The Ultimate Guide to Building a WordPress Plugin


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Plugins are a vital part of WordPress websites that need specific functionalities.

While the official WordPress repository has more than 45,000 plugins from you to choose from, many of these plugins miss the mark.

Just because a plugin is in the repository doesn’t mean it won’t hinder its performance or compromise its security.

So what can you do? Well, you can build your own.

The Ultimate Guide to Building a WordPress Plugin

Building a great WordPress plugin begins with careful planning.

Whether you’re building one from scratch, or based off a boilerplate, following well-documented best practices is absolutely essential.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to build a simple WordPress plugin the right way.

If you want to review the final source code as you read along, you can find it here.

Start with a plan.

First, let’s list the features our plugin will have and outline exactly what it needs to do.

The plugin we’re building will allow site visitors to save content to read later.

For registered users, we’ll store the list in the database, and for anonymous users, we’ll save the list using cookies.

Below is an outline of the features and functionalities that our plugin will provide.

Settings Screen

  • The ability for admins to add the “Save Item” button to the end of the content.
  • The ability to choose the type of posts where we want this button added.
  • Offer users the option to decide whether they want to use our predefined styling or not
  • Provide an option to enable the functionality only for logged in users.
  • Provide an option to change the messages that appear on the visitor facing part of the plugin.

Saving the Content

  • If user is logged in, save content to a custom user field
  • If user is not logged in, save content to cookies


The messages below will appear on-screen in response to a visitor’s interaction with the plugin or as labels on actionable items:

  • “Save item.”
  • “Unsave item.”
  • “Saved. See saved items.”
  • “You don’t have any saved items.”

Saved Screen

This is where visitors view the list of posts they’ve saved.

  • Show a list of saved items
  • Create a Saved page on activation of the plugin
  • Delete Saved page on deactivation of the plugin


With a shortcode, the Saved page can be rendered wherever it is added.


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