What I Learned From Making My First Free WordPress Plugin

My first WordPress pluginBig news! I submitted my first free plugin to the WordPress plugins directory. I’ve been working with WordPress for about 6 years, and have made tons of stuff with it… but I’ve never released a plugin.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent hours digging through the plugins directory in amazement at how many free plugins there are to choose from.

…You’ve also probably left it a few times frustrated, wishing you could have found what you were looking for.

In a nutshell, that’s why I learned how to develop for WordPress: so when I couldn’t find what I needed elsewhere, I could just build it myself.

But it never crossed my mind that I could actually contribute to the plugins directory myself, and give back to the community a little bit. So I made a simple plugin and got it approved! I learned a few valuable lessons along the way, too.

1. It’s Fun Giving Back

I feel a little guilty about this one, but for as long as I’ve had a WordPress business, I haven’t given away much for free. That doesn’t sit quite right with me, considering WordPress itself is free, and I used dozens of free plugins to run Kolakube.

Of course there’s no obligation saying I have to do that, but that’s what the beauty of WordPress is: it’s a community that gives back and helps each other. WordPress is built by the community after all.

In my eyes, if I’m selling premium products, I’d better be giving some away too. In a community like this it only seems right.

I love making money but I love even more hearing how something I’ve made has positively impacted someone else’s business. By adding my own free plugins to the massive plugins directory, I can now potentially hear that more often.

I already can’t wait to submit my next plugin, especially after learning a small cold truth about myself:

2. I Make Mistakes, Even When I Think I Don’t

Always strive for new mistakes

Photo Credit: elycefeliz

After 6 years of developing for the same software, I thought I had a good idea of what I was talking about when I labeled myself as a WordPress developer. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about it.

Submitting my own work to be reviewed by somebody else (who’s much smarter than me) made me realize quickly that I still have tons to learn.

The feedback I got back from the reviewer was great, but there was an issue I needed to resolve before they could approve it.

This issue had nothing to do with the code I submitted, but rather some of the wording I had in my documentation for it.

I had unintentionally promoted a bad WordPress development practice in the documentation, and I couldn’t believe I let that happen since I developed my plugin specifically to avoid that bad practice.

Luckily, I just needed to change my wording a little, and it was quickly approved after. Even though I spent a lot of time writing that documentation, and was sure everything was perfect before submitting, some things still fell through the cracks.

I’m thankful that minor issue was caught, and that my first plugin didn’t end up promoting a bad practice. Maybe next time, I’ll get it all right!

3. I Learned About SVN

GitHubThis lesson really builds upon the last one, but I learned a lot about how Subversion/version control works, and I know it will be a very beneficial thing I add into my workflow from here on out.

I had played with version control before, by dabbling a little in GitHub and Cornerstone. But I never really dug into its full potential until I started working on this plugin.

At first, it was a little annoying. I had worked out my own “version control system” (press cmd + z a thousand times), but never really understood the full benefits until I made this plugin.

Throughout the development of my plugin, I used GitHub to keep track of the biggest changes I made and show code to my friends when I needed help (check out the repo here).

To get my plugin onto the actual WordPress site after it was approved, I used the amazing SVN app, Cornerstone.

These are two applications I’ve used in the past, but never really tapped into their full potential. With how helpful they’ve been on this small plugin, I can’t wait to incorporate them into my larger projects!

That was fun, and I can’t wait to do it again

SCC Updates

Click the image to see my new plugin, SCC Updates

You should check out my plugin on the WordPress plugins directory. It’s an extension for a plugin called Simple Course Creator, which makes it easy to create and list post series on your website.

My plugin is called SCC Updates, which takes the courses you’ve made with Simple Course Creator and lists them as updates in timeline format.

To give you some use cases:

  • News sites can easily post updates to stories broken apart into multiples posts
  • Course creators can use it to tease previews of their full course
  • Developers can use it to document the progress of their work on their blog, or as a changelog

It’s a pretty versatile plugin, and can be used on any website to add a unique touch to your content.

I had a lot of fun building this plugin and can’t be more excited to see my work in the legendary WordPress plugins directory.

I’m already itching to build a new plugin…any suggestions?

About Alex

The 26 year old creator of Marketers Delight.

5 comments add your comment

  1. Hey congrats man! I’m stoked you’re giving back, and even more stoked you’re doing it with Simple Course Creator! I love that plugin — the more add-ons the better.

    One thing you did already that might seem trivial but is actually HUGE, that ALL plugin authors should do to some extent is, you gave use-cases for your plugin.

    Use-cases are important not just for plugins, but for themes as well.

    Not everyone has the creative vision to know what to do with certain tools, so it’s important for us in the design/development communities to help paint a better picture for potential buyers/users on how our products/services can be utilized to their maximum potential. So props to you man.

    Plugin idea: awesome social sharing plugin so I can delete Jetpack from every single install I own….. 😀

  2. Good to see you’re evolving and expanding your genius Alex.

    Plus, I didn’t know about Simple Course Creator – so thanks bringing my awareness to that;) Seems like a cool plugin – yours does as well.


  3. Great post. It’s good to gain a little insight into the submission process.

    We are thinking of releasing a WordPress plugin and we may even use yours for courses when we get our blog up and running. Bundling posts into courses is a really good idea.

  4. Such an useful plugin Alex! You always understand what does the market want. I am also developing a WordPress plugin. It’s going to be my first plugin ever.

  5. Contemplating on doing a WP plugin myself. Always doing other things, but wouldn’t mind achieving a wordpress plugin of my own.