After just one year of working with the WordPress platform, it’s pretty safe to say that I’m a big fan. What’s not to love? All the functionality right out of the box already, a nice theme system with loads of designers, a rich set of plugins, and the support of a great developer community. Sure, some say it might be a resource hog or slow, but I haven’t experienced too much of that (yet). So, where do I want to fit into this process?
After getting familiar with the standard installation and customization on a few different blogs, followed by theme hunting and modifications, the next logical step for me was working with plugins. It’s usually easier to find an existing plugin that fits your needs than reinvent the wheel. But just like themes, there were a few cases were something was close, but still needed to be tweaked for my own personal needs.
So, I picked up a book, started reading, and was ready to take on the plugin world. Like everything else, I just dove right in and started coding away, creating a few custom plugins that fit neatly into my sites. That was the first revelation for me, that these were for me and not necessary useful for a larger audience. For example, the Daily Maui Photo widget over there on the left is a plugin I created, and it’s currently deployed on a few other of my sites as well. It’s customizable with 3 different views to be adaptable to various themes and scenarios. Yet it’s still not something that may ever be available for public consumption.
There are a few other plugins that I’ve built recently, such as the recent posts display on the home page and the display view for site details on the links page. Those might be more useful to others, but that quickly led to the next few revelations: testing and support. It takes a lot of testing and dedication to release plugins that can potentially be used by hundreds or thousands of users. And while I give many kudos to all the awesome, hard-working folks doing that today with their plugin development, I just don’t have the time at the moment (or ever). The support side is huge, too. Check out the thread on this page for the Simple Facebook Connect plugins I mentioned last month. It has over 1,200 responses and growing daily. Not something I can commit to.
So, now I’ve come to terms with not writing my own plugins for public use, I do feel comfortable and interested in helping users extend their own plugins with features that are useful for me that hopefully others might find helpful. This right here is another great feature of the WordPress platform as being open source, because if something isn’t working correctly or not meeting my needs, I can dig into the code and hack away at it. Much faster than I could do if I was building it from scratch, I might add.
On the contribution side, if I feel my modifications to the plugin are something that others might be interested in, and the original developer is accessible and approachable – most of them seem to be – I’m more than willing to engage and return the favor by handing over my code. In all honesty, this is actually in my best interest because by adding my own custom code, I put myself at risk because future updates and features added in newer versions will likely override my changes. So, if something I write for my needs ends up being included in the official release of the plugin, I’m much safter. 🙂
As a Resource
With only one year working with WordPress, I can’t by any means claim to be an expert. But as someone having multiple blogs running the software and having a strong development background to help understand how things work behind the scenes, I think I can also be a resource to help others. For example, I have collected a fairly sized list of plugins that I gravitate towards with every new install. In addition to that common list, I’ve also used various plugins for more specific reasons on a site-by-site basis.
My plans here now lead to creating a resource section here at the site that will serve as a reference for others that may just be starting out or looking for a not-so-obvious plugin to accomplish a particular goal. Acting as an extension of my web portfolio here, I’ll be adding a more detailed WordPress section of the site that will not only feature the plugins I’ve used, but also link to and reference where on my websites I’ve used them. I find helpful so readers can view by example before deciding if something will work for them or not. I mean, how many times have you seen a neat plugin that you think will work but can’t find an example of where it’s used? Not one of my favorite experiences, either.
I seem to be ending most of my posts with “more soon” these days just because I have so much going on these days. But still, be on the lookout for this new section and some of the features that it will contain. In the meantime, I am also sharing interesting articles and posts from other blogs related to WordPress development over on my Facebook page, so that is a good place to check out in the meantime.