A WordPress Plugin Development Experience

About a couple of months back the OneStory team dove into the WordPress World.

Our project was to build a simple plugin to promote the great stories that we are capturing. The plugin would have to be something that anyone with a WordPress site can use without the hassles of signing up for a OneStory account or paying for using the plugin. The result was the OneStory Interview Videos plugin. And this post is about my personal experience with it and views.

Developing for WordPress is a challenge in itself from setting up your local dev environment (Bitnami and SVN), to getting to know the conventions (the WordPress loop), pitfalls, and best practices. But once you get through all of that, which is actually not much compared to other technologies, it’s all good. Really, all you gotta do is read up on the links in this Post and if there is an issue, Google will rescue you.

I tried focussing my efforts on UX. I really wanted to provide a great experience from  searching and installing to learning and using the plugin. Our team got some great tips on how to promote WP Plugins from the nice folks at Vidrack, and now we have a nice searchable Plugin page in wordpress.org where people can find, download, and get support from.

Our plugin makes use of custom WordPress shortcodes. These are snippets of code that can be configured by a Post author to embed an element into a Post. Using shortcodes was a  great solution for our case. However, having done WordPress support for many content publishers in the past, my guess is one out of 12 of them would be able to use custom shortcodes without some Support intervention.

This UX challenge was solved by providing a shortcode generator within the plugin, which basically transformed the technical aspects of  configuring shortcodes into effortless  dropdown selections, radio buttons, and Copy and Paste. The animated GIF’s found in our plugin page illustrate how to install the plugin, generate the shortcode, and embed a OneStory video player, gallery, and recorder.

The end result was a plugin code that used some ajax calls to keep things simpler for the end user, CSS + Javascript, and a bit of Object Oriented PHP to further simplify things for us dev’s. I find that good software needs to simplify things for both end users and developers. So no modifications were made to the core OneStory system, just improvements. The plugin reused a lot of the existing code to ease maintenance efforts.

Here is an embedded OneStory video using the OneStory Interview Videos plugin:

[onestory-player storyslug=”160fuye7″ width=”640″ height=”340″ align=”center”]* NY Resolution Note: I started practicing  mindful meditation with a local group. And I’m looking at used SUP boards to purchase next week. So I’m halfway there 🙂

Now, would I do another plugin? Heck ya! Because of all that I learned and because it’s great to finally give back to the most popular Blog platform on Earth!

Our source code is available at the WordPress-hosted SVN repo. Have a constructive criticism? I’d love to learn more.

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