Add New

In the WordPress admin area, on the left side, click on Plugins, then Add New. This will open the WordPress plugin directory.

WordPress add new plugin link

Step 2. Search for a Plugin

Search by typing the plugin name or functionality you want to add. WordPress will then search the directory and display all available plugins in a list.

Search the WordPress plugin directory

Step 3. Click the Install button.

Once you have found and reviewed the plugin you are interested in, click the Install Now button next to the plugin.

WordPress plugin install button

That’s it! Once the plugin has finished installing, click the Activate button.

To learn more about installing WordPress plugins, we recommend: How to Install a WordPress Plugin?

Wrapping it Up!

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand more about WordPress plugins. Specifically, what are WordPress plugins, and how do WordPress plugins work? Remember that before you install a plugin to survey each one first.

If you found this article helpful, let us know in the comments section, follow us on social media, or subscribe to our newsletter for more.

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JTartt
I am Jeff Tartt - a human and father of 4, with experience in many different trades, including development. I love family, tech, building things (with and without code), helping others, and ancient history.

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