There are many reasons why you may, at some point, want to build your own WordPress plugin.
The WordPress core functionality gives you all the necessary features of a content management system (CMS). These include a front end process to generate pages and a back end to manage the content you create. There are also functions to protect the site by locking the back end, so only registered users may access the administrative features. Likewise, user management lets you manage clearance and privileges for necessary people.
While these functions are most important, they are merely the bare essentials. There are all kinds of extra features you may want to help you run your site more efficiently. Needs will vary from site to site.
This is why WordPress provides its users with tools to create plugins that can extend and customize the core feature set. You can use plugins that have been developed on the market, or create your own.
How The Plugin System Works
WordPress plugins work by “hooking” into the WordPress core. There is a whole library of WordPress functions that are specifically used for modifying WordPress via “hooks” and “actions.”
Your custom functions (in your plugin) can be set to trigger as other WordPress functions run, or they can be triggered when a certain action completes. This is how your plugin fits into the WordPress ecosystem.
The Full Development Stack
In order to make WordPress plugins you must be familiar with the following program languages and libraries:
- The WordPress function library
Along with the WordPress library, these languages give you everything you need in order to interact with the WordPress system.
Basic Plugin Requirements
In order to have a plugin there are only a few requirements you need to meet:
- A directory (folder) to contain the files, placed in the proper location
- A PHP file containing the default “boilerplate” content
The directory creation is pretty straightforward. Every WordPress site comes with a directory called “wp-content.” This is where theme and plugin files reside.
In order to add your own plugin you just need to create a directory for it in the “plugins” parent directory. With that, you can add an index.php file containing your plugin code.
You will not see your plugin appear in the WordPress admin dashboard until you add the WordPress boilerplate content to the index file. This content includes the name of the plugin and optional metadata.
See the WordPress plugin handbook for code samples.
The Power of WordPress Plugins
Your plugin can contain as many or as few files as you need. This means you can build very specific plugins that do one thing, or highly complex plugins that affect the whole interface. The choice is yours. This is what gives WordPress plugins their power and flexibility.