BEGINNER'S GUIDE

What is a WordPress Plugin? (Definitive Guide for Beginners)

Last Updated: 16 mins By: ThemeGrill Author

Do you want to know what is WordPress plugin and how does it work? 

A plugin is an extension that provides a specific function to your WordPress website. It’s a piece of software you can add to your website to make it better. They’re used to add new features or extend the functionality of your WordPress website.

We’ll explain more about WordPress plugins, how they work, types of plugins, etc. in this article. So, read it till the end for full information.

1. What is a Plugin in WordPress? (Overview)

A plugin is a software that plugs into your WordPress site, which extends functionality or adds new features. Simply, plugins are WordPress extensions which add a new feature on your website as apps add in your smartphone. Plugins help to modify and improve WordPress functionality.

There are thousands of free plugins available in WordPress that you can install or you can also purchase premium plugins i.e. paid plugin. You can simply get the free plugins by visiting the official WordPress plugins repository. You can choose the plugins suitable for your website and download accordingly. 

 If you want the premium plugins for your site the best place to buy premium plugins are, CodeCanyon, WPEverest, Mojo Marketplace, etc.  

WP Everest

Most of the WordPress plugins come in the freemium model, offering both free and premium versions. Free offers basic functionalities, you need to upgrade to a premium version for advanced features. 

WordPress admin should carefully choose the plugins which one you want to install on your site, as different plugins come with different quality and functions. For that, you can check the last update, rating for the plugin, and is it appropriate with the latest version of WordPress or the version you have.

If you have heard that plugins slow down your website, then it’s not true. Only a few numbers of bad plugins will slow down your site. So, you have to be very careful while choosing the plugin for your website. Don’t worry, we’ll further explain to you about this. 


2. How do WordPress Plugins work?

WordPress is developed in a way that others can easily use and modify without having any knowledge in coding. And that’s made possible via plugins. Now let’s find out what a WordPress plugin does.

Plugins are small software apps that run over the WordPress software. They help you to add any type of feature on a WordPress site. They’re designed in a way that they can overwrite an existing code and add or modify certain features in WordPress. And you don’t need to touch any code to use plugins. 

For example, our plugin ‘Everest Forms’ lets you add a contact form and other types of online forms on your site easily. It’s one of the must-have best plugins as a contact page with a contact form is basic for every website. You can create simple contact forms, multi-column contact forms, and other types of advanced forms using ‘Everest Forms’.

Everest Form
Everest Form

Similarly, there’s a plugin called Yoast SEO which helps you to improve SEO (search engine optimization) of your site. The plugin improves your page quality and helps to rank higher in the search engine like Google. 

Also, you can find plugins for boost performance, create galleries, social media buttons, and many more. 


3. Kinds of Plugins Available in WordPress

You can find various kinds of plugins available on the internet. The main part is you need to identify your needs and select accordingly. 

For beginners, you may go for the free plugin as it suits your budget or you can purchase premium plugins as well. The WordPress.org plugin directory is filled with 56,000+ plugins. So, you can choose the plugin that is suitable for your website and download as many plugins that are required.

WordPress plugins

List of Some Plugin Categories & Best Plugins in Each Category  

  1. WordPress Contact Forms – Everest Forms, Contact Form 7, etc. 
  2. WordPress SEO Plugins – Yoast SEO, RankMath, All in One SEO Pack, etc. 
  3. eCommerce Plugins – WooCommerce, Customize My Account for WooCommerce, etc.
  4. Anti-Spam Filtering Plugin – Akismet, Antispam Bee, etc.
  5. Email Service Provider Plugin – MailChimp, Newsletter, etc.
  6. Lead Generating Forms Plugin – Everest Forms, User Registration, etc. 
  7. Drag-and-Drop Page Builder – Elementor, Divi, Beaver Builder, etc. 
  8. WordPress Security Plugin – Wordfence, Sucuri, iThemes Security, etc.
  9. Backup Plugin – UpdraftPlus, VaultPress (Jetpack Backup), etc. 
  10. Image Optimization Tool – WP Smush, EWWW Image Optimizer, etc.
  11. Image Gallery – Envira Gallery, Modula, NextGEN Gallery, etc.

