So you’re thinking of building a WordPress plugin? Great!
But before you start with the development, I have a couple of questions for you:-
- Have you thoroughly checked for plugins to suit your needs on the WordPress plugins marketplace?
- If not, have you found a plugin that needs MOST of your needs, if not all?
- If the answer is still no – have you, or do you know anyone who has built a WordPress plugin before?
The reason I am asking you these questions is to ensure you have the right information before making your decision to build a plugin. Plugin development is a very time-consuming and exhausting process. It can take days or even a few weeks in some cases to build a WordPress plugin. (Depending on your requirements, of course.)
That’s why my first recommendation is to find a plugin readily available in the WordPress plugin marketplace. If there is nothing available, the next best option is to find a base plugin that can meet 50%-60% of your needs, and customize it further to only add the features you need. For more information on this topic, you can check out our WooCommerce Plugin Customization Guide.
But if you can’t find a solution online or on WordPress forums, then creating a WordPress plugin from scratch is the right thing to do. This beginner’s guide on creating a WordPress plugin can be a good place to start.
Remember to be cautious at EVERY step. The reason I’m stressing at this point is that if you’re not, a simple mistake such as naming a file wrong can lead to performance issues, security vulnerabilities, and more.
See, I’m always of the opinion that you can’t predict the future. But, you can strive to build a future-proof plugin that can withstand updates and disruption.
On that note, today we’ll focus on the 7 most common WordPress plugin development mistakes that developers often make while building a WordPress plugin. We’ll also provide tips on how to fix WordPress plugin development issues and which rules to follow to write high-quality WordPress plugins.
Ready to learn? Let’s jump right in.
Avoid These 7 Common WordPress Plugin Development Mistakes
1. Not following WordPress coding standards
WordPress coding standards are guidelines that help developers write consistent and high-quality code. When you follow WordPress coding standards, your plugins will be more compatible with other plugins and themes, and they’ll be easier to maintain and update. WordPress coding standards help you to write code that is clear, concise, and easy to understand. To learn more about WordPress coding standards, visit the official WordPress Codex here.
You can also check the detailed plugin guidelines to learn more.
Not only this but WordPress coding standards help you to avoid common security vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection attacks. This helps to protect your users’ websites from attack.
Also, most people use the latest version of WordPress, for example, 60.7% use version 6.3 and above. (source). So, to avoid making your plugin slow or incompatible with most WordPress websites, it’s important to check that your code works with the latest versions of PHP and WordPress before you start writing.
Ideally, you should use the latest versions of both PHP and WordPress. But since not everyone does, it’s helpful to write your code so that it works with newer versions of PHP. You also need to keep an eye on which features are deprecated (no longer supported). This can be tricky because you don’t want to exclude people still using older PHP versions.
2. Not sanitizing user input
User inputs can lead to security vulnerabilities if you don’t sanitize them properly. Sanitizing user input means removing any malicious code or characters. It helps in preventing attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities in the application and gaining unauthorized access to the system.
To sanitize user input, you can use the built-in WordPress functions
sanitize_url(). You can also use the
wp_kses() function to sanitize HTML input.
3. Not using WordPress security functions
WordPress provides a number of security functions that you can use to protect your plugins from attack. These functions include:
wp_verify_nonce()– These functions can be used to prevent cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks.
wp_check_referer()– This function can be used to prevent referrer spoofing attacks.
wp_get_current_user()– This function can be used to get the current user’s ID and role.
You can use these functions whenever possible to protect your plugins from attack.
4. Not turning the Debug Mode “On”
Turning on Debug Mode while developing a WordPress plugin is important for the following reasons:
- To identify and fix errors. Debug Mode displays errors and warnings that occur while your plugin is running. This can help you to identify and fix bugs in your code.
- To get more detailed information about errors. Debug Mode provides more detailed information about errors than the default WordPress error handling. This information can help you to track down the source of an error and fix it.
- To troubleshoot problems with your plugin. If you are having problems with your plugin, turning on Debug Mode can help you to troubleshoot the problem. Debug Mode can provide you with information about what is happening inside your plugin when it runs, which can help you to identify the source of the problem and fix it.
To enable debugging mode in your WordPress installation, you can go to File Manager in your cPanel, and then locate the wp-config.php file. Add (or edit the values of) the following lines:
define( 'WP_DEBUG', true ); define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', true ); The debug.log file in /wp-content lists all errors that occurred during development. Disable debug mode when deploying to production.
