WordPress Custom Plug-In Development 101

Online Innovation December 13th, 2011

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Standards to Follow During Plug-in Development

Custom plug-ins are developed in order to satisfy the needs of a business when no suitable, pre-existing plug-in is available. Nearly every function imaginable is available in the WordPress plug-ins database. The need for developing a custom plug-in comes when a readymade plug-in is not available, or cannot be customized to adequately meet the business requirement.

Advantages of Building Custom Plug-ins

  • Easy maintenance as it’s being built by the native developer
  • Built to match the exact requirement of the particular business need
  • Could become a contribution to the WordPress plug-in database

When Not to Build a Custom Plug-In

You shouldn’t build a new plug-in when there is already a standard plug-in available in the WordPress plug-in database. Why should time, energy and money to be wasted by building a new one when an suitable plug-in is already available?

When Should You Build a Custom Plug-In?

A new plug-in should be built when the WordPress plug-in database doesn’t exactly match the business requirements, or if the matching plug-in is too difficult to be customized in order to meet your needs.

Case Studies on When we Require Developing a Plug-in

Case 1:

Scenario: The client requires an FAQ feature on their site.

Action: The developer checked on the WordPress Plug-In database and found a number of FAQ plug-ins. But the developer decided to choose one plug-in e.g. “WP Super FAQ,” would best suit the client’s expectation.

Outcome: The developer downloaded the plug-in and integrated it into the project.

Case 2:

Scenario: The client required an item listing which went beyond a normal scope. It required a (restricted type) image upload and a file upload (again restricted types, which they wanted to be editable). It required a basic CK Editor for description, a popup date picker for  and other fields which were related to the client’s business.

Action: The developer checked on the WordPress Plug-in database and found suitable plug-ins. But they found that a lot of customization time would be required in order to meet the client’s expectations.

Outcome: The developer decided to develop their own custom plug-in which could best serve the client and be easily maintained.

Standards to Follow During Plug-in Development

When opting for custom development, many programmers start coding without proper practices and documentation – this is actually quite a serious issue. While developing a plug-in, WordPress coding standards need to be followed. This doesn’t mean that the coding needs to be overly complex as with other core files, but the standards for fetching from the database, updating to the database, including of external Javascript, etc need to be followed. The reason behind following such standards is to have secured and optimized plug-in, reducing the number of lines of code. The WordPress standards for coding can be found here: http://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Coding_Standards

Can Your Plug-in Affect Other WordPress Functionality?

Yes, there is a possibility for your plug-in to affect the core features of WordPress. These issues typically come up when there is a conflict between functions or names. The issues can occur at the PHP and/or JavaScript level. Take these steps if your WordPress default functionalities fail to perform properly:

  • Check to see if your plug-in name is duplicated with any other plug-in/feature names or function names
  • Deactivate all plug-ins and then activate one by one to check which plug-in is causing the issue
  • Switch to the Twenty Eleven theme to rule out any theme-specific problems
  • Reset the ‘plugins’ folder by FTP or PHP MyAdmin. Sometimes, an apparently inactive plug-in can still cause problems
  • Re-uploading freshly downloaded wp-admin and wp-includes folders from WordPress

Can The Developed Plug-in Become Outdated?

Yes, when WordPress version updates, it’s the developer’s responsibility to check if the plug-in is compatible for the latest version of WordPress. The plug-in may also fail because of the direct PHP code that’s used, if the newer version of PHP drops the usage of that code.

Conclusion

A custom developed WordPress plug-in can serve multiple purposes to meet different client needs. Clients and developers should be aware that such a plug-in requires maintaining WordPress version compatibility in order to meet various functionality requirements.

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