Best Places to Find Great WordPress Plugins

  1. WordPress Plugin Directory (free plugins)
  2. CodeCanyon (paid plugins)
  3. WPEverest.com (WordPress plugins by WPEverest, the sister company of ThemeGrill) 
  4. WooCommerce.com (WooCommerce plugins & extensions)

4. How to Choose the Best WordPress Plugins?

You might face some difficulties as a beginner to find suitable plugins for your website. Here we’ll give some list to choose the right plugin which may help you:

i) Make a list of the website’s requirements

Firstly, you need to figure out what kind of website you are going to build. Identify the features you want to implement on your website and make a list.   

But make sure to check the options offered by your theme and web hosting before making a plugin list. That’s because some features you may be thinking to add via plugins may be already offered by your web host or theme.

For example, backup and speed optimization tools my be already included on your site, if you’re using a managed WordPress hosting plan.

ii) Search for Plugins

There are thousands of plugins available in WordPress for different features. And, we’ve already mentioned where you can find quality plugins above. In all those plugin stores, you can find a search option. Use the option to find the best plugins for your site.

For example, go to the WordPress.org plugins page. After that, navigate to the search box and enter what type of plugin you need. Let’s say you search ‘drag and drop contact form builder’. Here’s how the results will appear.

Search Contact Form Plugin in WordPress Plugin Repository

Now you can preview the plugins that appear. You can see the description of the plugin, rating, active number of installs, author name, and tested with WordPress version. You can go for those plugins which you think are relevant for your website. 

iii) Analyze plugins for potential Security risks

You should always look for the plugins which are recently updated at least two months prior and operating on the latest version of WordPress to ensure those are secured plugins. 

WordPress also shows the last update and finds which version of WordPress can run that particular plugin under the description tab. For example, you can see the screenshot of the Everest Forms plugin description page at WordPress.org. It shows the last updated date, and the WordPress version supported by the plugin.

Everest Forms Plugin Last Updated and WP Version Details

You can also check all the previous updates that the developer has been updating under the Changelog tab.

While choosing any plugins pay close attention if a plugin is suitable with your version of WordPress. If your WordPress doesn’t support a plugin, then it may cause errors or even crash the entire website.

iv) Check the Reviews

Before installing any plugins to your website, you can thoroughly go through the plugin rating in the sidebar of the plugin page. You will find the number of stars as ratings there, one being the lowest and five being the highest. 

For example, Everest Forms has an average of 4.9 out of 5 stars ratings.

Everest Forms Plugin Ratings

When a user rates a plugin, they also write a review for the rating. You can also go through the reviews by clicking on the rating bar. This will help to pick one for your site.

v) Check the Support Options

All the free plugins at WordPress.org have a support forum located in the support tab. If you can see the regular replies to users’ queries, then  that means the developer is actively working and solving the user issues.

Also, you can check out the plugin’s official website for further queries regarding support options.


5. Top 10 Must-Have WordPress Plugins

There are more than thousands of plugins available in WordPress. Among those, the following plugins are highly recommended for beginners and advanced users.

  1. Everest Forms
  2. Yoast SEO
  3. Jetpack
  4. Akismet
  5. MailChimp for WordPress
  6. WooCommerce
  7. Elementor
  8. Wordfence Security
  9. UpdraftPlus
  10. User Registration

i) Everest Forms

Everest Forms is a powerful yet simple WordPress form builder plugin. You can create various types of forms using this form. You have all the freedom to create forms simple to advanced WordPress forms.

Everest Forms - Best Contact Form Plugin for WordPress

It is 100% mobile-responsive which displays your contact form perfectly on any device. There is a collection of free and premium templates you can choose according to your requirement. Also, you can preview the form in real-time as you create it which makes it much easier.

You can also change the form layout by adding multiple rows and columns. You can add a contact form to your WordPress site with the shortcode provider in the form builder. This allows you to view and manage the form submissions on the WordPress dashboard itself.

This plugin is available for free in WordPress.org and if you would like to take the premium version it starts from $49 to $199 per year.  

ii) Yoast SEO

 One of the popular plugins which have been loved by a lot of people is Yoast SEO. You can find this plugin installed in almost everyone’s blog or site. 

