One of the main reasons behind the success of WordPress is its plugin architecture which allows users to extend its functionality without making any changes to the core software. With more than 38,000 free plugins, WordPress now powers nearly 24% of all websites.
Unfortunately, WordPress neither publishes plugin-related press releases nor it announces the launch of a new plugin. However, it displays the newly launched plugin in the newest plugins section. It also has a short article on plugin submission and promotion, but I think it’s a bit outdated to make a new plugin stand out from the crowd.
That’s the reason, I’ve made this guide that contains some best practices you should follow when writing and promoting a new WordPress plugin.
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 really wants. Think hard about why you want to develop the plugin and how you’ll be writing it. Also, search the WordPress plugin directory to check if a similar plugin has already been written.
Turn Debugging On:
Never forget to turn WordPress debugging on, which is turned off by default, before you start writing code for a new plugin. To enable DEBUG mode, just set WP_DEBUG constant to true in your wp-config.php file:
Doing so will help you find out any errors or warnings in your code during the entire plug-in development process.
To avoid probable naming conflicts with other themes or plug-ins, make sure to prefix all your functions, variables and files with a unique identifier. Prefixes not only reduce the chance of conflicts in WordPress but also make your functions and variables quickly identifiable. You can use some abbreviation of your plug-in name for the prefix.
Use the Right Hooks:
Hooks, which are used according to the functionality of a plugin, work like a bridge between your plugin and WordPress. Any plug-in can’t be developed 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 hook.
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 things like short and concise variable names, consistent spacing, succinct comments and indenting. Doing so will not only make your code easy to read, debug and edit but also keep you away from common coding errors.
Prepare for International Use:
As WordPress is now being used all over the globe, so it’s quite crucial to take internationalization into account from the very beginning. Helping you reach a worldwide audience, Internationalization plays a vital role in the success of any plugin. WordPress has a great article on “How to Internationalize 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 plugin development workflow for you and others. Keep similar types of files together. For example, place images in a /images folder and JS files a /js folder, as follows:
Take Security Seriously:
Plugin 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, unsurprisingly, 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. Furthermore, you can take advantage of 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- first one is, your plugin will have more downloads as users are more interested to download a plugin having sufficient details and the second one is, users will get answers to their questions which they will probably be facing while installing or using your plugin.
Key Considerations When Marketing a WordPress Plugin
So you just developed a cool WordPress plugin? It’s time to distribute it widely. Below are some important 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 could get their hands on some of the functionalities of your brand new plugin. If they like the free version, they would surely be inclined to buy the premium version with extra features. Remember, people love free things since WordPress platform itself is free.
Leverage Social Media:
Take full advantage of popular social media networks, like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter etc, which help you expose your plugin to a very wide audience. Share plug-in related stuff on social media regularly and reply to users’ queries as soon as possible. Stay in touch with other expert developers and expand your network as much as you can. Frankly 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 must not be overlooked at any cost. Excellent customer support plays a vital role in making your reputation in the plugin market, which is quite essential for your plugin to be successful. There are many developers who walk away after creating a plugin. Instead of becoming like them, listen to your customers and respond to them accordingly.
Every one of us knows that content rules the entire web. If you invest your time in making a solid content strategy, then not only you’ll get more links but also receive a huge amount of traffic to your plugin. Some of the proven methods that you can use to promote your plugin via content are guest posting, blog commenting, writing and submitting a press release, 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, but it works only if you’re able to attract affiliates. It’s worth noting that most of the bloggers today prefer to receive direct payments in exchange for a sponsored review or post, rather than signing up for new affiliate program. So if you’re willing 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 kinds of ads – like pay per click and banner – for the promotion of your plugin. For running a successful PPC campaign, Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising are perfect networks but they both require you to have adequate experience in PPC advertisement. For 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 a WordPress plugin are Themeforest, CodeCanyon and Creative Market.