When you create your WordPress site, you can install hundreds of plugins to help optimize your site. Plugins can enhance your site with special features, and hundreds of options are available based on your needs.
Now that you’ve installed your WordPress theme, it’s time to learn about both free and paid plugins.
What are WordPress plugins?
WordPress plugins empower site owners to extend and modify the features available in a WordPress site. Features, including forms, eCommerce stores, online courses, and tools to fine-tune WordPress to your needs, can quickly be added to a site without needing to write code.
An official marketplace of free plugins is available on WordPress.org and in the WordPress admin dashboard. In addition, plugins are available for purchase from third-party developers and can be uploaded into WordPress.
Developers can create custom solutions in plugins to modify WordPress features or the features of other plugins.
How do plugins work?
The version of WordPress that you download from WordPress.org or install from your hosting account is simply a framework for your site—a set of free and open-source PHP-coded templates for the essential components of a WordPress website designed with blogging in mind.
To extend the functionality of WordPress in other directions and create different kinds of sites, users can install a variety of plugins that help to monetize a blog by adding specific features such as setting up an e-commerce store on WordPress, creating a membership site, or posting a portfolio.
Because WordPress plugins are separate pieces of code overlaid on the original WordPress source code, they can be updated or modified, added or deleted, separately from a site’s core code. To work properly, any plugins you install must be compatible with the version of WordPress your site is running.
Once installed, you must activate a new plugin, which can be edited or customized through its own settings options or from the main WordPress dashboard. When a plugin is no longer needed, it can simply be deactivated and deleted, which removes all the relevant files from the WordPress installation.
Related: Best Overall WordPress Plugins
What are free plugins?
The largest source of plugins that are free and open source, like WordPress itself, is the official WordPress Plugin Directory.
This directory is immediately available with any WordPress install so that users can browse its contents directly from the site’s admin dashboard.
The WordPress Plugin Directory lists over 50,000 plugins to boost a site’s SEO, create contact or opt-in forms, install galleries and slideshows for images, optimize website images, and so much more.
The plugins carried in the Plugin Directory have been created by members of the WordPress community and are subjected to intense review before they’re listed in the directory so that users can generally expect that they’re updated and safe to use with a particular version of WordPress.
The WordPress Plugin Directory isn’t the only place to get free plugins. Many are available from third-party WordPress designers and developers who offer them as part of a larger suite of design and development services.
Others are created and shared by independent WordPress users with experience in coding and web development, and a large number of tutorials are available to teach anyone how to make a plugin to address a particular unique need.
How to buy premium plugins?
Paid or premium plugins can be purchased from design asset marketplaces and individual WordPress designers and developers. Prices for premium plugins range from $30 to several hundred dollars, depending on the complexity of the plugin and the services that come with it.
Pro version plugins can also be custom designed to meet highly specific needs; custom plugins typically command higher prices than premium ones.
Premium plugins typically come with various additional options, including ongoing customer support and regular updating from the plugin creator.
Commercial plugin developers also confirm that any plugin they sell is created with quality code for security and stability so that it can work seamlessly with the WordPress core code.
Free or premium WordPress plugins: Which to choose?
You can find all the plugins in the WordPress.org directory have to meet a certain level of quality before they can be offered to you. That said, there are free and paid plugin options within the directory.
Premium or paid plugins may come with additional support and tutorials to help utilize the plugin, while some free plugins may not.
A free version of a plugin may be offered as an incentive to upgrade to a premium version to access the full range of the plugin’s functions. If you choose to install a free plugin, especially from sources outside the WordPress directory, it’s important to research the source.
Take careful note of the plugin’s compatibility with your version of WordPress and any concerns reported by current users.
Before installing any plugins, you should do some homework to be sure the plugin vendor is reputable and trustworthy. WordPress designers often say that whatever your site needs, there’s a plugin for that—and many of them are safe, secure, and entirely free.
Always check the browser compatibility, ratings and reviews, and the latest updates before installing any plugins on your site. WordPress’s power allows you to select any combination of plugins you need for your site.
Check out the plugin directory on WordPress.Org for an array of plugins to install today!