Building a Custom WordPress Plugin: An In-Depth Look at Actions, Filters, and Shortcodes

Custom WordPress Plugin

Every WordPress site requires a theme to retrieve stuff from the database and present it in a visually appealing manner. You could run a website with nothing but a theme. However, with the installation of plugins, that website would be highly unrestricted.

Over and above what WordPress core provides, plugins give your WordPress site additional capabilities. You may use plugins to add anything to your website, from a booking calendar or animated slider to a fully functional learning management system or online marketplace. WordPress plugins come with both advantages and disadvantages. WordPress users can completely personalize their websites thanks to the more than 45,000 plugins accessible in its official repository.

Free and Paid WordPress Plugins

You may buy or download plugins in several locations to add certain unique features to your website. You can build the site you need with the help of thousands of free plugins in the WordPress plugin directory, but occasionally you need to code your plugin.

This may be more effective than using a third-party plugin because you may only require a portion of the code it contains. Additionally, it means you can create a plugin explicitly tailored to your needs or modify an existing plugin to fit your website’s requirements.

Types of WordPress Plugins

Plugins provide a wide range of functions. They all bring more functionality to your website, which they all have in common. WordPress plugin categories include:

  • Plugins for site upkeep that address security, performance, or backups
  • Plugins for SEO, social media, and eCommerce that increase marketing and sales
  • Custom post types, widgets, shortcodes, forms, galleries, and video feeds are examples of content plugins.
  • API plugins that integrate with the WordPress REST API or provide capabilities for social networking to third-party services like Google Maps

How To Create a WordPress Plugin?

Before you begin, understanding everything involved in designing a custom WordPress plugin is essential. Your plugin’s specific code structure will vary depending on how small or large it is. Some plugins have just one plugin file, while others have numerous, including files, scripts, stylesheets, and template files. Many of them also fall somewhere in the middle.
You’ll likely include the following components in your WordPress plugin:

  • The main plugin file (this is essential)
  • Folders for different file types
  • Scripts
  • Stylesheets
  • Include files to organize the code

How WordPress Plugins Work

It’s imperative first to comprehend how the main systems operate before creating your plugin. WordPress Plugin often uses hooks to interact with (or “hook into”) other pieces of code. The two sorts of hooks available in WordPress are actions and filters. These, along with two additional components that are frequently used in plugin creation, will be covered in more detail below.


A WordPress action is a specified event that will occur at a specific time. You can increase or decrease your plugin’s functionality by using actions. After an action is initiated, the functions that are associated with it will be used.

There are numerous built-in actions in the WordPress core. You can, however, also make your own. In either case, you’ll use the do action to set values for your hooked function while creating a WordPress plugin. The function will then be linked to a particular action using the add action function.


WordPress filters are hooks that take and modify one or more variables before sending the revised versions back. With the help of a few clicks, you can change how your material appears on the web.

The applied filters can be used to define custom filters. The add filter function can then be used to run it. This will enable you to attach a specific function to the filter and manipulate and return the variable.


Shortcodes are user-facing pieces of code that provide users with a quick and straightforward way to develop and show customized functionality to their site’s visitors. The editor can add shortcodes to posts and pages, menus, widgets, and other areas.

A lot of plugins use shortcodes. With the add shortcode method, you can develop your shortcode. The first variable will be the shortcode’s name, and the second will be the output function.


Using WordPress widgets is another technique to make plugin functionality accessible through a user-friendly interface. By extending the WP Widget class, you can produce a widget. Widgets in WordPress are designed using an object-oriented methodology, meaning that a class’s single entity contains its functions and values.

A 6-Step WordPress Plugin Development

It’s critical to remember that before adding a new plugin to your website or making any changes to files, you should first set up a testing environment or staging site. This enables you to experiment safely without damaging your live website.

1. Choose a Plugin Name

Choosing a formal name for your plugin is the first step in developing a WordPress plugin. You should pick one that is distinctive and pertinent to the plugin.

To make sure there aren’t any other plugins with the name you’re considering using, it’s a good idea to look through the WordPress Plugin Directory and run a few Google searches. Remember that the PHP file and folder for the plugin will utilize the name that will serve as the official plugin.

2. Create Your Plugin Folder and PHP File

You must first find a place for your plugin to reside. Therefore, after choosing a name for your plugin, the following action is to make a folder for it.

Go to your WordPress installation’s wp-content/plugins folder to get started. Make a new folder and give it the name of the plugin, separating words with hyphens (e.g., “your-plugin-name”):

3. Add Your File Header

When you’ve finished creating your primary plugin file, it’s time to add the file header. This is just a PHP block comment that contains information about your plugin.

4. Program Your Plugin to Add Functions

You’ve now established the foundation for your plugin. Remember that you can produce various files for your plugin. You could create separate files for CSS, JavaScript, pictures, etc. Although unnecessary, it can be quite beneficial for organizing, especially if your plugin does multiple tasks. If you end up with many files, you’ll add them to a compressed folder before publishing them to your site.

5. Compress Your Plugin Folder

A PHP file added to your WordPress plugins directory will automatically install the plugin to your website. But you might also utilize a text or code editor when writing the PHP code for your file and plugin. This may be one of the most effective tools for creating WordPress plugins.

You must convert your plugin to format before uploading it to your WordPress website. As a result, you can proceed to compress the plugin folder once you’ve added all the code you want to include.

6. Install and Activate the Plugin

You can now start having fun by using your plugin on your WordPress site once you’ve finished writing the initial draft of it! With your WordPress installation, you can upload the folder through your plugins directory if you still need to do so.


One of WordPress’ most effective tools is its plugin library. WordPress Plugins are activated modules that add several functions or components to your website.

The features of each particular WordPress Plugin Development will determine what functionality you can add to your website. There is a large variety of plugins, ranging from basic to complex plugins (that provide significant changes such as eCommerce integrations or third-party connections).

Plugins operate independently of your theme and use hooks, filters, widgets, shortcodes, and custom codes to carry out their purpose.

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