Plugins are an essential part of WordPress. They’re basically snippets of code that extend the functionality and add various features to WordPress themes. And while many developers mostly use third-party plugins in order to save time or avoid unnecessary bugs, there will be times when you’ll have to code your own plugin. If you can’t find a plugin that meets all your needs, or you’re just curious about what it takes to develop a plugin, we’ve found some of the most useful development tips every WordPress plugin developer should know.
The Basics: Folder Structure
You don’t have to be a WordPress plugin developer to be familiar with the basic WordPress folder structure. Chances are, if you’re a developer, you’ve already created a theme, or at least installed one, so you know that inside wp-content you’ll find a plugins directory. However, many beginners fail to understand how important following some best practices is, especially if you’re developing a theme or a plugin other developers will be using as well.
If you’re developing a smaller plugin that requires a single .php file, you’ll be just fine placing it inside the wp-content folder. However, if you’re developing a more complex plugin, you’ll want to create a dedicated directory. This will come especially handy if you’re developing a premium theme with multiple plugins included.
WordPress Plugin Developer’s Guide To Documentation
If you’re developing a plugin for a commercial use, you’ll want to make sure you include killer documentation. Including a simple readme file with your plugin telling your buyers how to install the plugin and use particular features will save you a lot of headache down the road. Your buyers will be able to troubleshoot any problem on their own, without bombarding you with countless emails with the same question. Writing clear, informative and succinct comments in your code is also a great idea, and not just for your buyers. You might go back to your code few months later to implement another feature, and comments will make the matters a lot easier.
While this might sound like an obvious advice to an experienced WordPress plugin developer, you’d be surprised how many beginners jump right in and start coding without enabling debugging. Debugging is disabled by default in WordPress, and if you want to enable it, all you have to do is navigate to wp-config.php and look for the following line of code:
Enabling debugging will help you catch bugs and errors the moment they pop up, and not when you’re done coding. Debugging will also help you avoid using deprecated functions and find a suitable replacement instead.