How We Build WordPress Plugins - The Development Process


How We Build WordPress Plugins – The Development Process

As the number of WordPress installations continues to multiply, and as the use of WordPress is becoming more popular within the medium and large businesses arena, the demand for quality, secured and well-maintained plugins is growing stronger by the day.

Back in 2010, while building a knowledge management platform for a small startup company using WordPress, we have discovered the advantage of using WordPress plugins to fasten the development cycle and more importantly, to add strong capabilities to our custom solutions.

Several of the plugins we initially selected turned out to be poorly written or not supported enough, so we ended up rewriting their scripts and adding the features we needed independently. As the project progressed, we started relying more on premium plugins and discovered that there weren’t that many of them out there.

The Concerns of the Average WordPress User

The Concerns of the Average WordPress User - How We Build WordPress Plugins - The Development Process

Nowadays, with the growing awareness to the WordPress vulnerabilities and security breaches, many webmasters are looking for professional and well-maintained plugins that guarantee the use of secure measures and can address security issues with real time updates.

Besides the security aspect, there are also a number of other issues that need to be taken into consideration and handled with professional care, such as performance/speed optimization and SEO. Many plugins add unnecessary load to your WordPress site and in other cases they are also becoming a burden on your site’s SEO rank.

Dipping into some plugins codes, you may discover that many plugins out there aren’t written according to the official WordPress coding guidelines. This often results in severe conflicts with the site theme or with previously installed plugins.

The free plugins model, which WordPress initially started with, is struggling to support the growing need for quality assured plugins, and cannot hold for such requirements. Professional support and frequent on-demand updates that plugins these days require can only be delivered with a business model in place.

When used within an organization, it is a necessity to have a brand of professionals and on-demand support behind the products used or else, many issues will remain unsolved and many questions unanswered.

How CreativeMinds Came About

It was based on these concerns that we started CreativeMinds, which was initiated with the development of four plugins: The CM Tooltip Glossary, CM Answers, CM Downloads Manager and CM Ad Changer.

These plugins were our test case.

We spent over a year of development on each of them and released frequent updates to overcome security and performance issues as well as to respond to our users’ growing requirements.

Going further, we realized there was a real need for a variety of tools which would cover different aspects of WordPress based solutions, and started to expand our line of products while basing some of them on our already made codebase.

Getting our Inspiration

Getting our Inspiration - How We Build WordPress Plugins - The Development Process

There are some of professional plugin shops which thought us greatly about what we do: Pippin plugins, Yoast and others have built their brand based solely on quality and well maintained WordPress products.

We expect to see many new players offering their products and penetrating this niece in the near future. Meanwhile, we will continue to create quality plugins, inspired by:

  • User Requirements – We receive many feature requests from our customers for our existing plugins and also for new products.
  • Existing plugins – Every so often we perform a search on the WordPress.org directory to see what products are popular but at the same time are under developed or not well maintained. This gives us an idea of what WordPress users need.
  • Customers – Many of our customers raise the need for specified solutions, which currently are not available on the market. We build those custom solutions for our private clients and in some of the cases we make them publicly available for either purchase or free download.
  • Our own ideas – We come up with our own ideas based on things that we see in parallel markets or also on our own needs.

How We Build WordPress Plugins – The Development Process

Conceptualization

The development process starts with an overall design of the product features. In some cases we will add a wireframe to describe the user experience and a graphic design to visualize it.

Scoping

After defining the requirements we cut down the functionality to the plugin MVP release version and scope the time and efforts needed. Scoping is an important part of the process, which also helps to split the development phase into sprints and between different team members.

We also identify which of the existing modules in our code base can be reused, and what existing libraries can be utilized to optimize our efforts.

Development and Review Cycles

Development and Review Cycles  - How We Build WordPress Plugins - The Development Process

Each sprint involves investing a considerable amount of time on creating the features and functionalities defined, and ends with an in-depth review of what we have accomplished. Before the MVP is mature, we conduct a series of tests, covering the user experience perspective, and making sure we didn’t leave any bugs in the code.

Documentation

We document the product as much as we can within the menus and settings panel to make it friendly for both users and admins. Along the same lines, we continuously check for security vulnerabilities, performance optimization, SEO compatibility and up to date functionalities.

We also have a roadmap for each of our products and we schedule feature additions in advance so we can improve each of our products over time. Our line of products is growing steadily.

We strongly believe in video tutorials, which is why in addition to our written user guides and FAQ, we usually prepare at least one introductory video and one in depth tutorial per each new product.

Launching

Launching - How We Build WordPress Plugins - The Development Process

When all of the above is done and the MVP is ready to go, we normally release it in 2 editions: One which is free for download on the WordPress.org directory, and a Pro or Deluxe version which is fully-featured and updated more often.

We then notify our followers and readers through our blog and via social media channels and as the product becomes more popular, we continue to release updates to ensure it stays compatible, safe to use and up-to-date with current trends.

Our line of products is growing steadily. We make sure that each of our products remains up-to-date and secured from the frequent vulnerabilities discovered in WordPress. We also make sure all of our plugins are SEO friendly and follow the most recent practices for performance optimization. We have a roadmap for each of our plugins where feature additions are scheduled in advance so we improve our products over time.

Overall, we expect to see a significant growth in the market of premium WordPress plugins. We continue to deliver excellent, well-maintained and supported products in hope to become industry leaders in our field.