Basic Introduction to WordPress Plugins & How They Work

There are other 50,000 WordPress plugins available to use. These plugins include basic contact forms to more complex e-commerce stores which can be used on WordPress sites. Plugins have been developed so that they perform various functions on WordPress sites. If you’re wondering how to create a WordPress plugin yourself, let us tell you more.

What are WordPress plugins?

Basic WordPress code enables you to build a WordPress website. There are many themes available for users to use so that they can personalize the way that their website looks and feels. However, this alone does not provide all the functions that a website may require. This is where plugins come in as they can provide a WordPress site with extra functionalities that can perform additional actions. Although WordPress provides website builders with many plugins in their directory, they do not provide every possible function, which means there’s a chance a specific plugin may need to be created.

A plugin consists of either single or multiple files that have been written in a programming language known as PHP (Personal Home Page.) In general, a WordPress plugin may contain four components. These are:

  • Widgets: These are areas that can be found on the homepage of a website and can be specifically manipulated in order to obtain the desired effect from a plugin.
  • Filters: These are variables that can be changed when an action is carried out.
  • Actions: These describe a particular action that will take place.
  • Shortcodes: These are codes that are put into a website’s visual editor to create a particular action, for example, a slideshow.

The purpose of writing a plugin

Plugins on WordPress range from an animation that greets new visitors to a more elaborate online shop or payment portal. These different kinds of plugins exist because there was a need to create a function that WordPress on its own didn't provide.

Different kinds of WordPress plugins

As we have established, plugins have many functions but the one thing they all do is add more functionality to a website. Below is a list of the different types of WordPress plugins that are available:

Community plugins: These plugins add social networking features.

Sales and marketing plugins: These plugins are useful for e-commerce, social media, and SEO purposes.

API plugins: These plugins bring content from external sites such as Google Maps.

Site maintenance plugins: These plugins are for backups, performance, and security needs.

Content plugins: These plugins are for video feeds, forms, galleries, widgets, and shortcodes.

How to write a WordPress plugin from scratch

Don't think that you need to have the skills of a web developer in order to create a plugin for your website. Whether you own an online shop or a blog page, you will just need to have some knowledge of the basics of a WordPress site. For example, have some knowledge of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), PHP, and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets.)

If you have some knowledge of the coding standards of WordPress and how these all work, you will be able to follow the guides and tutorials that WordPress provides you to create a plugin.

Installing a plugin

A plugin can be very simple and simply contain written instructions. That said, some plugins are more complex. Regardless of the size of your plugin file, it will need a home in your WordPress directory. In your website’s content directory, you will need to begin by creating a folder where you can place the plugin. The next thing you will need to do is to create a PHP file for the plugin code. Once you have written the plugin file, you can activate it and you will then be able to manage it just like any other plugin that WordPress provides in their directory.

Making your plugin public

You may be creating a plugin for your own private use, however, you can actually create your plugin so that it is available for other WordPress users to use. Bear in mind if you decide to make your plugin public, you will need to get a license for it. The purpose of the license is to outline the terms and conditions related to how WordPress users can use your plugin or even modify it.

Best practices when coding a plugin

From the offset, you want to make sure that your code is of high quality. Therefore, it is worth understanding the best practices before you begin:

  • Your folders will need to be organized logically. Also, it is crucial to keep your code separate so that others can understand your code and so that you can add to your code in the future without things becoming messy and difficult.
  • Make sure you add comments throughout your code. This allows others to work with your plugin, and they will also help you to remember how your code works should you come back to it at a later date.
  • Make sure you follow WordPress coding standards when writing your code. If you want to add your plugin to the WordPress directory, you will need to make sure you follow these standards.
  • Use prefixes to name your classes, hooks, and functions. Prefixes will personalize your plugin. Make sure you name each function a different name as you don't want to mix them up.

You can refer to the official wordpress page for more best practices.

It's easy to think that it's not essential to use best practice because it will only be you that is using the plugin that you write. However, it is important to bear in mind that with time, your plugin may expand and you may then decide to let other users use it. In fact, you may get to the point where you decide to sell your plugin. Finally, at some point in the future, you may come back to your plugin and imagine how frustrated you will feel if you can’t remember how you organized the code.

About the Author: Lauren Bradshaw started writing career in 2003. Since then she has tried her hand in website design, programming and SEO. Currently she is working for a professional essay writing service Her major interests lie in content marketing, developing communication skills, and blogging. She's also passionate about AI, machine learning and digital marketing.


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