If you have used WordPress for any length of time, you are probably already familiar with the power of plugins. However, using plugins and making your own are two entirely different activities. If you’re interested in creating WordPress plugins, you might need help figuring out where to start.
Fortunately, creating your plugins is simpler than you would think. The first crucial step is understanding how plugins operate and are built thoroughly. Once you understand the fundamentals, making and installing your straightforward plugins is relatively easy.
This post will review the fundamentals of creating WordPress plugins, including all the components’ functions. Additionally, we’ll walk you through our tutorial on developing WordPress plugins, best practices for writing your first plugin and WordPress plugin development examples and tools.
Let’s get going!
Table of Contents
Basics of WordPress Plugin Development
You can’t directly alter the essential WordPress files if you want to customize your WordPress website. Each time you update your WordPress site, those files are entirely overwritten. But you can take the help of a WordPress Development Company to ensure nothing goes wrong.
WordPress plugins allow you to add, change, and extend functionality utilizing one or more PHP scripts as a workaround.
You’ll need a few fundamental components to build a WordPress plugin:
- Hooks (actions and filters)
However, shortcodes and widgets are being phased out and are no longer as relevant as they once were given WordPress’ current focus on the Gutenberg editor.
Hooks (Actions and Filters)
With the help of hooks, you may connect with various WordPress features without changing the core files.
A hook, for instance, enables you to run a piece of code at a specific moment or on a specific area of the website.
WordPress comes in two main formats:
- Action hooks: The ability to add a new process to WordPress is provided through action hooks. More specifically, they enable you to execute a function on the WordPress website at a particular time. For example, an action hook would allow you to execute code whenever a user saves a post.
- Filter hooks: With the use of filter hooks, you can alter a process without updating the source’s data. They enable you to get and edit data before saving it to the database or rendering code on the front end, to be more precise.
Since the block editor (called “Gutenberg”) was made available in WordPress 5.0, blocks have played a significant role in the functionality of WordPress plugins.
Consider using blocks to let users interact with your plugin, such as inserting plugin content or even producing content using your plugin, depending on the capabilities of your plugin.
If adding blocks doesn’t work with your plugin, you may always start without them. The best place to start is with the Block Editor Handbook.
The “traditional” method of allowing people to interact with your plugin is shortcodes.
For users to be able to incorporate plugin content into a post or page in the past, almost all WordPress plugins relied on shortcodes. However, plugins can choose to use blocks rather than shortcodes in “modern” WordPress.
Given that many plugins already support blocks and shortcodes, you should consider incorporating shortcode support.
You should avoid incorporating widgets into plugins coming forward because they are an outdated WordPress notion. Now, blocks are used in place of the previous widget system in WordPress 5.8.
You might want to consider including widget compatibility in your plugin since if a site is utilizing the Classic Widgets plugin, the site administrator will still be able to use the earlier widget system.
Steps 0f WordPress Plugin Development
Here is the step-by-step tutorial to understand the development of WordPress Plugins.
Step 1 – Define The Requirements
The first step in creating a WordPress plugin is clearly defining your development needs. Before you begin, make sure you understand the purpose of the plugin. You can implement your idea into an effective plugin when you have a clear image of the problem you’re trying to tackle.
You can think about a lot of things in this step. What features does this plugin have? How will you personalize it? How will the design appear?
Because this stage is connected to every other phase in the process, be careful to provide answers to these questions and hire WordPress developers with high experience for a smooth development process.
Step 2 – Create A Structure
The standard WordPress directory for storing plugin code on the back end is /wp-content/plugins/. The complexity of your plugin will determine how you organize it within this directory. The directory’s name is the same as your plugin’s, lowercase, with no spaces and just dashes.
We advise having a single PHP file (/wp-content/plugins/my-plugin/my-plugin.php) that houses the entire plugin’s code. Such a structure is perfect for a straightforward plugin with a limited purpose.
You can create an MVC view for more complex plugins, including directories for the model, view, and controller inside the my-plugin directory. This facilitates quicker debugging in the future.
Step 3 – Configure Your Plugin
You must include the file header after creating your plugin directory and adding files. The file’s header is a PHP comment block that includes details about the plugin. The WordPress codex contains a sample file header’s contents.
The file header will appear in the list of plugins on your WordPress admin after being added.
Step 4 – Add Functionality To Your Plugin
Even if you only built a blank plugin, it does nothing. You must immediately add functionality to it. The WordPress plugin manual should be used as a reference. This is the stage where you implement your idea.
