If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, you won’t be familiar with the power of this plugin. However, using a plugin on your website and building one yourself are two different things. If you are interested in developing a WordPress plugin, it can be confusing where to start.
Fortunately, creating your own plugin is easier than expected. The first key step is to have a clear understanding of how plugins work and how they are created. Once you have decided on the basic concepts, creating and installing a simple plugin is very simple.
In this post, I will explain the basics of WordPress plugin development, including how it works with the essentials. It also walks you through a 6-step guide to developing a WordPress plugin and provides some tips and tricks for creating your first plugin. Let’s begin!
Introduction to WordPress Plugin
WordPress plugins provide a powerful way to improve the functionality of your website. You can extend the functionality of your site beyond what’s available on the basic WordPress platform without having to edit the code yourself.
Why use the thousands of plugins available in your WordPress plugin directory? By creating your own plugins, you can add custom functionality to your site that is not available in existing plugins.
Additionally, plugin development is relatively easy to learn and offers more flexibility and cost effectiveness than hiring developers to perform custom additions to your site. It’s also a great way to learn in-depth how the WordPress backend works.
At the basic level, plugins consist of one or more functions and files written in PHP, WordPress’ default scripting language. It also includes four main elements: actions, filters, shortcodes, and widgets, which will be discussed in more detail in the next section.
You don’t need to be an experienced programmer to develop custom WordPress plugins. However, having a basic knowledge and knowledge of PHP, CSS and HTML makes this task much easier. Fortunately, there are many tutorials on the Internet to help you master these basic languages.
How WordPress Plugins working properly
To develop your own plugins, it is important to first understand how the underlying systems work. Plugins mainly work using interceptors, which allow one piece of code to interact (“connect”) with another.
WordPress actions refer to specific actions that must occur at a specific time. You can use actions to add or change the functionality of the plugin. Action-related functions run after they are started.
For the example WordPress task such as save_post. Actions are defined by the do_action function. You will need the $tag (action name) parameter and in some cases $args (additional arguments that extend what the action does).
The WordPress core comes with dozens of predefined tasks. But you can also make it yourself. Anyway, when developing a WordPress plugin, you use do_action to set values for the associated function. Then I use the add_action function to attach this function to a specific action.
WordPress filters are hooks that take a single variable or set of variables and then post them back after they have changed. Simply put, filters allow you to change the content your users see.
WordPress filters are created using apply_filters function and are defined inside this function. You need $tag (filter name) and $value (filtered value or variable) arguments with the ability to use $var for additional function values.
You can create your own filters using the apply_filters hook. Then you can run it using the add_filter function. This way you can manipulate and return variables by attaching specific functions to filters.
In short, shortcodes are user-friendly code that allows users to quickly and easily create and display custom functionality to their site visitors. You can place shortcodes on posts and pages using editors, menus, widgets, etc.
Many plugins use shortcodes. You can create your own shortcode using the add_shortcode function. The name of the shortcode becomes the first variable and the second variable becomes the output function. The output function consists of three values: attribute, content, and name.
Another way to enable plugin functionality via a simple interface is using WordPress widgets. You can create widgets by extending the WP_Widget class. WordPress takes an object-oriented approach to creating widgets. In other words, functions and values are stored in the same class object.
Before you start developing plugins for WordPress, we recommend reading this section to understand in detail how plugins work. Here are some useful WordPress plugin and development tools with more resources that you can use it.
- WordPress Code Reference
- WordPress Codex: Writing a Plugin
- WordPress Developer Plugin Handbook
WordPress Plugin development
Now that you’ve seen what makes up a plugin, it’s time to talk about how to create a plugin. Before adding new plugins to your website or editing files, you must first set up a test environment or staging site. This allows you to safely experiment without damaging your live site.
Step 1: choose a Plugin name
The first step to developing a WordPress plugin is to create your official name for your plugin. This is due to the functionality of the plugin, but it is better to choose something unique.
Step 2: create your Plugin folder and .PHP file
First of all, the plugin should be somewhere. So, after choosing a plugin name, the next step is to create a folder for that plugin.
First, go to the wp-content/plugins folder of your WordPress installation. Create a new folder and name it using the plugin name using a hyphen to separate words (eg “your-plugin-name”).
Once you have configured your plugins folder, the next step is to create a PHP file in it. It is recommended to use the same naming convention (for example, “your-plugin-name.php”).
Depending on how complex the plugin is, it can contain a single PHP file or multiple files. For example, you may have separate files for language, CSS, etc.
Step 3: add your Header file
After creating the base plugin file, it’s time to add the file headers. Basically, this is a PHP block comment that contains metadata about the plugin.
Add the following code to the file.
When done, save your changes. To check if this is true, go to the WordPress admin panel and go to the plugins section.
So, this is it your new plugin should be listed on this screen.
Step 4: add the Functions to your Plugin
Step 5: compress your Plugin folder
Before uploading the plugin to your WordPress site, you need to convert it to .zip format. So, once you’ve added all the code you want to include, you can zip the plugin folder. This is usually done by right-clicking the folder and choosing Compress.
Step 6: activating and running your Plugin
When you finish drafting the plugin, you can finally get to the fun part. Use it on your WordPress site! If you haven’t already added it to your WordPress installation, you can upload the folder through the plugins directory (see step 2 above for details).
If the plugin is in a .zip folder on your computer, you can add it in your WordPress dashboard by navigating to Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin > Choose File.
If your plugin is already in your WordPress directory, you just need to go to the plugin screen and click the “Activate” link. After that, you can start testing the plugin and make changes and improvements as needed.
On my daily job, I am a software engineer, programmer & computer technician. My passion is assembling PC hardware, studying Operating System and all things related to computers technology. I also love to make short films for YouTube as a producer. More at about me…