In my last post I shared some resources that aspiring WordPress theme developers might find useful. Today it’s the turn of those of who want to get started with WordPress plugin development.
With around 20% of the websites that make up the internet powered by WordPress, creating plugins for this platform gives you a good chance of finding a problem to solve and ensuring your creations find an audience. While there are over 30,000 free plugins available at the WordPress.org plugin directory, many plugin developers have found financial success with their products. Sales of the most popular premium WordPress plugins often run into the thousands.
Being able to list plugins for sale on marketplaces like Code Canyon, or selling them via a self-hosted website, means that commercial plugin developers have many options for selling their products. While the prospect of earning an income from WordPress plugin creation will be a long way off for those who are just getting started with this area of development, it can provide motivation for anyone in the early stages of their journey.
In this article you will find some great resources to help you get acquainted with WordPress plugin development and hopefully get started with creating something of your own.
There are countless WordPress plugins hosted at the GitHub code repository, including well-known plugins such as WordPress SEO by Yoast, WooCommerce the eCommerce toolkit, and even WordPress itself, to name but a few.
These plugins can all be forked, allowing you to take a closer look at them and then make some changes of your own to experiment with how they work. While more experienced developers can push their edits and modifications back to the source version for possible inclusion in the end product, for aspiring developers it’s probably best to use this resource for examining how popular plugins and other items have been built.
Alternatively you can download a WordPress plugin boilerplate, which like starter themes, are a great way to save time while at the same time building on the experience of others.
To browse the full list of WordPress plugins stored at GitHub click here.
WordPress Plugin Boilerplates
The WordPress Plugin Boilerplate by Tom McFarlin, also available from GitHub has been designed to be used as a foundation for your own plugin creations. The code contained within it is all clearly documented to help you make sense of it, and the plugin can be installed on your WordPress site as you add code and functionality to it.
Before developing this plugin boilerplate, Tom also created a widget boilerplate which too can be downloaded from the GitHub code repository. This boilerplate works in a similar way and allows you to get started with creating a widget for WordPress, using this boilerplate as a foundation and starting point for your own projects.
Extend an Existing Plugin
If you are at the stage where you are ready to create something then a good place to start might be to create an addon or extension for an existing WordPress plugin.
There are many WordPress plugins out there which have thriving extension communities and marketplaces surrounding them, where third parties can extend the functionality of that plugin and make their work available for free, or at a cost to site owners and users of the core plugin.
Popular plugin platforms include the WooCommerce eCommerce toolkit, Easy Digital Downloads, and TablePress to name but a few. The developers of the core versions of these plugins appreciate the work that other developers put in to help expand the functionality of their products, and so in most cases they try to make it as easy as possible for other developers to get started with creating a custom addon.
While developing an extension might not be the best starting approach for all aspiring plugin programmers, it does offer one way to enter the WordPress plugin space and create something you can use on your site, and that maybe others will find useful too.
Although you still have to have the knowledge covering how to create a WordPress plugin, developing an extension or addon gives you the ability to build something that solves one of your problems, while also hopefully improving the functionality of an existing plugin.
WordPress Plugin Developers you Should Follow
To help you stay in the loop and keep abreast of the latest developments in plugin design, it’s definitely a good idea to keep an eye on some of the key figures from the community.
While there are a number of developers in our top 20 WordPress bloggers you should follow along with more info about them, here is a quick list of Twitter users you should be following:
Also, this list of 177 notable WordPress tweeters is well worth browsing or just following in its entirety in order to see what established WordPress developers are currently interested in.
Plugin Development Tutorial and Resources
With so many people creating WordPress plugins, and the popularity of the platform at least partly attributable to the large number of extensions available for it, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are plenty of resources available on and offline to help one get started.
Here are some beginner-friendly WordPress plugin development tutorials and resources you should find useful:
- Writing a Plugin (WP Codex)
- Anatomy of a WordPress Plugin (tuts+)
- Writing Plugins archive (Pippin’s Plugins)
- Advanced WordPress Plugin Development (tuts+)
- 7 Simple Rules: Plugin Development Best Practices (tuts+)
- How to Create a WordPress Widget (WP Explorer)
- WP Gear: developer tools for working with WordPress
- WP Test: test your plugins and themes
- Professional WP Plugin Development (book)
Even if you have no prior programming experience, eventually creating a WordPress plugin needn’t be out of your reach. With so many great resources online, and such a helpful and active community, setting your sights on creating a plugin for WordPress can be a great way to make a contribution.
Have you come across any other useful resources to help getting started with WordPress plugin development?