The code sample uses the action hook admin menu to add an item and runs the hello world admin menu function. The built-in function adds menu page is used in the function to add a menu item and a page for the plugin on the WordPress admin. It includes the menu slug, capability, page title, and a callback function.
Step 5 – Package Your Plugin
In a development environment, a developer frequently works on a WordPress plugin. You need to zip the plugin directory and upload the zipped file to WordPress Admin to move the plugin to your production site.
WordPress Plugin Development Best Practices
You should keep in mind a few recommended practices before, during, and after developing a WordPress plugin. These suggestions can help to ensure a smooth development process and increase the efficiency of your plugin.
Be explicit and deliberate when selecting the name of your plugin when you are initially building it, for instance. You’ll want to make sure it’s distinct to avoid confusion or conflicts with other plugins. You can also look at WordPress’ suggestions for plugin names.
Additionally, we advise maintaining a clear WordPress plugin structure. The directory for your plugin should have the your-plugin-name.php file at its base and subfolders for everything else.
Prefixing is another useful hint. Please refrain from prefixing your functions with the wp_ prefix as it’s used by default by WordPress code functions. Therefore, utilizing it in your plugin could lead to incompatibilities. Instead, it would help if you used a term specific to your plugin, like a shortened form of the name.
You may also consider using a WordPress plugin boilerplate as a starting point if this is your first time dealing with plugins or building one from scratch. It will offer you a starting point for creating WordPress plugins. It provides a straightforward roadmap.
Finally, keep in mind that plugin security should come first. The last thing you want is for your WordPress site to become vulnerable to hackers due to a plugin.
WordPress Plugin Development Tools
The greatest tools for developers are those that can assist with authoring, code framework, server storage, database management, and multitasking. Check the below list of these WordPress plugin development tools below.
Brackets is an amazing tool utilized by thousands of WordPress developers. It is a modern text editor that is light, straightforward, and effective and is used to create unique WordPress plugins.
The visual tools are integrated into the editor so that you receive the proper amount of information and assistance without becoming bogged down in the creative process. You will undoubtedly like writing code on the tool, as Brackets claims.
The most popular and essential add-on plugin for any WordPress coder is WordPress hint, which brackets provide a variety of extensions.
Additionally, it includes a dedicated wiki to assist you in setting up and maintaining your WordPress plugins.
Notepad++ is a tool for creating custom WordPress plugins. Notepad++ is a free alternative to Notepad that supports several languages. It is controlled under the General Public License (GPL)++ and runs nicely under the MS Windows operating system.
Additionally, it is founded on the potent editing tool known as Scintilla. Because Notepad++ is developed in C++ and uses only pure Win32 API and STL, the program is smaller and runs faster.
It aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by improving various routines without sacrificing user-friendliness as it consumes less CPU power and less energy, making it considerably more environmentally friendly.
Atom is a sophisticated autocomplete and many panes custom plugin creation tools used by WordPress specialists.
Atom is unhackable and GitHub open-source. It is created so users can alter it to meet their unique requirements. By using community packages, you can add non-standard functionality to them.
A user-friendly file system browser is also included in this program for examining project files. It contains sophisticated find-and-replace features to update any new version across the project and a smart auto-completion tool that aids in producing code more quickly.
PHPUnit is a top-notch testing framework tool used for PHP-based programs known as WordPress.
While WP-CLI is the primary command line interface used for WordPress, PHPUnit is the de facto testing tool used for custom plugin theme development by several start-ups, corporations, or entrepreneurs with informed and professional WordPress specialists.
Integrating PHPUnit testing for WordPress plugins took a lot of work before WP-CLI. Although WP-CLI provides excellent setup instructions, you should use PHPUnit tools.
We looked at how to build a plugin from scratch in this WordPress development services tutorial. If you have the necessary expertise, abilities, best practices, and willingness to work, you can launch a plugin, even though it takes time and patience.
However, if you need more fundamental abilities and more time to acquire the fundamentals, you can hire WordPress plugin developers who specialize in creating custom plugins.
We are PixelCrayons, a WordPress development company that provides IT and software solutions with our experienced developers.
Question. Do I need to license my WordPress Plugin?
Answer. There is no need to license your plugin if you intend to use it exclusively for personal use. However, you’ll need to license it if you want to share it with the public or submit it to the WordPress Plugin Directory. All plugins must follow the GNU General Public License v2 or later, according to WordPress’ rules.
Question. What skills are required to start WordPress plugin development?
Question. What are the benefits of WordPress plugins?
Answer. Your WordPress site’s functionality is improved with plugins. We create plugins to ensure that we do not change WordPress core which is replaced with each WordPress update.