12 Tips for Developing WordPress Plugins That Users Will Love

Photo by Fikret tozak on Unsplash

WordPress is an extremely popular blogging platform and CMS, but it has its limitations. One way to expand its functionality beyond what it offers out of the box is to install WordPress plugins. But, not all plugins are created equal, and some can actually do more harm than good when you start trying to customize your website with them.

In the WordPress plugin world, there are so many different types of plugins that it can be tough to know where to start or what to do when you’re just starting out. It can also be tough to know where to look or how to do things right the first time if you are working on your own or on a team with limited resources and experience.

That’s why we’ve put together this beginner’s guide to developing your own WordPress plugins, complete with 12 expert tips and tricks that will help you develop successful WordPress plugins without breaking the bank in terms of time, money, or effort.

There is a huge range of plug-in types available, and the more complex they are, the harder they are to maintain and support. A plug-in should perform one task really well — anything else will just complicate things.

If you can’t find a good place for your plugin in the WordPress directory, then consider creating your own repository or marketplace to sell it. This could be as simple as a page on your website with an eCommerce system integrated into it, or you could use a third party service like Gumroad to handle everything.

A lot of the time when developing a plugin, the developer doesn’t take into account what hooks are available to them and which hooks will be used to make their plugin work. Hooks can be really powerful in terms of controlling how the plugin is able to function. With this in mind, use these tips as a guide:

  • Create a shortcut function so that you don’t have to type out the entire hook’s name every time you want to use it. For example:

add_filter(‘the_content’,’doit’); //instead of add_filter(‘wp_head’,’doit’);

  • Make sure your code is inside an if statement so that it runs only if the WordPress version is 4.0 or higher.
  • Keep your logic simple and concise — but also utilize boolean logic when appropriate. In other words, don’t use conditional statements that do nothing other than create unnecessary loops.
  • Don’t forget to comment! You may think you know what your code does, but six months from now after changing some things around — there might not be any explanation as to why certain things are happening on page load.
  • Keep jQuery dependent plugins out of the wp-admin directory where they could cause conflicts with admin-related JS files — instead place them in another directory such as js/jquery/plugins/.
  • Be aware of security issues, never include hardcoded values such as database credentials in your plugin; instead store these values within environment variables.
  • When debugging, always turn off all plugins except the one you’re working on — this will give you a better idea of which code is causing the error.
  • Always test your plugin by disabling all others and testing each one separately.
  • If possible, try to use custom post types for content related plugins because then users won’t have to set up a new post type manually just because they downloaded your plugin.

Speed is important for all websites, but it’s even more crucial for sites that offer plugin downloads. Pages with a lot of plugins can take a long time to load, and this can discourage visitors from downloading any plugins at all. To help keep your page loading times down and make plugin installation easier, here are some best practices for optimizing the speed of your site:

- Use caching plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache to reduce server load. This will help decrease the frequency with which your site requests resources from the server, which in turn will speed up page loading times. These plugins also provide an option to automatically clear cache when you update your site. If you don’t have either of these plugins, try putting the following code snippet into your theme’s functions.php file:

function wp_cache_flush() { echo Flushing cache; } add_action(‘wp_head’, ‘wp_cache_flush’);

- Avoid database calls where possible. When writing plugins, avoid querying the database if there is no need to do so. For example, instead of querying the database every time a post is updated, use the `get_post()` function instead:

$post = get_post(); $updated = get_field(‘modified’) ? get_field(‘modified’) : date(Y-m-d H:i);

$posted = get_post()->ID; //DB Query NOT executed

$updated = ( isset($post) && !empty($post) ) ? $post->modified : current_time(‘timestamp’); //DB Query Executed Once

if ($updated > $lastPostUpdated) { //Modified Update Functions Here }else{//Default Update Functions Here}

- Always cache images locally on the user’s browser. Images can be a significant cause of slowdowns, especially on mobile devices. We recommend installing an image caching plugin such as EWWW Image Optimizer for WordPress or WP Smush Pro to optimize your images locally on their browsers before they’re served back to them. You can also hire WordPress developers in the UK to optimize the speed.

WordPress has a set of guidelines that developers should follow in order to create a plugin that is compatible with the platform. If you are unfamiliar with these guidelines, be sure to read them before starting development. Your plugin will run more smoothly if it follows these guidelines and your users will have an easier time finding plugins that work well with their site.

Beyond complying with these guidelines, there are other things you can do to make plugin development easier. Keeping plugins up-to-date is important in order to keep your users safe and secure. WordPress also has a coding standard that you should follow in order to create plugins that work well with other existing plugins and avoid conflicts within sites.

You should always test your plugins on multiple browsers and platforms as well. Doing so will help ensure that your code works correctly no matter what browser or system is being used by users of your plugin.

Offering comprehensive documentation is key to making your plugin user-friendly. Think about the people who will be using your plugin, and make sure that you’re providing them with as much information as possible without being too wordy. When writing, it’s best to start from the ground up — what is the purpose of your plugin? What does it do? How can a user get started with it? Who should use it? How do they use it? Here are some tips to write the best documentation:

  • Keep instructions concise and focused — explain only one step at a time
  • Use screenshots where appropriate — especially if a process requires the user to look at multiple screens or fill out fields in different areas of the admin area
  • Add links to other related resources, including product pages or other documentation (for example, links pointing to Getting Started or Installation pages)
  • Use bullet points whenever possible (not paragraphs) because this makes content easier to scan through quickly. Remember not to cram everything into one sentence! People need to know what their options are before they choose which option is right for them.
  • It’s also important to cover things like installation and setup steps, how users activate plugins (including when a plugin expires), version history, what might go wrong and how to fix it, known compatibility issues with popular plugins or themes — basically anything that the user might want or need to know about the plugin before installing. The more comprehensive your documentation is, the better off everyone will be!

