Hackernoon logo10 Best Practices for WordPress Plugin Development by@marie-thomas

10 Best Practices for WordPress Plugin Development

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@marie-thomasMarie Thomas

Marie Thomas is a dedicated WordPress developer working at www.wordsuccor.com

We cannot deny the splendid features and functionalities that the WordPress Content Management System has in its pocket. It powers approximately 34% of all websites on the Internet. 
WordPress is growing every second not only as a blogging platform but also as a fully-fledged CMS. It is undoubtedly the most influential platform that amalgamates an integration of WordPress’s best practices and has given us a useful and supportive repository. The best part is that WordPress assists in building the websites without any technical expertise. 
It has the most robust features, following which you can build a dynamic website. This extensive Content management system has more than 50,000 plugins with the features and functionalities that your website still does not have.  The plugins let you customize the websites which are already built to fit into your requirements and serves your customers accordingly. 
Here, in this article, we will give you those useful tips that are essential for WordPress plugin development. But, before initiating, let’s find out the significance of the WordPress plugins.  
Indeed, WordPress plugins are the backbone of WordPress websites. It is a helping hand even if you want to integrate the eCommerce store or the contact form to your WordPress website. The best thing about WordPress plugins is that it permits you to amalgamate the features and remains impeccable even if there is a requirement of migrating to the themes or websites.  
As it is known that the plugins are generally used for enlarging the WordPress default functionality, but WordPress gives its users the option to customize the plugin. It is also one of the reasons behind the immense popularity of WordPress. 
Though it is mandatory to practice the task considerably.  With custom plugin development, you can have those different ways that could be helpful for storing the functionality to your WordPress website. It does not let you lose the piece of code but will convert the website according to your requirements.
Though, instead of the critical role that plugin plays, there are chances that it might get wrong sometimes. The fact is that the plugins are developed by the independent third party that let the compatibility and security issues to come in. That when the requirement of plugin best practices occur that you can follow while running the WordPress website only. 
The practices define how to choose the plugins, how to maintain them, and how to examine their performance effectively. It is not about the website you are working on; it is required that you should pursue it when you are on the WordPress website.
So, let’s get started without any further delay.

