Must-know things for every WordPress plugin developer

WordPress Plugin Development

WordPress can be employed to develop highly flexible and extendable website. Various themes and plugins will make the website beautiful with fine usability. Plugins are the key components for thousands of WordPress websites and blogs around the globe. They are ways to expand and add the functionalities which already exists in WordPress.

Open Source platform WordPress is developed to boost the flexibility and reduce code bloat. After that, the plugin provides a custom function as well as a feature which allow users to customise the website according to the particular requirements.

Developing a good plugin is challenging as developing a fine library. There are lots of plugins available in WordPress and some of them are available free of cost whereas other includes some charge. Additionally, they make our task more simple adding some extra features to our website.

Furthermore, the plugin also facilitates WordPress developers with powerful tools that will add more value to WordPress websites. Truly, Plugins are remarkable tools which WordPress plugin developer should utilise properly to influence and engage users towards the website.

Here are some must-know things that every WordPress plugin developer should be familiar with:

Developing a plugin

The initial step that you take as a WordPress plugin developer is developing your personal plugin folder in /WP-content/plugins folder. After creating the folder you have to keep your plugin files with the folder. You need to enclose a major file for the plugin.

Additionally, the files must be named in understandable letters with hyphens (-) for separate words. Make sure you have some comment structure for identifying your WordPress plugin.

Prefix the functions

The main aspects that hit all the plugin WordPress developer are most of the plugin developers have a habit of employing similar names for the function used by them. For an instance, function name like save_data(), copy file() and database_table_existis() contains some possibility of being employed by other WordPress developers staying in different parts of the globe.

The only reason for this is once WordPress starts to activate a plugin, PHP will load the function from the plugin into WordPress execution space where every function each plugin is being merged. Thus, there might not be an isolation of function for all the plugins and the function which are named uniquely. Indeed, the easiest way to assure the division of all the plugins is to name all the plugin function with a prefix.

Consequently, as a WordPress plugin developer, you should keep your eye on the debug .log file to make sure you are on the right path while talking about explicitly prefixing the function.

Make sure you store plugin version for future upgrades

One of the essential aspect that you need to consider as a WordPress developer is on the upgrade part. For an instance, if the initial version of the plugin needs a single database table, it is not necessary that other versions also need a similar database table.

Thus, to prevent from getting into that situation where you so not understand you need to execute code that develops the second database table, it is better to store plugin version in the WordPress database table. This surely helps to achieve quick access to the plugin code and you can also decide on the action that a plugin needs to take.

About plugin activation and deactivation

Plugins are easily activated clicking on the Activate link within the plugin catalogue. For a simple plugin, you do not have to do anything to activate, however, an advanced plugin requires task, such as initializing plugin preference, developing plugin tables and so on.

Now let us observe some approach on handling both plugin activation and deactivation

  • Plugin Activation hook

WordPress benefits with the function known as register_activation_hook which can be activated on plugin activation. A custom function is also added to run on plugin activation employing this procedure.

Remember, when the activation function is within the major plugin file you can employ _FILE_. You can carry out the different task, such as validation, initialization and table formation within the activation function.

  • Plugin Deactivation Hook

Plugin deactivation is handled with register_deactivation_hook, employing alike syntax as inactivation. Additionally, it also allows cleaning up plugin resource, option and table within the deactivation function.

Developing Shortcodes

Shortcodes contain predefined blocks of codes which can be used wherever you desire. It is essential to understand the term shortcodes as WordPress plugin developer since it allows adding dynamic behaviour to custom pages alongside.

Shortcodes can be easily developed assigning a shortcode name along with function to the add_shortcode function. After that, return the type of content you wish to display in the browser within the function. You can use it on the page, post or plugin to exhibit the button employing the syntax.

Develop and update database tables employing dbDelta()

When the plugin executes on the customised database table, it is necessary to change the tables relevant to the future version of the plugin. Indeed. The task can be little tricky, so it is better to use the dbDelta() function. Also, this function is used to create and update tables.

The bottom line,

These are some must know things that every WordPress developer should get familiar with. The WordPress plugin API is large and it is difficult to cover everything. Some points might be missing. Please feel free to comment if you can add some more points.

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Updated on: 8 April 2016 |

Nirmal Gyanwali, Director of WP Creative

Nirmal Gyanwali

With over 16 years of experience in the web industry, Nirmal has built websites for a wide variety of businesses; from mom n’ pop shops to some of Australia’s leading brands. Nirmal brings his wealth of experience in managing teams to WP Creative along with his wife, Saba.