What is a plugin? How they work in WordPress

What is a plugin

If you are new to WordPress, you will often wonder what is a plugin?

Plugins are an important part of the WordPress ecosystem that helps you add a variety of features.

It can be said that the plugin is what makes WordPress different from other platforms.

In this article, I will explain what plugins are and how to install them in WordPress.

What is a plugin
What is a plugin

What is a plugin?

Plugins are applications that allow you to add new features and functionality to your WordPress site.

Just like on smartphones, you can install apps on your phone to add functions.

There are over 58,000 free plugins available on WordPress.org ‘s plugin directory (as of press time).

Thousands of other products are available on third-party sites like Github, crocoblock, wpastra, evanto, and more.

In 2003, WordPress was just a simple tool to help you create a blog.

Over the years, it has grown into a powerful content management system and application framework mainly thanks to plugins.

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What can plugins do?

Plugins are small software applications that integrate and run on the WordPress platform.

This allows you to create almost any type of website with WordPress.

Example: You can:

  • Build an online store with WooCommerce plugin
  • Create a job search website with Job Manager
  • Optimize SEO articles with Yoast SEO plugin
  • Use Coupon Plugin to boost sales
  • Build a photography website using the Envira Gallery Plugin
  • Create a Wiki site using the Knowledge base plugin
  • Protect your website with Sucuri
  • Speed ​​up your website with a cache plugin like WP Rocket or Swift Performace
  • There is a popular saying in the WordPress community that “Every function has a plugin”.

Every function you want comes with corresponding plugins to do it for you.

Like plugins on SEO optimization, website speed optimization, add contact buttons, create slider…

There are also quite a few small plugins like simply adding a contact forms button to the website.

Or it can be quite large operating as its own platform (e.g. WordPress eCommerce plugin or membership plugins).

Plugins can also have their own addons (to add functionality to the plugin itself).

How do WordPress plugins work?

WordPress is an open platform that provides plenty of documentation for developers to develop their own plugins.

The WordPress API provides powerful filters and customization capabilities that allow developers to modify existing WordPress functions or add new features.

WordPress also allows developers to store data in the WordPress database.

Plugins can use WordPress content types, taxonomies, and custom fields allowing users to host different types of content not just with posts and pages.

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Every plugin installed on the website is registered in the WordPress database.

Installing and canceling the plugin is also very easy, you just need to deactivate or delete it if you don’t want to use it anymore.


Usually, plugins will run automatically after you activate them (some plugins will require configuration).

How to find WordPress Plugins and install them?

You can easily find free plugins on the WordPress.org homepage.

Or find them right in the WordPress admin interface, go to Plugins » Add New.

Type the name of the plugin you want to search into the search box

WordPress will search for results based on the name you provide and display the date below.

You just need to click Install Now to install, then click Active to activate the plugin.

But the fact that many plugins are also the downside of WordPress makes users do not know which one to choose.
Choosing the right plugin for your needs and website is sometimes too difficult for new users.

At these times, it is best to consult carefully or ask knowledgeable people for better advice.

How many plugins can I install?

There is no specific research or convention on how many plugins you can install.
A common misconception among users is that too many plugins will slow down their website.
It’s NOT the many plugins that slow down your website, it’s the poorly optimized plugins that are doing it.

Should I install a plugin that hasn’t been tested with my WordPress version?

Sometimes free plugins won’t update on a regular basis.
This will not guarantee the plugin will be compatible with the latest WordPress version.
Or it simply works fine so they don’t need to update anymore.

Should you choose free or paid plugins?

First of all, you need to understand that free is not always bad and vice versa.
Choose a plugin that is right for your needs, for example, you only need a simple form plugin -> contact form 7 is the best choice.
And if you want a plugin that can both create forms and add many features, please refer to wpforms, gravity forms…

I hope this article helped you understand what plugins are and how they work.

If you have any questions or concerns, please comment below.

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I am Omotunmihse Temitope (Xander), A Contents Writer, Web and Graphic designer, and A pro blogger who has a passion for blogging and has taken blogging as part of my daily activities.