YOAST SEO PLUGIN

This plugin is designed to improve your SEO score for the articles and pages which helps to rank higher in the search engine like Google.

Yoast shows the problems that are found inside your WordPress Dashboard. It optimizes the content in different aspects like readability, meta description, etc. 

You can install Yoast SEO on any self-hosted WordPress site for free. You can also purchase premium Yoast SEO for extra functionality, but the most important functions are part of a free plugin.

iii) Jetpack

Jetpack is also considered one of the popular WordPress plugins with over 5 million active installations, developed by Automattic. This is an all-rounder plugin for WordPress, it enhances performance, theme customization, security, and many more to the website.   

jetpack-best-plugins-for-blog

Security is the number one priority for every website owner and the heart of Jetpack is security. Jetpack is user-friendly and this optimizes your images by default which saves your time and energy.

It is free but to explore more of its features you need to get the premium plugin of Jetpack. Jetpack plugin is a superb plugin it might be difficult to replace with any other plugin.

iv) Akismet

Akismet is a spam comment filtering plugin for your blog. It’s one of the plugins which is pre-installed in every WordPress but you need to activate it manually. 

Akismet Anti-spam WordPress Plugin

Once you activate this plugin, it runs in the background and blocks spam or junk email comments on your site. Some real comments can also get blocked sometimes because Akismet is an algorithm-based plugin and can make mistakes. 

 v) Mailchimp for WordPress

Mailchimp is one of the leading email service providers and a very beginner-friendly email marketing service. This plugin MailChimp for WordPress is an integration plugin that lets you connect your MailChimp account with your WordPress site.

MailChimp for WordPress Plugin

It’s free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers and if you send less than 12,000 emails per month. This is extremely easy to use for beginners.

Mailchimp also has other cool features besides sending emails, it allows you to design beautiful email templates, set-up autoresponders, set-up RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary), and monitors the performance of your email campaigns with a complete analytics report.  

Mailchimp is an independent email marketing tool. This plugin only integrates Mailchimp with your WordPress site. Add something like this in the last paragraph. 

vi) WooCommerce

WooCommerce is the most popular plugin where it comes to an e-commerce solution for WordPress. This plugin is mostly used to build an online store. 

WooCommerce Plugin

WooCommerce is open-source and free that anyone can install, modify as they want and it’s a secured plugin. 

This plugin is designed for online services which include multiple payment and shipping options.

If you are planning to open an online store WooCommerce is the best option as it works on all devices.

vii) Elementor

This plugin helps you create beautiful pages as it’s a drag-and-drop page builder for WordPress.

For beginners and people from non-tech, Elementor is flexible to work with drag-and-drop out of 90+ widgets to create content, like button, star rating, and many more.

Elementor Page Builder Plugin for WordPress

With Elementor you can build your entire website, you can design promotional pages, landing pages, and even custom forms. This is a good plugin for beginners.   

viii) Wordfence Security

Wordfence plugin

Wordfence Security is a very good WordPress security plugin that protects your site from getting hacked, wicked threats, and senseless attacks.

This plugin is helpful to keep your site safe. It is a free plugin but you can also upgrade it by purchasing the premium version.

ix) UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus plugin is free and the most popular backup plugin accessible on the internet. It’s used by more than millions of websites.

UpdraftPlus Backup WordPress Plugin

UpdraftPlus grants you to backup all of your WordPress sites and store it on the cloud or download it to your computer. This also provides you a scheduled backup as well as on-demand backups, you can choose any one of them.

It is a free plugin and also has a premium version with access to priority support.

x) User Registration

User Registration is the best WordPress registration form plugin available with easy drag and drop form builder. You can create any type of registration form using this free plugin. You can also purchase a premium version of user registration which also offers multi-step registration forms, registration forms with payment, and many more.

User Registration Plugin for WordPress

Features you can get in free User Registration are:

  • Beautiful Registration forms
  • Drag and Drop Builder
  • Unlimited Registration forms
  • Multiple Column Support
  • ShortCode
  • ReCaptcha
  • Email Notification
  • Translation and many more

Features you get in the premium user registration

  • Style Customizer
  • Multi-Part
  • Conditional Logic
  • Social Connect
  • MailChimp
  • WooCommerce Integration
  • Content Restriction and many more.

