WordPress plugin development – Beginner’s level
What is a WordPress plugin?
Before we start talking about WordPress plugin development, we must understand what is a plugin. A WordPress plugin is a simple or complex program, with one or more functions, written in PHP scripting language. It can help you customize your WordPress website, and add all kinds of functionality.`
Theoretically, you can run a WordPress website without a plugin, but it will be very limited. So, plugins are essential in creating a WordPress website, because they add extra functionality.
There are free and paid plugins. You can search all of the plugins - here. But sometimes you need to create a plugin of your own, so in the text below we will show you how you can create a very simple and basic plugin.
What do you need before you start making WordPress plugin?
For WordPress plugin development you will need:
- a code editor (e.g., Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Notepad++, etc.),
- a working WordPress installation. If you want to create a plugin for your live website, make sure you are doing it on a WordPress staging site. In this way, you can test your plugin, while not affecting your live website. Or you can test it in the local environment.
- a browser (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, etc.).
Some basics before you start making your WordPress plugin
Step #1: Naming your WordPress plugin
You must come up with a unique name for your plugin, so it won't come in conflict with other plugins. You can always check a WordPress plugin repository, so you can be sure that your name is unique.
One of the methods for naming your plugin is to include what it does in its name. In our case, our plugin will add some text at the end of the posts on the website. So, we will name our plugin "Bottom text for Posts".
Step #2: Creating plugin files
Your plugin can be made of one or multiple PHP files, it depends on what it is meant to do. The primary file is the main PHP file. This main PHP file is like index.php in WordPress theme development.
It is custom to name your main plugin file after the plugin name. In our example, our plugin name is "Bottom text for Posts", so the name for the main plugin file would be bottom-text-for-posts.php. If you want to add a separator in your name, use hyphens ( - ), not underscores ( _ ).
Step #3: Add a header to the main PHP file
In the plugin main PHP file header, you should add some information about the plugin you are making.
That information should include the author's name, description, license, etc. It should look like this, this is some standard header look:
You don't need everything above if you just want to practice. But the header comment must contain the name of your plugin. In our case it is:
Creating a WordPress plugin
Name your WordPress plugin
Now, we will follow the steps we mentioned above. First, we need to name our plugin.
We started by looking through the WordPress plugin library and doing a Google search for our name - The bottom text for Posts is available. Let's continue. Open a code editor and add the following code at the top of the plugin's PHP file:
Save the file when you are finished. In our example, our file name is bottom-text-for-posts.php.
Compress your plugin folder
Compress your file and make sure you save your file as a .zip or your plugin won't be installed.
Upload and install your plugin
Upload, install, and activate your first WordPress plugin!
And that's it. Now you can check if your plugin is working.
Great job! You have successfully created your first WordPress plugin!
Do you want to learn more about WordPress plugin development, you can check out this YouTube tutorial playlist.
Since we are talking about plugins, you can read more about plugins in our other blog - WordPress caching plugins overview.