If you’re powering your website with WordPress, chances are that you have heard about the software’s ability to accept plugins. What you might not know is how using the right mix of plugins can create powerful new features for your website.
What’s a Plugin?
A plugin is a piece of software that is written specifically to add features and/or functionality to WordPress. Or, it may also be written to improve upon existing features.
One of the great aspects of being able to accept plugins is that it really allows the folks who develop WordPress to focus on improving the software itself. It leaves the task of creating new features to the greater community. Anyone who takes the time to learn PHP programming can write a plugin.
Many developers create plugins to solve a challenge related to whatever project they’re working on. Often, they’re willing to share the full plugin (or, at least a simple version of it) for free.
While there are some nice commercially available plugins out there, you won’t find them at WordPress.org’s Plugin Repository. WordPress believes plugins ought to be free. That’s great, but sometimes purchasing a plugin means getting a higher level of support along with a more frequently updated product.
What Kinds of Features Can Plugins Add?
There are literally thousands upon thousands of WordPress plugins out there. If there’s a feature you need, there is most likely a plugin written for that purpose. Here is just a sampling of a few that I use on a regular basis to add some popular features to my clients’ websites:
This commercially available ($19) plugin makes it easy to add a functional shopping cart to your WordPress powered website. While I haven’t discovered the “perfect” e-commerce plugin, MarketPress is great for anyone who needs a simple shopping cart.
The Events Calendar
The free version (linked on the title above) is really outstanding. The Events Calendar can provide a very flexible solution for providing your users with a list of upcoming events. You can list events in either a standard list or an actual calendar format. The best part (for your web developer) is that it’s easy to customize the look of calendar. The Pro version also adds some extra features.
User Access Manager
If you need a members only area of your website, this free plugin will do just that. There are lots of options to help you define just who can view certain areas of your site.
An amazing, free image gallery plugin. It makes posting photo galleries or slideshows a piece of cake.
Comprehensive Google Map Plugin
Need an easy way to plot different spots (or store locations) on a map? This software will do it for free! It even provides a way for visitors to get directions to any location plotted on the map. That way, they never even have to leave your website.
Share Buttons by Lockerz / AddToAny
We know that Social Media is very important. This free plugin makes it easy for visitors to your site to share your content on Facebook, Twitter and just about any other service you can think of. It’s customizable in that you can show only the services you want.
Free software that adds social networking capability to your site. BuddyPress is gaining in popularity and even has its own community of plugin developers to further enhance its functionality.
Easily add interactive polls to your website.
Really, that’s just scratching the surface of the extra functionality plugins can add to your website. Take a look around the plugin repository and see how plugins can help improve your WordPress powered website.