You can get a premium version with three different plans which cost you from $69 to $299 per year. You can choose the plan according to your need.

If you want to find out more plugin recommendations from us, please check our ultimate collection of best WordPress plugins.


6. WordPress Plugins vs Themes – What’s the Difference?

Most of us get confused between plugins and themes. Let’s clear out what’s the difference between them.

Understanding WordPress Themes

WordPress Theme is designed to change your website’s appearance. It’s a face to your website. It includes layout and many other features to your content which styles your website. Every website built in WordPress needs a theme without it no content can be displayed on the page.

Themes can do everything like add features and functionality to your site and can change the look of your website. Theme organizes and displays information on the site to the visitors.

For example, Zakra is a WordPress theme. Here’s how your site will look if you create a website using this theme.

Zakra Theme Demo

WordPress installs and activates the default theme for you if you don’t install any theme of your own. Themes can be changed, as per your site’s requirement as many as you like, but WordPress sites can only have one theme activate at a time.

While changing the theme of your website, only the theme will change the rest of your functionality, and the content of the site will remain there.

Similar to the plugins repository, WordPress.org also has an official directory of free WordPress themes. You can find over 7700 free themes in the repository.

WordPress Themes
WordPress Themes

Difference Between Plugins and Themes

A theme defines the design of your website, whereas the plugin adds new functionalities and features to the site. Plugins add or remove some functions of the site.

You can use multiple plugins at a time; there is no restriction on that as the theme you have to use one at a time. But installing numbers of plugins does affect the site’s speed. You need to be careful while choosing the plugin and install the only you need for your site.


7. How to install a WordPress Plugin?

Here we’ve explained two methods to install the plugin (free plugin and premium plugin) step by step:

Free Plugin installing method

  1. Login to your WordPress admin dashboard area, look for Plugins on your left-hand side.
  2. Inside the Plugins menu, click Add new, this will take you to the WordPress Plugin Directory.
  3. You can see all the free plugins available on the site.
  4. Find the plugin you are looking for or you can simply type Everest Forms on the search bar for example.
  5. When you find Everest Forms, click on the Install now button.
  6. Only installing is not enough, you need to Activate it to go live on your site.
  7. Once you click on the activate button, it will get activated.
  8. After installing the plugin click Activate.
Everest form install

Installing a Premium WordPress Plugin

  1. Find the WordPress dashboard area, look for the Plugins menu on your left-hand side.
  2. Click Add New, this will take you to WordPress Plugin Directory.
  3. Now you have to click on the Upload Plugin instead of the search plugin.
  4. After clicking on Upload Plugin, you’ll have to choose the plugin from your computer.
  5. You can either choose the file or left-click if you have it open, visit the folder and drag it.  
  6. Once you have dragged, click on the Install now button and it’s installed.
  7. After installing the plugin, you have to activate it simply by clicking the button to activate the plugin.
  8. You can now use the plugin on your site.
  9. You can also check for the plugin you have installed by clicking on Installed Plugin.
Premium Plugin install

Conclusion

From the above discussion of WordPress Plugin, now you know the importance of plugin for your WordPress.

A WordPress plugin is an app that adds more functionality to your website and improves your site’s functionalities.

An interesting thing about the plugin is, most of them are free and easy to install which is good for beginners.

We hope this article helped you to understand what WordPress plugins are, how it works, and the difference between plugins and themes, etc. You may also want to see our beginners guide, What is WordPress Theme?

Disclaimer: Some of the links in the post may be affiliate links. So if you purchase anything using the link, we will earn affiliate commission.
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ThemeGrill Author

We are a team of SEO copywriters and editors who work both individually and in the team. ThemeGrill author is where one of the editors here is working on one project personally. Write to us @themegrill_blog in Twitter.

2 thoughts on “What is a WordPress Plugin? (Definitive Guide for Beginners)

  1. Plugins helps improve the performance and usability of the WordPress site. As an SEO I love Yoast SEO plugin as it eases out the SEO process. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Yeah, you’re right! Yoast SEO is our favorite too.
      Thanks, Joe for the comment! Please keep coming back! 🙂

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