Best Practices: WordPress Plugin Development

1. Outline an Effective Strategy
Making a strategy for the development process is a critical measure. It is a vital aspect because it lets you manage the code according to the plugin complexity. If the plugin has less cooperation with the core files of WordPress, then there is more concise work required except you envision it growing consecutively. 
On the contrary, the extensive plugins with more groupable code serve significantly with the classes, different style sheets, and also the script files for the active code organization. It will surely gain plugin maintenance for a long span of time.
These are the significant measures that you should consider as they show how sincerely you are accepting the issues like updates, coding standards, support, documentation, and security.
2. Namespace Your Plugin
Namespacing your plugin is necessary for all the functions, files, variables, and the classes with the Plugin name. Or, get ready to face the issues of the confliction with the themes and plugins. WordPress has given us two ways of building the WordPress Plugin; as a class or as the functions. 
As we have mentioned earlier that it can cause conflict. So, the functions in the plugin that are driven into the global namespace among non-namespaced functions, and implies that if there is a function, as- plugin_init; then it apparently conflicts with the similar functions outlined by someone else. 
Here, we do not mean the PHP namespace but, it is about the prefix the variable and functions, such as; my_plugin_some_function () or $my_plugin_my_variable. And, if you are using the longer plugin, then prefer to use the shorter one, like; "tp" can be used instead of "the_plugin."
3. Extendable Plugin Development Method
If you are regularly facing an issue of customizing the plugin and instead is finding code hacking the only way to execute, then there is a need to follow an approach of extendable plugin development. Do you discover that you are not capable of finding any filter/action hooks given by the plugin developer to increase the abilities of the plugin?
Ensure that your plugin is updated to those standards that give the filter/action hook to permit others to enhance the capabilities as per their needs.
4. Ajax Implementation
The tool that is more robust and versatile and is permitting developers to build more streamlined applications is Ajax. It can be used for several purposes, like login credential verification and content loading. Ajax is an amalgamation of different programming languages that you should take into consideration. Ajax is in-built support for its workflow in WordPress.  
It is advisable that if you want to gain adequate flexibility, using the core WordPress, then AJAX implementation is beneficial. Do not perform your custom Ajax application for WordPress. The conventional implementation enables you to employ every APIs given by WordPress and the filter/ hooks in the Ajax functions.
5. Managing WordPress Nonces
The nonces of WordPress is the token that secures forms and URLs for the misuse or each unwanted activity. It is similar to the confirmation or the consent that the user gives to perform some particular action.  
Notably, it is a string generated by WordPress that works as an exclusive identifier for executing the regulations, like, post deletion, post preview, and so on. " wp_create_nonce()" can be used for building the nonce.
The nonce is adjoined with the URLs and is integrated with the hidden form fields via wp_nounce-field () and also protects the CSRF attacks. They verify that the appeal to a particular URL was created from a similar website and not from any different website. 
Nonces are produced as a hash in WordPress that integrates the user's details (Unique ID). Every nonce is different from the other user. It finds that the user has permitted to execute a particular option that is not tricked by the users to click on the link and might create unexpected behavior. 
6. Choose Security as a Security Measure
Assure that the plugin is secure. The number of developers disregard security or ousts it to the status of a reconsideration. Do not let the attacks breach the security of your website. 
There are certain sanitize inputs and escape outputs that you should put emphasize on. Find out below:
  • esc_url_raw
  • esc_url
  • esc_textarea
  • esc_attr
  • wp_filter_kses
  • esc_textarea
  • esc_html
For instance: If you are practicing the function "wp_insert_post," then WordPress will filter that data for you. Similarly, If you are using the database methods, like $wpdb->update or $wpdb->insert, then WordPress can filter that data for you. And, if you wish to obtain the database instantly with something similar to $wpdb->get_result, then use the wpdb->prepare for preventing SQL injections of the malicious code. Check out below to make it clear for you. 
Use :
Instead of:
As shown above,  
%s- > String Input placeholder;
%d -> Numeric Input placeholder
7. Error Reporting
Assure that the plugin does not have any sort of errors because it can reveal important information such as code logic and the system directory paths. Do not move further until you test the plugins with the “WP_DEBUG” to “True.” In the production website, you must have a sound system for finding errors and for assisting them in logging in to find the file- “WP Debug Logger” can be used for managing. 
8. Load only that Require
Do not overload with unnecessary stuff in your plugin. Treat the plugin in a similar way you treat your luggage while going on vacation. So, loading only that require is far more important- you can load the javascript, stylesheet, and the other vital script that you might need for that section and page of your website. And, it is recommended not to load the admin scripts on the front end. 
If (is_admin ())
{
//load my plugin stuff for the admin page
}
Else
{
//load my plugin stuff for the front end
}
9. Enable Users to Customize the Plugin
Believe it or not, several plugins are used by the customers that are the developers who purchase the plugins to integrate the functionality that it provides to the WordPress projects. The popular plugins are designed specially by keeping customization in mind, or that deals with the fury of support tickets. Instead of creating plugin customization complex and driving customers to bungle around by the plugin’s source code, provide the user’s prospects and APIs that permit them to create the plugin’s functionality to their requirements. 
The admin interface is used to manage the global settings. It is assumed that for the single instance settings, the custom settings, particularly for the WordPress page or post, could be fulfilled by giving the users with the custom shortcode Application program interface for your plugin. 
It is believed that your plugin should at least fulfill the following measures:
  • Enable or disable the optional third-party dependencies
  • Modify styles like; icons, fonts, colors, backgrounds, borders, etc. It is preferable to create several plugin themes
  • Modify the labels of front-facing text 
  • Neglect the plugin’s default CSS via an admin interface
There are several other ways that you can adopt:
  • Use a proper HTML structure. Usually, users revamp the plugin’s theme by CSS located in their WordPress theme’s “styles.css”. You can make it simple for them to choose appropriate components of the plugins with a suitable HTML architecture using the elements that have spontaneous class and id names.
  • Give a detailed explanation of plugin modification settings with the documentation. 
  • Give preprocessor versions of the spreadsheets. Those who customize the plugins use SaaS, Less, or another different CSS preprocessor for your convenience. 
In the end, do not forget to provide your plugin a “restore to default settings” feature. The “factory reset” piece is useful when some unfavorable happens while customizing.
10. Take Benefit of WP Cron
WP Cron is the task scheduling system that is created for UNIX that lets users perform the commands at the defined times.
Do you know that WordPress has a cron like the built-in feature? And is known as wp cron. If your plugin integrates routine tasks with a run, then the wp cron could be significant for task firing.
Indeed, it has some disadvantages as well. Like, it relies on some of the web page requests, which results in the limited firing of a task if the WordPress site does not have massive traffic. But these flaws are fixable.
For those websites that have massive traffic and for those that are set up by the auto-pinging, wp cron can be a satisfying way to build a cron-like setup.

Concluding Remarks

There are several critical challenges that are forcing WordPress to the competitive market. With the above mentioned tips, you can reduce many challenges that WordPress plugins are facing. And following this, you can grow your business immensely. Some other factors also do not demand neglecting, and that is:
Examining the WordPress function library
  • Turn on debug
  • Have some peer review
  • Avoid the deprecated functions
  • Consider an excellent WordPress code forum
Considering every single detail in mind and implementing the right approach cannot stop you for thriving in your business. You are not responsible for how your plugin will be used, but you can follow professional pride in how you can execute the necessities. Follow the practices we have mentioned. We assure you that it is worth the time and effort.
Hopefully, you have liked this article. If there is any other leading factor that we have missed, then let us know in the comment section below. 
Do share your thoughts with us. Your engagement will be highly appreciated. Thanks for sparing your precious time for reading!!
Disclosure: Marie Thomas is an Expert WordPress developer working with WordSuccor.

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