5. Not documenting your plugins
Good documentation is essential for any WordPress plugin. When you write clear and concise documentation, your users will be able to understand how to use your plugin and troubleshoot any problems that they encounter.
Your documentation should include the following information:
- Installation instructions
- Usage instructions
- Troubleshooting instructions
- A list of frequently asked questions
Not only this but documentation is also helpful for developers. It can come in handy if you decide to extend the plugin in the future. For example, you can add detailed comments in the code to explain functions and class-level features.
6. Not using the right code architecture
Not using the right architecture (code organization) while developing WordPress plugins can lead to a number of problems, including:
- Difficult to maintain and extend: Code that is not well-organized can be difficult to maintain and extend. This is because it can be difficult to understand what the code is doing and how the different components of the code interact with each other.
- Buggy: Code that is not well-organized is more likely to contain bugs. This is because it can be difficult to identify and fix bugs in code that is not well-structured.
- Insecure: Code that is not well-organized can be more insecure. This is because it can be easier for attackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities in code that is not well-structured.
You should organize your plugin code into different folders for each component. For example, you might have a
models folder for your models, a
views folder for your views, and a
controllers folder for your controllers.
You can also use other architectural patterns, such as the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern or the Model-View-Adapter (MVA) pattern. These patterns can help you to write more organized and maintainable code.
Here are some additional tips for using the right architecture while developing WordPress plugins:
- Use namespaces: Namespaces can help you to organize your code and avoid name collisions.
- Use dependency injection: Dependency injection is a design pattern that allows you to decouple your code and make it more reusable.
- Use hooks and filters: WordPress hooks and filters allow you to extend the functionality of WordPress and other plugins.
- Write unit tests: Unit tests can help you to verify that your code is working as expected.
- Use plugin Boilerplates:– Plugin boilerplates act as a starting point for plugin development by preloading a lot of what you’ll need for further development. The template files loaded by a plugin are PHP files that also include HTML and Template Tags in addition to the PHP code. It uses a strict file organization scheme that corresponds to the WordPress Plugin Repository structure and simplifies organizing the files that compose the plugin. You can use these boilerplates:-https://github.com/godaddy-wordpress/wc-plugin-framework, https://wppb.me, https://github.com/DevinVinson/WordPress-Plugin-Boilerplate
7. Not naming your plugin files uniquely
We need to name WordPress plugin files uniquely for a few reasons:
- To avoid conflicts with other plugins and themes: If two plugins or themes have files with the same name, WordPress will not be able to determine which file to load. This can lead to conflicts and errors.
- To make it easier to manage and update plugins: When plugin files are named uniquely, it is easier to keep track of which files belong to which plugin and to identify and update outdated files.
- To improve the security of WordPress websites: Malicious actors can exploit vulnerabilities in plugin files to gain access to WordPress websites. Uniquely named plugin files can make it more difficult for attackers to find and exploit these vulnerabilities.
In addition to these reasons, uniquely named plugin files are also a sign of a well-developed and well-maintained plugin. When developers take the time to name their plugin files uniquely, it shows that they are serious about the quality and security of their plugins.
Here are some tips for naming WordPress plugin files uniquely:
- Use a prefix for all of your plugin files. This will help to group your plugin files together and make it easier to identify them.
- Use descriptive names for your plugin files. This will make it easier to understand what each file contains.
- Avoid using spaces and special characters in the names of your plugin files.
- Avoid using names that are similar to the names of core WordPress files or the names of files from other plugins.
Tools to verify coding standards and avoid WordPress plugin development mistakes
There are a number of tools that you can use:-
- WordPress Coding Standards Checker – This plugin checks your plugin code for compliance with WordPress coding standards.
- PHP_CodeSniffer – This tool can be used to check your plugin code for a variety of potential problems, including security vulnerabilities and performance issues.
- PHPStan – This tool can be used to analyze your plugin code for static errors.
You can use these tools to help you to write high-quality plugins that meet WordPress standards.
Bonus Tip: If you have peers or known people in the WP development space, then reach out to them to get some perspective via say a peer review of sorts.
WordPress Plugin Development Mistakes: Conclusion
By avoiding the common WordPress plugin development mistakes discussed in this article, you can write high-quality WordPress plugins that are secure, performant, and easy to use.
If you need help developing a WordPress plugin, feel free to contact us. With over 10 years of experience, we have a team of experienced WordPress developers who can help you with all of your plugin development needs.