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Helpful Tutorials for Building your First WordPress Plugin

by Jake Rocheleau

on May 10, 2013

in Wordpress

Even developers who are familiar with the backend WordPress infrastructure may not have an easy time getting into plugin development. This requires a sincere level of commitment to study the ideologies and best practices. And although this will not take more than a week at most, it definitely requires a strong attitude towards working in PHP.

Wordpress plugins icon designs learn tutorials dribbble

I want to present a small collection of online tutorials geared towards educating new users about plugin development. If you are not familiar programming in PHP then this may be a step too far. Learning how to theme WordPress may be an easier place to get started. But I think anybody with a firm commitment will be able to learn this system quickly and efficiently.

Getting the Basics

Quite possibly one of the best places to start is within the WordPress Codex. They have entire articles and documentation built around structuring your own plugins. This link provides the sample template you will need for any plugin, along with handling functions and global variables.

Now to move a bit into more complicated areas I have always liked Net Tuts+. The whole Tuts+ library is full of great information written by very smart developers. I found a great article on WordPress plugin optimization which delves into areas like new database entries, dealing with permalinks and good SEO, plus adding features and documentation with the plugin core. All of these tips should be an excellent starting point for newcomers.

tutorials online wordpress wp tuts article

Now if you really want to delve into deeper topics check out the WP Tuts+ plugin category which has a whole slew of new articles related to WordPress plugin development. Their entire website is dedicated to WordPress tutorials. And the quality of each post is simply outstanding. Many of the tutorials offer free source code as well, just to have something you can work with instead of starting from scratch.

Additional Side Features

The plugins API within WordPress is very expansive to encompass many of the typical functions. One such area is creating widgets to be added into your sidebar or theme sections. These widgets may be any number of cool features like category listings, meta links, contact forms… honestly anything you can build.

Notice that widgets are also placed in the same folder as your plugins – namely /wp-content/plugins/. This means you can follow many of the same rules for creating widgets and they are even easier to install. You have full control over placement and where these appear in your theme. And it can be adjusted quickly by switching between new themes in WordPress.

If you need a more in-depth article I recommend this tutorial by Sitepoint. It starts off by explaining widgets and how you will use them within the Administration panel. Then you can move into the backend to start coding your own widgets into PHP files. It is actually a lot of fun and can save you on excess development time.

Responsive Plugins

This in-depth tutorial published on Designmodo offers some insight towards a more complicated manner of plugin development. There are many times you will be handling unique page content such as videos, images, or slideshow media. Responsive mobile designs are very popular and new plugins may want to keep up with this standard.

designmodo 2013 web design wordpress plugin responsive

The ability to load dynamic content via Ajax has become more cohesive over the past decade. And now this whole process has been given an easier home in the WordPress core. Go through some of the example code samples and you will surely pick up a few tips. I have been impressed with the improvements and I feel WordPress can only continue adding better features as we move forward.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of developers who never move into the realm of building plugins. Sometimes this just doesn’t interest people who would rather focus on the frontend – and there is certainly nothing wrong with this attitude! However I do hope these resources will provide a starting point for some curious minds.

This process of studying the syntax of a generic plugin is only the beginning. Then you have to think of your own ideas and try building them into WordPress. It is an exciting yet stressful endeavor, so be sure and take breaks every-so-often but never give up! When you bump into trouble post a new thread on WordPress Answers. The members are very smart and often nice enough to help you out with a detailed solution.

About Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a freelance writer and web developer. He writes articles for numerous blogs on freelancing, Wordpress, CSS3, and jQuery. You can find him all throughout Google and follow his tweets @jakerocheleau. Connect with Jake on Google +