Part of the advantage and appeal of WordPress comes from its many, many plugins. However, if you can’t find what you are looking for or want to try your hand at it, you may be tempted to try and create one yourself! Thankfully, learning how to make a WordPress plugin is not as complex as most think.
What you need to make a WordPress plugin?
It is natural to develop an interest in plugins as you learn about WordPress. However, many people do not know that the basic software required to create a plugin is not demanding. You need just two things. First is the most basic Notepad application every computer has, even on the freshest system installs. The second thing is a stable testing environment. Now, you have two options for this. You can load the plugin into your website and try it out there. Note, however, that this carries many risks since if there are issues with the plugin, it can entirely crash your website, and you might need your host’s help to get it back up. Or, you can install WordPress on your computer and set up a local testing version of your site, which is much safer!
Types of plugins you can make
If you want to create a WordPress plugin, the basic requirement is deciding what you want it to do. It is impossible to have a plugin covering absolutely everything a site needs. Here are some basic plugin types:
- Security plugins. Used to bolster site security.
- Content plugins. Let you put up videos, pictures, and similar on your site.
- Community plugins. Link various social media platforms to your site.
- Maintenance plugins. Perform functions such as data diagnostics, backup, and more.
Note that the experts associated with wpfullcare.com recommend you never choose security or maintenance plugins as your first project. They open up your site to a lock of harmful tinkering, which can lead to serious losses. While still carrying some security risks, content and community plugins are relatively safer.
What goes into making a WordPress plugin
The fundamental elements that make up any WordPress plugin are:
- The main file. The main file contains all the basic information about your plugin. It lists its name, creator, function, download address, and more. It is the core of your plugin and can never be missing.
- Scripts. Scripts are pieces of code that let your plugin do all sorts of things and can be found in WordPress or from other sources. They are not necessary.
- Stylesheets. Stylesheets are template files that deal with the font and layout of whatever your plugin shows on your website. If your plugin does not have those functions, they will not be present.
Terms you need to understand
Of course, if you want to tinker with making a WordPress plugin, you will likely want to learn a programming language. However, for beginners, here are the two terms crucial for the process.
- Functions. In simplest terms, functions are the most basic building blocks of any plugin. They are the pieces of code you will need for your plugin to function.
- Hooks. Hooks are pieces of code meant to trigger when something else happens. They are essential for the process of cleaning out data from a plugin. If they are not included, your plugin will accrue data useless to its functionality, such as data from your website that your plugin has handled. This can also pose a security risk to your website if not implemented.
The basic groundwork
The most basic steps of making a plugin are making a folder dedicated to it and the plugin’s main file. As mentioned previously, the main file holds all the basic data about your plugin. To create it, all you need to do is open an empty PHP file with your Notepad and enter the following code:
- Plugin Name: Name of your plugin
- Plugin URI: http://www.nameofyoursite/nameofyourplugin
- Description: The description of your plugin’s basic functions
- Version: The number of your plugin version (presumably 1.0)
- Author: Your name
- Author URI: http://www.nameofyourwebsite.com
It is possible to include two more lines here if they apply to your plugin.
- License: The name of your license
- Text Domain: the name of your domain
They are, however, not a requirement.
Adding the coding
Now comes the part where you need to make your code. Admittedly, it is impossible to do this without at least cursory training in the subject. However, even a complete beginner can make a plugin. You would do this by taking advantage of open-source code that can be found on the internet. If you are smart about it, you can cobble your plugin together by using available functions and hooks. Note that it will still take a lot of effort and at least some time spent trying to understand coding!
Securing your plugin
If you plan to use the plugin you’ve made or make it publicly available, you need to make sure it features at least some basic security measures. This includes protection from common methods of SQL injection, preventing your plugin from collecting and keeping user data, and making sure proper levels of access authority are required to access certain functions. Now, the good news is WordPress offers a lot of support for this process! Still, if you want to ensure that your WordPress website maintenance and security are not threatened, it might be smart to delegate some tasks and look for help with this part of the plugin creation.
Testing the plugin
The final step in trying to make a WordPress plugin is testing it out. You can install your plugin relatively easily by going to the Plugins option in WordPress and selecting your plugin folder. If everything is working well, then congrats! With some practice, you may even be ready to attempt something more complex, such as converting your website to an app.
So, as you can see, learning how to make a WordPress plugin is not impossible. However, anyone expecting the process to be an utter breeze will be disappointed. It still takes some effort and perseverance to succeed!
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