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Best Practices When Developing a WordPress Module

WordPress is one of the world’s most popular content management systems (CMS) because it offers developers the option to create custom modules to bolt onto the base CMS, thus allowing for increased functionality in line with the client’s requirements and the general enhancement of WordPress as a whole.

As with all development tasks, creating a WordPress module has a set of best practices to follow to ensure efficiency, security, and functionality.

These practices will help you develop your skills and create modules that not only serve the needs of the project but can also be used by others, should you choose to release them to the WordPress development community.

Understand Your Goals

There are multiple reasons for developing a WordPress module. You may hope to promote your businesses, thus earning additional income through the development of a strong module, or you may wish to offer something usable for the WordPress community as a whole. Understanding your aim before you get to work allows you to focus on the task and consider the amount of support you will need to provide should you make the module available. As a general rule, the more serious you are about gaining a reputation or earning an income through the module, the more thorough you should be when it comes to documenting, making updates, and ensuring the security of the end product.

Follow WordPress Coding Standards

As with all development tasks, creating a WordPress module has a set of best practices to follow to ensure efficiency, security, and functionality.

While the WordPress coding standards are not essential to the development of a module, they will make reading, writing, and editing the code much easier for all involved. Standards exist for HTML, PHP, CSS, and JavaScript coding, so familiarize yourself with them and take the time to adapt your current programming methods to meet them. Something as simple as using consistent spacing throughout your code makes it much easier to read.

Stay Current with Design Trends

As with the majority of the technology industry, WordPress module design is subject to trends that will often dictate how successful the module is when released to a wider audience. Research what fellow developers are currently using in their modules and attempt to implement those trends into your own. For example, parallax scrolling and adaptive images are two hot trends at the moment, as they allow for more responsive web design.

Use Unique Prefixes

Once your functions are placed in the global WordPress namespace, it is likely that their names will clash with functions created by other module developers. An easy way to avoid this is to create a prefix unique to your module that separates the name from anything else. An abbreviation of the module’s name, for example, often works quite well. Alternatively, create a class that encapsulates the functions, which will ensure all functions have unique names based on the class they are placed in.

Comment the Code

All developers are taught to place comments in their code and you should do no different when working with WordPress modules. Your comments will help you decipher the purpose of your code if you come back to a module following an extended period away, in addition to offering insight to fellow module developers who wish to do further work on the module. Be detailed, explaining the purpose of the function, what it should return, and the parameters required for the desired result.

Focus on Security

As with all development tasks, creating a WordPress module has a set of best practices to follow to ensure efficiency, security, and functionality.

An unsecured module places any website that uses it at risk, which can tank a previously popular module in no time at all. Familiarize yourself with some of the key security functions, such as "esc_url" and "wp_insert_post", and use nonces, which are numbers used only once in the code, to help with URL verification. Further, take steps to prevent direct access to the files the module uses and remove the various warnings and notices that crop up when something goes wrong from public view, as these can offer insight on how to hack the code.

Optimize the Module

Develop the module with the aim of only allowing it to load what the user actually needs to complete a process. Modules that load every script and stylesheet, regardless of where the user is on the site and whether or not said scripts and stylesheets are required, create larger loading time that frustrate users and also have potentially negative effects for websites that wish to do well in search engine rankings. Further, as the module develops the effects of loading everything at once are exacerbated.

Module Deletion

Should a user decide he or she no longer needs your module they can deactivate it via the WordPress CMS’ admin panel in the plugins page. However, deactivating does not delete the module, which leaves the options and tables the plugin created potentially still active. As such, it is good practice to create a uninstall.php file in the plugins directory that will automatically delete all of this created data upon deactivation, which proves particularly useful for users who are unaware that full deletion only takes place if they click the delete link provided following module deactivation.

Give it Your Best

As with all development tasks, creating a WordPress module has a set of best practices to follow to ensure efficiency, security, and functionality.

As mentioned, you don’t need to follow best practices when developing a WordPress module, however, failure to do so does open the module up to security issues and inefficiencies that could prevent it from gaining the desired popularity.

To avoid this, follow the practices outlined above and don’t be afraid to engage the community should you find yourself struggling. Many fellow developers will be more than happy to help you along.

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By interactivated • on June 29, 2017

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