It’s important to have a good support system for the plugin. You don’t want to be the only one who knows how it works, and that’s not good for the long-term success of your plugin. Luckily, there are tools like UserVoice or Stack Overflow that will allow you to set up a page where users can submit feedback, ask questions, and find solutions.

This will also help you grow an audience for when you launch your product. You’ll need at least 5 beta testers to give your plugin a fair test before you release it in order to make sure that everything is working properly. Offer your supporters exclusive content if they sign up early, such as discounts on future upgrades or other bonuses like free access to premium features.

You should use proper screenshots and videos when you’re developing a plugin. This is because they show the plugin’s features and make it easier to understand how it works. Plus, a good screenshot or video can help you get more downloads by making your plugin look interesting and high-quality.

A rule of thumb is to have at least one screenshot and one video per page of your documentation. So if your plugin has 10 pages of instructions, then you should have at least 10 screenshots and 10 videos.

Offering a free version of your plugin is a great way to get some feedback from users and make sure that you are offering the best product. It also provides a way for people to try out your plugin without committing to the full version, which can save time and money in the long run.

With a free version, you can get some insight into what features are most important to users and what they need fixed or improved on. It is also possible that someone will like your plugin enough to make a donation, which can help you cover development costs as well as offer an incentive for people who want the full experience. The only downside to making a free version available is that it might cut down on sales if too many people use the trial versions, but this is often worth the risk if you can’t afford to give away all of your profits anyway.

In order for your trial versions not to be abused by pirates and people downloading them illegally, there should be limitations put in place so that it cannot be fully used until after they have been purchased. One good example of this would be having limited access to plugins, themes, or other items so that customers have the ability to preview them before purchasing them.

Providing regular updates for your plugin is a great way to keep your users happy and engaged. The best time to release updates is when you have something new to add or fix. Â It can be tempting to wait until everything is perfect, but if there are any bugs that need fixing, it’s better for the user if they get them fixed as soon as possible.

Regularly releasing small updates also shows that you care about your customers and their experience with your plugin. You may want to consider setting up automatic releases so that your customers don’t have to worry about checking for updates on their own.

In addition, make sure you’re following the WordPress standards for each version of the code. One of the most common things people do wrong is use PHP functions before they’ve been set up in wp-config.php; this will cause errors in a live site and should be avoided at all costs!

Don’t forget to get feedback from your users regularly. It is important to ask what they like, don’t like, and why. Pay attention to the answers you get and modify your plugin accordingly. User feedback can make all the difference in the world between a successful plugin and one that no one uses at all.

Make sure you are getting user feedback often and acting on it. One of the best ways to find out if people are using your plugin or not is through Google Analytics . You should be able to tell how many people visited your site each day, how long they spent there, where they came from, and more importantly, if any of them visited your specific page, which houses plugin information. You will also know if people found success with installing it or not.

The data may also show if there are certain bugs or problems with a certain release that need to be fixed, as well as offer insight into what new features might be needed in order to keep up with demand.

The first step to developing a plugin is knowing your audience and what they need. Who will be using the plugin? What features do they need? What won’t they want? Once you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to start thinking about what your plugin will do. Here are 10 tips to understand your target audience:

  • Consider not just their needs- Consider what they want in addition to their needs.
  • Understand how many users- Are there many or few users? Do these types of plugins exist already? If so, what sets yours apart from them?
  • Think about future updates- How easy is this going to be in an update situation if bugs arise or a new feature comes out that should work with this one as well?
  • Take into account security issues- What can make the site vulnerable to hacks or other breaches?
  • Know which problems need solving- Which problems does your target audience deal with on a regular basis? Is there a way you can solve multiple issues with one plugin or add on?
  • Identify any incompatibility issues- Are there any plugins they use that might clash with yours or other third party sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
  • Pay attention to feedback and reviews- How much negative feedback has come in over time for these types of plugins on other websites like Reddit, Quora, Yelp reviews?
  • Find an expert developer and team members — A good team can help brainstorm potential ideas and concerns related to coding before spending hours figuring out design choices.

A good plugin is one that is simple to use and does what it’s supposed to do. One of the best ways to keep your plugin simple is by using the plugin template. This template includes all the code needed to create a basic, functional plugin. You can edit this code, or copy and paste it into your own document if you want. The plugin template also has comments explaining each part of the code.

Keep in mind: don’t be afraid to change things up as long as you know what you’re doing! Some other tips for developing plugins include:

  • Make sure your plugin functions well on mobile devices,
  • Remember that users don’t always read about how to use your plugin before installing it so be sure to provide clear instructions on how they should go about installing and activating your plug-in,
  • Have an icon created (get ideas here),
  • Offer translations in more than just English,
  • Lastly but most importantly: make sure people like it!

Conclusion

I hope these tips help you with your plugin development and allow you to create plugins that users will love. Hiring a WordPress agency in the UK to have your own plugin is the best way to guarantee success. Our company’s experts will ensure that your product is successful and up to par with industry standards. Contact us today to get started!

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Lena Charles

Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation. https://www.hiddenbrains.co.uk