WordPress Plugin Development & Marketing – Crucial Things to Consider
One of the main reasons behind the success of WordPress is its plugin architecture that allows users to extend its functionality without making any changes to the core software. With more than 58,000 plugins, WordPress now powers 39.9% of all the websites, with a CMS market share of 64.2%.
WordPress unfortunately neither publishes plugin-related press releases, nor it announces the launch of a new plugin. However, it displays the newly launched plugin in the ‘New’ plugins section. The CMS also offers a comprehensive list of plugin development resources, but it seems too complicated for newbie developers to make their plugins stand out from the crowd. That’s why we have come up with a straightforward guide on developing and promoting a new WordPress plugin quickly and effectively.
Let’s get started!
Best Practices for WordPress Plugin Development
The success of a plugin depends on how well it’s been written. Follow these simple rules and suggestions to write better code for your WordPress plugin:
#Have a Clear Strategy
Before you start writing a plugin, build a rock-solid development strategy in your mind. Recognize who your target audience is and what it actually wants. Think deeply about why you want to develop the plugin and how you’ll be writing it. Also, search the official plugin directory to check if a similar plugin has already been written.
#Turn Debugging On
Never forget to enable WordPress debugging (which is turned off by default) before you start writing code for the new plugin. To enable DEBUG mode, simply set WP_DEBUG constant to true in your wp-config.php file as follows:
Doing so will help you find any errors or warnings in your code during the entire plugin development lifecycle.
To avoid potential naming conflicts with other themes or plugins, prefix all your functions, variables, and files with a unique identifier. Prefixes reduce the chance of conflicts in WordPress and make your functions and variables quickly identifiable. You can use some abbreviation of your plugin name for the prefix.
#Use the Right Hooks
Hooks are used according to a plugin’s functionality and work like a bridge between your plugin and WordPress. You can’t develop a plugin without the proper use of hooks. To learn how to use Hooks, you must go through the Hooks Plugin API documentation that gives you in-depth knowledge of when to use what Hooks.
#Follow WordPress Coding Standards
Whether you’re developing a plugin or theme or any other thing for WordPress, make it a habit to follow WordPress Coding Standards. When writing your code, pay close attention to short and concise variable names, consistent spacing, brief comments, and indenting. Doing so will make your code easy to read, debug, and edit and keep you away from common coding errors.
#Prepare for International Use
WordPress is now being used worldwide, so it’s crucial to take internationalization into account from the very beginning. By helping you reach a worldwide audience, internationalization plays a vital role in any plugin’s success. WordPress offers a great article on internationalizing your plugin to help you make your plugin ready for translation.
#Have a Clear Folder Structure
Always use the standard folder structure while developing a plugin in WordPress. This will streamline the WordPress plugin development workflow for you and others. Keep similar types of files together. For example, place images in a /images folder and JS files in a /js folder, as follows:
#Take Security Seriously
Since a single flaw in a plugin can put thousands of WordPress sites at risk at once, security is something that you must never overlook or take lightly. Plan for Validation and Sanitization to make sure entered data by a user is safe to handle. Use Nonces (number used once) to secure your plugin from CSRF (cross-site request forgery) attacks. WordPress, as usual, also has a comprehensive guide to tightening the security of a plugin.
#Mind Your Database Queries:
Make sure to use native WordPress functions, like $wpdb->insert( ), $wpdb->delete( ), $wpdb->prepare( ) and $wpdb->update( ) to interact with the database. Write the bulk of programming code first to minimize database interactions. Additionally, you can take advantage of the Debug Bar plugin to analyze all the database queries.
#Make a Proper Readme.txt File
A readme.txt file is a must for the successful distribution of a WordPress plugin. There are two main advantages of having a proper readme.txt file. The first one is that your plugin will have more downloads as users are more interested in downloading a plugin having sufficient details. And the second one is that users will get answers to their questions, which they might face while installing or using your plugin.
Practical Tips on How to Market WordPress Plugin
So you just developed a cool WordPress plugin? It’s time to distribute it widely. Below are some crucial points that you should consider while promoting your plugin:
#Offer a Basic Version
The best and easiest way to promote your new plugin is to adopt the “try before you buy” model. Offer a free version with limited features so that users can get their hands on some of your brand new plugin’s functionalities. If they like the free version, they will undoubtedly be inclined to buy the premium version with extra features. Remember, people love free things since the WordPress platform itself is free.
#Leverage the Power of Social Media
Take full advantage of popular social media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, etc., which will help you expose your plugin to a vast audience. Share plugin related stuff on social media regularly and respond to users’ queries promptly. Stay in touch with other WordPress plugin development experts and expand your network as much as you can. Strictly speaking, using social media is much better than writing long-winded emails about your plugin.
#Offer Quick Support
Support is an integral part of the plugin you sell, and therefore, it must not be overlooked at any cost. Excellent customer support plays a vital role in making your reputation in the market essential for your plugin to be successful. Many developers walk away after creating a plugin. Don’t be like them, instead listen to your customers and respond to them accordingly.
#Try Content-based Promotion
Every one of us knows that content runs the entire web. If you invest your time making a solid content strategy, you’ll get more links and receive a tremendous amount of genuine traffic to your plugin. Some of the proven methods you can use to promote your plugin via content are guest posting, blog commenting, press release submission, creating a how-to video for your plugin, and social bookmarking.
#Run An Affiliate Program
An affiliate program is the most powerful way to market your WordPress plugin or theme, but it only works when you could attract affiliates. It’s worth noting that most bloggers today prefer receiving direct payments in exchange for a sponsored review or post rather than signing up for a new affiliate program. So if you wish to run an affiliate campaign, consider using reputable affiliate networks like ClickBank or ShareASale, which help you attract and retain high-quality affiliates.
#Do a Bit of Advertising
Furthermore, consider running some ads – like pay per click and banner – to promote your plugin. For running a successful PPC campaign, Google Ads and Facebook Ads are perfect networks, but they both require you to have adequate PPC advertisement experience. For the banner advertisement, you can try BuySellAds, which is a popular banner ad network.
#Sell via Marketplaces
Consider using marketplaces to sell your WordPress plugin as they have millions of unique visitors per month, which are your potential customers. Online marketplaces give maximum exposure to your plugin and thus increase the chances of sales. Some of the best and popular marketplaces to sell your WordPress plugin are CodeCanyon and Creative Market.