Plugins and widgets are what makes WordPress amazing as a platform for building websites. They allow people with little (or no) web development skills to create a website that looks great and also has some pretty complex features and functionality.
You may be familiar with widgets if you have played around with WordPress, but there are may different types of widgets that do all kinds of great things on your website. Widgets are small tiles that can be dragged into special widget areas, and these widget areas show up on different areas of your website. Widgets are found under Appearance in your WordPress dashboard.
The most common widget area is the Primary Sidebar, and this generally shows up on the right hand side or your website. Here you can drag any type of widget and it will show up down the right hand side of you website. For example, common widgets include recent posts, an about me section, and search boxes. Depending on the type of website you have you may have member log-in areas, advertisements, or social network boxes (e.g. Facebook) that show of how many likes you have and a selection of profile pictures of followers.
Depending on the WordPress theme you are using you can have several different widget areas. The theme I use on my website is the Parallax Pro Genesis child theme and it has 9 different widget areas that lets me put widgets in to my header area, my footer area, and several homepage areas as well as an area that appears after posts. Widgets really help style your website and you can add new widgets by installing and activating plugins that are specially designed to add widget functionality.
Plugins also make WordPress super versatile because they add increased functions to your website that either make potentially difficult situations simple (e.g. adding custom post types) or add extra elements you allow your website to do more (e.g. membership plugins and payment plugins). You can search the plugin repository at http://wordpress.org/plugins/ or click on the Add New link under Plugins in your WordPress dashboard and search there.
There are 1000’s of plugins out there, some of which are free and some you have to pay for. The free plugins are sometimes not as reliable or supported but there are many great free plugins, but quite often they have a paid for version that has more features. Paid plugins on the other hand tend to be more polished and have better support, plus they are more likely to be updated to be compatible with future updates of WordPress.
Have a browse of the plugins available, and if you ever want your website to do something or you need a widget to show something then you will probably find what you are looking for.
If you want the best platform to start making your website then you need to look at Webthena. Get web hosting set up for you along with WordPress, the Genesis Framework, the premium website design of your choice, and help & support. All this from just $0.39/day. Check out Webthena now and see the website you could have.