How to Create a WordPress Plugin (Step-By-Step for Beginners)
WordPress is one of the most popular open-source platforms needed to develop various types of websites, from eCommerce to blogs, business profiles, landing pages, eLearning, and many more. Not only it acts as a hosting provider for websites, but it is one of the best content management systems. In other words, you can buy a domain name from WordPress and use its server to host the website. Plus, it comes with a plethora of features to help most professional WordPress developers work on the website’s UI content and backend functionalities.
One of the hidden gems of WordPress is the plugin library. You will find more than 500 plugins with which extending your website’s functionality won’t be a problem. Given that most of these are developed by developers from around the world for their projects, you can also design a plugin for your website. As it might sound overwhelming initially, we would love to walk you through a comprehensive guide about WordPress plugins and the steps to be followed for its development.
What are WordPress Plugins, and How Do They Work?
WordPress plugins contain header files (for authentication and verification) and codes. Once you integrate the plugin with your website from the backend, you can easily add a function or feature to the UI. So, there is no need to change the website’s source codes or write them from scratch. For instance, you can add social media networking buttons at the bottom of the website’s home page with the help of the plugins.
Sometimes, you can even integrate a third-party platform with your WordPress website using these plugins. For example, most professional WordPress developers use the WooCommerce plugin with the WordPress theme to build a functional and efficient eCommerce platform. Similarly, you can integrate PostGre SQL or MySQL with the website using the plugins instead of using the database as a standalone application.
Why Develop WordPress Plugins?
Before we discuss the steps to create WordPress plugins, you must understand the benefits of this particular software. This will help you make well-informed decisions about whether you need any plugins for the website.
- First and foremost, WordPress is an open-source platform. It means you can modify the source code or add any new blocks as it seems fit. Therefore, developing custom plugins for your website only won’t be a problem.
- You don’t have to market the plugin. If you want to retain the original control over the base code stored in the packages, you can upload the plugin file to the backend of your website on WordPress and start working with it.
- Developing WordPress plugins might seem difficult at first. But with so many professional WordPress developers on the forum, you can easily ask for their input. Moreover, WordPress provides a huge library of documents and resources with which developing the plugin won’t be a problem anymore.
- WordPress plugins are a great way to solve any problem on the website, even though the problem might be a meager issue. For instance, you can integrate the WPForms plugin to add a form to the website for surveys, participation, campaigns, and many more. Similarly, with the help of the Weglot plugin, you can add a translatory feature to the website, so your visitors can easily change the content language as per their requirements.
- You don’t need to be extremely tech-savvy to create WordPress plugins. Start developing the easier plugins, and once you understand how to write the code blocks, you can move on to the more complex plugins.
- Many professional WordPress developers upload their developed WordPress plugins for others to use. This way, they can earn money since the original authenticity will still be in their name.
How to Develop WordPress Plugins?
Now that we have established WordPress plugins and the reasons to develop them let’s focus on the most important part of this discussion: a step-by-step development guide. You must understand the entire process of building the plugins so you won’t feel stuck.
a. Start with Researching, Planning, and Ideating
Do not begin with writing the codes from the very start. Although you know the problem or the feature you want to add and have an idea of the codes, jumping straight into development won’t yield fruitful results. So, you should begin with researching and planning. During this phase, you must analyse the website and what your customers expect. Also, run a competitor analysis to check what additional features they have with which they can leverage more business.
After completing your thorough research work, it’s time to plan. In the planning phase, you should decide on the plugins and the types you need to develop. You also need to mark business areas that require immediate attention.
b. Choose and Set Up the Testing Environment
Although you can test the developed WordPress plugin directly on the live website that is already deployed and active on the server, it is better to have a staging site. When you deploy the plugin packages and codes in the main server. This will immediately make changes to the live website. If the plugin has any error, your website won’t perform expectedly. Plus, you may have to take down the website to debug and resolve the problem in the plugin package and code. So, you should choose a testing platform with which creating the staging website won’t be a hassle. Most professional WordPress developers use the staging website to deploy the codes and check if the plugins are performing exactly or not. Apart from this, you can also understand whether the interaction between the newly added plugins and other website components is seamless.
c. Create the File for the WordPress Plugin
To create the WordPress plugin, first, you need to create a folder and save it on the desktop. You can use the FileZilla platform if you want a more secure platform to store the file. It is one of the best Secure File Transfer Protocol clients and is used by several businesses for IT-managed operations. To log in to FileZilla, you require a username and password from the hosting provider on whose server you have hosted the website.
Apart from this, you must add a port comprising four digits and the environment URL or address, if any. After this, open the pre-set folder of wp-content/plugins. You can create a new folder where the plugin header and code will be stored. Now open the text editor or notepad from your computer and write the header. It should have the plugin name, URI path, description, version, author name, and author URI. Once done, save the file and upload it to the folder created in FileZilla.
Save the text file with any suitable name, but it should have an extension of php because the core language of WordPress is based on PHP. Now, visit the WordPress admin from the staged website, and you can see a file created for the plugin. However, it won’t be active until and unless you add the codes.
d. Write and Add Codes to the Plugin File
To write the codes, first, you need to add a hook code block that will act as the anchor point and connect the plugin to the core source code of WordPress. Usually, you can use two different hook types. To add or change any website functionality, you need the Actions hook. On the contrary, to change the actions’ functionalities, you need to use the Filters hook. After you are done with the code, save the file in the same path in FileZilla where you stored the header file.
e.)Test the Created Plugin
You can test the developed plugin on the staged environment. Once satisfied with the results, you can upload them on WordPress to integrate them with the live environment. To do so, navigate to your dashboard on WordPress and then to the Plugins option. Click New and then Upload Plugin. A pop-up box will appear from where you need to add a zip file of the header and code files. Once the file is uploaded, click on Install Now. After this, click on Activate Plugin, and you can see the changes in the live environment.
Watch this Video for WordPress Plugin Development
Video Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm9aQiLEa10
You now understand the basic steps to follow to create WordPress plugins. These are simple plugins which are why the complexity involved isn’t much. But when you need it for a complex website with multiple functions or build a plugin for integrating another platform, do seek help from professional WordPress developers from TechStriker, as they are way more experienced in the domain.