How to Make a Plugin for WordPress

WordPress is a powerful content management system (CMS) that powers millions of websites worldwide. One of the key factors behind its success is its extensibility through plugins. Plugins allow developers and users to add new features, functionalities, and customizations to their WordPress websites without modifying the core codebase.

Creating a WordPress plugin can seem daunting at first, but with the right approach and understanding, it can be a rewarding experience. In this article, we'll walk you through the process of creating a WordPress plugin from scratch, covering the essential steps and best practices.

Understanding the WordPress Plugin Structure.

Before diving into the development process, it's essential to understand the basic structure of a WordPress plugin. A plugin typically consists of the following components:

  • A main plugin file: This file serves as the entry point for your plugin and contains essential information like the plugin name, description, and version.
  • A directory structure: Plugins can have additional directories for storing assets like CSS, JavaScript, and images.
  • Plugin files: These files contain the actual code that implements the plugin's functionality.

Setting Up the Plugin Development Environment

To develop a WordPress plugin, you must have a local development environment set up. This typically involves installing WordPress locally on your machine, along with a web server (e.g., Apache or Nginx), a database (e.g., MySQL or MariaDB), and PHP.

There are several options for setting up a local WordPress development environment, including:

  • Using a local development tool like Local by Flywheel or DesktopServer.
  • Installing WordPress manually on your machine using a web server like XAMPP or MAMP.
  • Using a virtual environment like VVV (Varying Vagrant Vagrants) or Lando.

Once your local WordPress development environment is ready, you can start creating your plugin.

Creating the Main Plugin File 

The first step in creating a WordPress plugin is to create the main plugin file. This file should have a unique name that reflects the functionality of your plugin. For example, if you're creating a plugin to display a custom author box, you could name the file custom-author-box.php.

Inside this file, you'll need to add a plugin header comment at the top, which provides essential information about your plugin. Here's an example:



 * Plugin Name: Custom Author Box

 * Plugin URI:

 * Description: A plugin to display a custom author box on your posts and pages.

 * Version: 1.0.0

 * Author: Your Name

 * Author URI:

 * License: GPL2

This header comment contains details like the plugin name, a brief description, version number, author information, and the license under which the plugin is distributed.

Creating the Plugin Functionality

After creating the main plugin file, you'll need to add the code that implements your plugin's functionality. This code can be added directly to the main plugin file or split into separate files within a dedicated directory structure.

Here's an example of a simple plugin that displays a custom author box at the end of each post:



 * Plugin Name: Custom Author Box

 * Plugin URI:

 * Description: A plugin to display a custom author box on your posts and pages.

 * Version: 1.0.0

 * Author: Your Name

 * Author URI:

 * License: GPL2


// Add the author box to the end of each post

function custom_author_box($content) {

    global $post;

    $author_id = $post->post_author;

    $author_name = get_the_author_meta('display_name', $author_id);

    $author_bio = get_the_author_meta('description', $author_id);

    $author_avatar = get_avatar($author_id);

    $author_box = '<div class="custom-author-box">';

    $author_box .= '<div class="author-avatar">' . $author_avatar . '</div>';

    $author_box .= '<div class="author-info">';

    $author_box .= '<h3>' . $author_name . '</h3>';

    $author_box .= '<p>' . $author_bio . '</p>';

    $author_box .= '</div>';

    $author_box .= '</div>';

    return $content . $author_box;


// Hook the custom_author_box() function to the 'the_content' filter

add_filter('the_content', 'custom_author_box');

In this example, the custom_author_box() function retrieves the author's information (name, bio, and avatar) and constructs an HTML snippet to display the author box. The add_filter() function hooks the custom_author_box() function to the 'the_content' filter, which runs after the post content is generated, allowing the author box to be appended to the end of each post.

Adding Plugin Settings and Configuration 

Many WordPress plugins require user configuration or settings. To handle this, you can create a dedicated settings page for your plugin or integrate your settings into the existing WordPress settings menu.

Here's an example of how you can create a settings page for your plugin:

// Add a settings link to the plugin entry in the Plugins menu

function custom_author_box_settings_link($links) {

    $settings_link = '<a href="options-general.php?page=custom-author-box-settings">Settings</a>';

    array_unshift($links, $settings_link);

    return $links;


add_filter('plugin_action_links_' . plugin_basename(__FILE__), 'custom_author_box_settings_link');


// Register the settings page

function custom_author_box_settings_page() {


        'Custom Author Box Settings',

        'Custom Author Box',






add_action('admin_menu', 'custom_author_box_settings_page');


// Render the settings page content

function custom_author_box_settings_page_content() {

    // Output your plugin's settings page HTML here

In this example, the custom_author_box_settings_link() function adds a "Settings" link to your plugin's entry in the WordPress Plugins menu. The custom_author_box_settings_page() function registers a new settings page under the "Settings" menu in the WordPress admin area. Finally, the custom_author_box_settings_page_content() function is where you'll output the HTML for your plugin's settings page.

Testing and Debugging 

Before releasing your plugin to the public, testing and debugging it thoroughly is essential. Test your plugin on different WordPress versions, themes, and environments to ensure compatibility and identify potential issues.

WordPress provides several tools and techniques to help with debugging, including:

  • Log errors and debug messages using the error_log() function or the WP_DEBUG constant.
  • You can enable the WordPress debug mode by adding the define('WP_DEBUG', true); line to your wp-config.php file.
  • Using developer tools in your web browser to inspect and debug JavaScript and CSS issues.
  • Testing your plugin on a staging or development site before deploying it to a live production environment.
  1. Publishing and Distributing Your Plugin Once your plugin is thoroughly tested and ready for release, you can distribute it to other WordPress users. There are several ways to publish and distribute your plugin:
  • Submitting it to the official WordPress Plugin Directory: This is the preferred method for distributing free and open-source plugins. The submission process involves creating a account, packaging your plugin, and submitting it for review.
  • Hosting it on your website or a third-party repository: If your plugin is premium or proprietary, you can host it on your own website or a third-party repository and provide download links or instructions for installation.
  • Using a plugin management system: Some WordPress hosting providers or managed WordPress platforms offer plugin management systems that allow you to distribute and manage your plugins directly from their platforms.

When publishing your plugin, provide clear documentation and support information, and update your plugin regularly to address bug fixes and introduce new features.


Creating a WordPress plugin can be a rewarding experience that allows you to extend the functionality of your WordPress website and contribute to the WordPress community. By following the steps outlined in this article, you'll be well on your way to developing your first WordPress plugin.

Remember to adhere to best practices, thoroughly test your plugin, and provide clear documentation and support to ensure a seamless user experience. With practice and experience, you'll become more proficient in plugin development and be able to create increasingly complex and powerful plugins for WordPress.

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