This post was written as part of the How to Write a WordPress Plugin series.
While writing the “How to Write a Plugin” series, I thought it would be beneficial to list some reasons why WordPress users would want to write a WordPress plugin in the first place.
Listed below are seven reasons why a WordPress user should consider writing a WordPress plugin.
You like a plugin’s idea, but don’t like the plugin’s implementation
Whether discovering WordPress plugins on Weblog Tools Collection, the official WordPress plugins directory, or the WordPress Plugin Database, you will inevitably find a plugin that meets your needs — sort of.
You like the idea of the plugin, but not really the approach the plugin author took with it. Why not run with the original idea and create your own separate version?
You want to modify existing plugin code
Sometimes the plugin’s output needs to be tweaked a little bit or some functionality you would like is missing. You can try convincing the plugin author to add your feature, but plugin authors are usually quite busy or they may not like your suggestion. It takes a lot of effort by a plugin author to provide support and field feature and bug requests for a plugin that is free. Sometimes the plugin is no longer supported by anyone.
In the event the plugin author is unable to your needs, it will be up to you to take the initiative and modify the existing plugin code. If you do a good enough job and make enough changes, you can re-release the plugin as long as the original plugin was released under a GPL compatible license.
Usually one of the first things I do when I install or test a new plugin is to look at the code and see what I can modify, what I can’t modify, and what I can possibly add or take away.
You want to extend a plugin
Sometimes a plugin is good as it is, but you would like to build upon it and release your own version. For example, you may think a plugin would work better using AJAX, or would like to add more hooks so that it is compatible with other plugins. You may want to add an admin panel so you don’t have to dig through the code to change the output.
As stated earlier, if a plugin is released as GPL compatible, you are free to release your own version.
You want portable theme code
For those of us who opted to build a custom theme from scratch rather than download one, you may find yourself re-using code snippets all over the place. Wouldn’t it be better just to write your own plugin that combined all the little code snippets so that you could use them as template tags?
The beauty of template tags is that you can re-use them over and over for your theme and any future ones you build. And you only have one place to change the code rather than several.
You are a theme designer
I would argue that if you are a template designer for WordPress, the next logical step is to be a plugin author. Writing plugins gives you a more intimate knowledge of how WordPress behaves and allows you to extend the functionality of your released themes.
You want to make money
A good plugin author can usually get paid on the side for custom work. Some plugin authors take donations as well or charge extra for providing support or for consulting.
If you are a custom theme designer, you can package your custom plugins in with the theme for an extra charge.
You want incoming links
When launching the Reader Appreciation Project, one of the goals I had was to rapidly build incoming links. The best way I knew how was to write some WordPress plugins and promote them. One of my plugins (WP Ajax Edit Comments) turned out to be very popular and has currently generated more than 100 incoming links.
As you can see from the reasons listed above, there are many reasons to write a WordPress plugin. My next post in the series will go over how to get plugin ideas.
If you have any more reasons that I did not mention, feel free to add them in the comments.