Way back when IBM PCs were fairly new and the first clones where hitting the marketplace, I provided in-home setup, service, and training for the critters. I would often get to a home to find a brand new computer taking over the dining room table with disks and manuals spread around it. The first question would typically be some variation of "Where's the homework button?" I noted they tended to have a cool screen saver and a half-dozen or so games installed without any trouble. Getting what they really needed, though, eluded them. Selecting, applying, and understanding WordPress plugins can be a little like that.
Selecting And Understanding WordPress Plugins
A plugin is simply a code module that gets inserted into the functioning of a WordPress self-hosted website. Each plugin provides one or more processes or features that core WordPress does not. This is not a deficiency in WordPress but, rather, a deliberate design approach allowing for an infinite number of features and functions to be added to the core system over time as needs are discovered and ideas imagined.
There are very basic plugins that provide a single, simple, feature or accomplish one fundamental task. There are other complex plugins that take on a host of responsibilities, delivering entire systems of processes. And there is everything in between. There are thousands of free plugins. About 49,000 of them can be found in the WordPress Plugin Repository (often called the "Repo"), and many more free and premium (paid) plugins can be found on individual websites across the 'net.
I was reminded of my early days of computing because of the way many people ask for plugins. In some ways the antitheses of the "Where's the homework button?" question, the "I need a plugin that..." opener often expands into a very detailed, and very particular, description of a person business system requirement. This often goes beyond what any single plugin currently offers and, in many cases, beyond what a public plugin is likely to ever offer. The request is just too elaborate and too specific.
Different And Unique
If your need is different than anyone else is likely to have or, if your list of requirements is just too extensive, you are not likely to find a single plugin for the task. That's not to say a plugin couldn't do the job. It's just that no one has bothered to create one in advance of you coming forward to state your unique requirements. This is where understanding WordPress plugins is really important.
Don't give up. In many cases your needs can be satisfied with a selection of plugins that will work together to deliver the necessary features and functions. By careful selection of the appropriate plugins you can assemble a powerhouse of feature and function that gets you to your end goal. And, failing this, you can always hire a plugin developer to create the specific plugin you need.
When it comes to plugins, if your need is complex and far reaching, there likely isn't one single "homework button" to be pressed. Instead there will be a number of plugins (processes) required to work in harmony. Think about your over all needs and break them down into steps or single functions and then start looking for plugins to handle each. You may find exactly what you need.