As a content management system (CMS), WordPress already offers some excellent options for presenting content. The strengths of the system are supplemented by thousands of plugins – there is one for almost every application. But in some cases it makes sense if you create your own WordPress plugin. This can happen because a specific feature is not yet in the WordPress plugin directory. In addition to those listed there, there is still a large number of premium plugins that are subject to a fee, but not every need can always be covered here either. In some cases, the desired functionality could only be achieved by combining several additional modules – using your own solution can improve efficiency and, above all, performance be positively influenced.
In this article we explain which steps have to be followed so that you can create your own WordPress plugin. We give tips on how you can then list it in the WordPress directory for plugins and even earn money with WordPress with a premium plugin.
7 steps to your own plugin: How does the development work?
The development of a plugin should always be structured, because otherwise unnecessary errors creep in, especially in complex software systems. We explain the process of plugin development for WordPress step by step:
- Create plugin folder
First, a folder with the name of the new plugin is created, e.g. super-plugin. The folder must be created under /wp-content/plugins so that the plugin is recognized afterwards. As a rule, a test environment is used for this, as faulty plugins can paralyze the entire CMS. If the plugin is to be used later on a special website, it makes sense to run a copy of this website on a staging server. In this way, incompatibilities can be detected at an early stage.
- Creating a plugin file
An empty PHP file with the plugin name is now created in the freshly created folder, e.g. B. super-plugin.php.
- Fill plugin header
In order for the new plugin to be recognized as such, it needs a WordPress plugin header. This is specified by WordPress and is basically a PHP comment. It only contains information for WordPress, but no executable code. In order to be recognized by WordPress, at least the name must be there, but other fields such as description, license or author are also possible. The official WordPress documentation provides an overview.
- Creating the plugin logic
So far, the plugin only exists as a shell and complies with the WordPress conventions for plugins. In order for it to do something, it has to be filled with program logic. Which that is, of course, depends on the desired plugin function. If, for example, a core function of WordPress is to be changed, so-called hooks are available, which latch into the existing functions.
- Supplementing the plugin structure
In the course of development, plugins usually outgrow the original plugin file. In order to keep track, a comprehensible structure should be used in the plugin folder. The Best Practices article in the WordPress documentation provides good suggestions.
- Don’t forget the documentation
Not only is the folder structure important to keep track of things in the future. Detailed documentation of the plugin is also essential. The code of the plugin should always be commented by the developer to describe what the respective program components do. As a supplement to this, additional documentation is useful, especially for more complex developments, e.g. B. in the form of a PDF in which all functions are described.
- Test, test, test
If all functions are built in and the plugin does what it should, it is important to put it through its paces. First in the test and later also in live operation, the plugin has to prove itself and any bugs have to be fixed.
Program yourself or have a WordPress plugin created?
Once you have decided on your own WordPress plugin, the question arises as to whether you should develop it yourself or have an external developer do the work. If you already have knowledge of PHP, it will be easier to get started with WordPress plugin development. However, there is also the time factor to consider: does the development keep you from other tasks? Then it can make sense to consult an experienced programmer. This completes the tasks in less time than someone who first has to learn the ropes.
Of course, there are costs when you have a WordPress plugin written. However, if you consider the time savings and the added value that a stable plugin brings, the financial expense quickly pays off. The same happens with big companies, such as Woocommerce plugin, e.g., booster plugin. System-critical plugins in particular can cause a lot of damage if they are poorly programmed. In our experience, most companies are therefore well advised to carry out the development in cooperation with an experienced programmer. Requirements are clearly defined in advance and e.g. documented in the form of a specification. On this basis, a web developer then develops the plugin with the desired functions in close cooperation with the customer.
After completion of the development, the plugin including documentation will be handed over to the customer and then used in live operation.
Publish plugin on WordPress.org
If you’ve created a plugin that you want to make available to all WordPress users for free, there’s no better place than WordPress.org. There are tens of thousands of plugins in the plugin directory and the number is constantly growing. All WordPress extensions listed there are free – a sale is not intended. However, free basic versions with a reference to a premium version are allowed (see: Earn money with plugins for WordPress).
Because the WordPress.org directory is built right into every WordPress CMS, one release will get you millions of new users in one fell swoop. Anyone searching for a suitable term will stumble upon your plugin. When publishing, the title of the plugin is also important.
Earn money with plugins for WordPress
Developing WordPress plugins can also be a good business model. Most plugins are designed to solve a problem, and you can bet more than one person or company has been looking for a solution at some point. If you have already had a plugin developed for a specific use case or have done it yourself, selling the software can also make sense. There are various sales channels for this:
Selling through your own website: the advantage of this variant is that you do not have to meet any provider’s specifications or pay any fees to them. However, you should keep in mind that your own plugin website must also be promoted in order for paying customers to come to you. A good idea can be to combine the free version in the WordPress plugin directory with an extended premium version. You refer to the paid version on WordPress.org and make it palatable with attractive added values.
Selling via a marketplace: if you use one of the major platforms such as CodeCanyon, you automatically have a higher reach for your plugin. However, the providers are sometimes very strict when it comes to the inclusion criteria and do not always communicate transparently what is wrong with the plugin software. Especially newcomers then have a hard time and have to have good stamina until the plugin is published. In addition, very high fees of up to 55% of the sales price are sometimes due.
Creating your own WordPress plugin is not as difficult as many assume – and if your own knowledge is overused, you can always seek professional help from a web developer. The advantages of a plugin are obvious: special functions that have not previously existed can be operated. Exactly according to your own requirements, WordPress is adapted and expanded. It is also possible to publish plugins that are also of interest to other people or companies. In some cases, the sale is worthwhile, because many WordPress users are willing to spend money for a well-programmed plugin with the desired functionality.
As a digital agency, we naturally also offer WordPress plugin development on customer request. Our experienced programmers respond to your wishes and advise you in advance on feasibility. Feel free to contact us and arrange a free consultation!