What is a WordPress Plugin? Why do they have them?
To simply put it, a Plugin is a way to make your website perfom certain high functions without having to write the code yourself. In a way Plugins are the method in which we have applied the concept of interchangeable parts to building a web site.
What are interchangeable parts? Way back two hundred years ago, if you wanted a gun you had to hire a gun smith to make it for you. The gunsmith would build the trigger mechanism, the stock, and the barrel of the gun all at once. Well, a man named Eli Whitney came along and said he could build guns faster. He had one person make the stock of the gun, another would build the barrel, and another the trigger mechanism. Then they would assemble them all together in this system they call interchangeable parts.
Fast forward another hundred years and Henry Ford applied the same concept to the car. Before Ford, you had to buy the car made by a single maker. If your car broke down you had to take it back to the maker and he would have to make another part of your car and fix it. Well, Henry Ford came along made a whole bunch of parts and then assemble them together on an assembly line. It was ingenious, and it changed the world. Now you can go to an Auto parts store and pick out any part that you need. It’s cheaper for the consumer and producer.
Fast forward a hundred years and website creation started out much the same as the gun and the car. You would get a team of web developers who would create a part a website from the ground and turn nothing into a functioning web site using computer languages. For about ten year now, WordPress has been like Henry Ford and changed how Websites are created and function. WordPress is a vehicle in which parts of a website (Plugins) can be created to perform a certain function.
You can compare a WordPress website to a vehicle. For example a part for a Ford Mustang GT will not fit a part for a Chevrolet Camaro. So, a Plugin for WordPress will really only function completely and properly on a WordPress website.
WordPress usually comes with themes and certain applications to be applied to a website. The themes and design software can be compared to the frame and body of a vehicle. However, if you want to turn your vehicle into a business you may need to make some adjustments and additions to your vehicle. Let’s say for example you want to turn your truck into a food Truck, well you have some major additions you need to add to your vehicle. Well, it’s the same with a WordPress designed website. You can use WordPress’ Woo commerce to turn your website into a business.
So for another example, you can go down to your local auto parts store and buy a new radio for your vehicle or get another part you may need for your vehicle to run properly or smoother, the same can be done with a WordPress Plugin. There are many WordPress Plugin developers who sell their products on their own site or another vendor’s site. It’s like grocery shopping but slightly more complicated. You walk down the cereal aisle looking for the box of cereal you want to buy. You take a look at the product packaging, maybe read the label and look at the fiber content. Well, you can shop online for all of the Plugins you need to run your site properly. “Ooh I like this Plugin, do you think this will make the bottom of my site look to big?” However, Plugins can be just like all the products that fill the cereal aisle, you do not want to purchase all of them or can’t afford to purchase all of them, you only want to purchase one or two.
I think it is better to compare Plugin shopping to something you are looking to add onto your vehicle rather than cereal. Your vehicle is your website and the parts to your vehicle can be compared to as themes and Plugins. For example, you may need something to cover the front of your vehicle and protect it from bushes because you go off road a lot; you may need to purchase a Plugin to protect the front of your website from Spam and other attacks you may experience on your website. Another example: You want your vehicle to be noticed and to grab people’s attention. Well, you go down and buy some nice flashy rims, or paint a stripe that goes down the middle of it. If you want your web site to be noticed you purchase a Plugin which focuses on Search Engine Optimization or links to social networking sites.
The question one may be asking is which plug in do I want and which Plugin is right for me? That question we will leave for our next article.