If you want to improve as a WordPress developer, stop installing plugins and start writing them!

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to improve my WordPress development skills is to stop installing plugins. Instead I started focusing on writing them and learning more about WordPress filters and actions.

When you start out it might be more convenient to quickly install a plugin which solves your problem. However every time you add another plugin you increase your technical debt. This could mean more time spent running updates and increasing the odds of security vulnerabilities if plugins don’t have maintained support. You could also end up fixing site performance if plugins are badly optimised or come with a bunch of additional features you don’t actually need.

There are also times when it won’t be practical to write your own plugins and functions. Perhaps due to availability, tight deadlines or a limited budget, so it’s up to you to decide when to give it a go. However writing WordPress plugins and functions it’s a great way to expand your knowledge and it can be achieved in small steps. Starting with the simple problems first and working your way up to more complex solutions as your skills and knowledge improves.

When to start writing your own WordPress plugins and functions

In most situations you can often write your own solutions to your WordPress problems. Typically making use of WordPress’ own filters and actions. This could be a small adjustment to your themes functions file, or the creation of your own plugin if it requires a more complex solution.

Here are a few common scenarios where you could write a small function using WordPress filters and actions:

  • adding custom image sizes
  • allowing additional file types like svg
  • registering additional style sheets or scripts
  • adding custom post types
  • adding custom fields
  • hide or refine admin menus for client views
  • add custom user roles

And here are a few examples of when you might want to write your own plugin rather than expand the theme functions file:

  • connecting to an external API to create a jobs board view
  • managing user login sessions and locations for event streaming with purchased tickets
  • managing design tokens for a custom theme

It’s important to take the time and research your requirements to know whether you need to amend the themes functions file or write your own plugin. This way you keep your themes functions file tidy and concise, and isolate complex solutions into your own bespoke plugins.

Resources for WordPress plugin development

By far the best resource for plugin development is the WordPress Plugin Handbook, however you can find plenty of examples with Google too.

If you’re looking to specialise in WordPress then understanding what you can achieve via the documentation is essential for any aspiring developer. Be sure to check through it often and keep yourself aware of any updates and new features available.

Think twice before installing plugins from now on

So before you download your next WordPress plugin – ask yourself if you can write your own solution to the problem. If you do you’ll reduce your dependency on plugins, likely learn something new, and increase your potential value to clients.

If you’re in need of help writing a custom WordPress plugin for your website get in touch.

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