WordPress is one of the most used CMS (Content Management System) that can be employed to create almost any kind of website. WordPress has evolved more than just a CMS actually. It is an online, free open source website creation software tool, which is based on PHP and MySQL. Forget being the most powerful, it is undoubtedly one of the easiest website blogging and content management system, that exists as of now.

What is WordPress?

Though it is strongly associated with blogging because that is what it was created for, but today it supports many other kinds of stuff. The web content it includes:

  • Blogs
  • Traditional mailing lists
  • Forums,
  • Media galleries,
  • Landing Pages
  • Social web sites
  • Online ecommerce stores and list is long.

WordPress has a web template system using a template processor.

What’s that Web template system?

By means of a web template system the web designers and developers can design and work with web templates to automatically generate dynamic web pages. For example “Search results” displayed when user searches something on a website.

What is template processor?

It is a kind of “Template Engine” also known as “template processor” or even “template parser”. It is designed to intelligently combine templates along with a data model, which enable it to produce dynamic result documents.

The term template engine was coined to describe a type of programming language whose main or primary purpose is to process “templates and data” – to produce dynamic output.

The core WordPress is designed keeping in mind that it should remain lightweight. This is thoughtfully done to maximize flexibility and ensures a lean code that does not give a stress to your site. Themes and Plugins come in fill the gaps. It’s themes and plugins that offer solutions through custom functions and features. This allows user to design and tailor their website as per their specific needs.

WordPress was released on May 27, 2003, and has grown up as a giant. Used by millions of site, amounting to more than 30% of its share of the top 10 million sites. All made possible by improving its internal architecture and support of themes and plugins that can do almost anything and everything.

In this article I would be discussing exclusively about plugins. WordPress Plugins which are actually composed of PHP scripts are capable of extending the functionality of your website. By their means new functionalities and features can be added to your blog. These features might be absolutely new features that don’t even exist in wordpress or might just enhance or beautify features that are already available in wordpress.

To begin with you may or may not require plugins, totally depends upon the kind of website your developing. Thought quite possible, but that rarely happens, since they are so many and offer so many features and functionalities that one feels tempting to use them or try them at least. Most of the time, you will end up adding couple of required functionalities with the help of these plugins. Hence mostly you would just be needing few of them, but choosing few of them out of so many might be little difficult.

You can add new functionalities

There is a huge repository of plugins available from different sources. You might enjoy the varied options that these Plugins provide. Plugins can be used to/for:

  • Frequently updated dynamic weather reports,
  • Find word counts,
  • Rating systems
  • Testamonials
  • Coupons,
  • Add Google fonts
  • Manage Search Engine Optimization
  • Newsletters
  • Taking backup of your site
  • Cleaning your website
  • Online Payments
  • Creating Galleries, portfolios etc
  • Creating Custom post types, and for so many other features

Still, WordPress Plugins are optional, totally your choice. It should be need based. Since plugins are need based they are not shipped along with WordPress or patched into the core functionalities of WordPress.

Different sources

These Plugins are created and made available through so many different sources:

  • Plugins are also made available via the WordPress Plugins Directory site
  • These are designed by volunteers and are available for free to the public (in most of the cases).
  • These Plugins which are hosted in the WordPress Plugins Directory can be trusted for being thoroughly tested and thus are most “safe.”
  • Plugins are also created by other professionals and are called premium plugins. These need to be purchased. Usually it is expected that these plugins are more sound and rich in functionality. Mostly, these plugins also come with one year support.
  • You must understand that the decision to use or not use WordPress Plugins is to be taken by the user. WordPress is evolving consistently and thus these plugins need to be updated as wordpress evolves. So plugins can be considered as “work in progress”, so only those plugins must be installed and used – free or premium that are updated regularly.

Categories

There are so many of them that these plugins must be categorized to understand them better. When working with WordPress plugins, you will come across few of common types of plugins which can be classified as described below:

  • Widget Plugins
    • Will let you add widgets to you web site
  • Social Plugins
    • Using them you will be able to share your website content on social network sites.
  • Backup and Security related plugins
    • These can be used to periodically take back up of your websites, so that there is no data loss due to any reason – accidental or intentional.
    • Taking control of hacking and spams
  • Form plugins
    • You will be able to ad forms to your site
  • Media related Plugins
    • To work around videos, audio, images and animations
  • Membership plugins
    • To enable multiple user site where user can take memberships of your website
  • Ecommerce related Plugins
    • To enable payment and shopping cart system on your website
  • SEO related Plugins
    • To help you rank your website on search engines
  • Performance related Plugins
    • These Plugins can be used to speed up your website, by cleaning your website and optimizing images.

There could still be more types, these are common categories including plugins that are used quite often

Conclusion

Tons of plugins to choose from. Indeed it is an uphill task. One needs to be careful while picking one. Do look for plugins that have great reviews and ratings, and are also updated regularly.