There are many reasons to build a custom WordPress plugin for your solution. As a stakeholder, you want your content to sing. You want it to stand out from the crowd. You probably chose WordPress because you heard how customizable it was. With so many free plugins to customize the user experience and how your WordPress site functions, you might even think spending money on a custom WordPress plugin is a bad idea. Is that true?
Free plugins can definitely be a motivating factor for many when putting together a new website, but the problem is there are no guarantees that the developer will have adhered to the WordPress coding standards, always use best practices and design for easy maintenance and use. When implementing a free plugin to solve a problem, you will likely find that it isn’t meeting the expectations of the development team and others. Unfortunately, this only reveals itself after you’ve already invested a lot of time and money into the path you chose. This is not to say there aren’t some really good commercially available plugins, but their best features are not always free. You have to carefully do your research before buying any plugins. The long bulleted list of features may not all be available at the basic level. Many commercially available plugins offer various licensing options for their product, making the license expense greater and greater. Some even limit how many sites you can use the plugin on. This can create issued depending upon your own circumstances.
If It is Free, You Get What You Pay For
Free plugins move from developer to developer as one developer picks up the sack for a previous developer who lost interest in the project. This is a problem when you want your site operational for at least the next 5 years before any further major changes are done to it. Commercially available plugins have a better chance of remaining relevant because their developers have a vested interest in keeping their product up-to-date and viable in the WordPress community.
If true quality and longevity are what you desire, it might be time to consider a custom WordPress plugin. When you develop your own custom WordPress plugin, you maintain control of the code. You can, of course, use GitHub to open it up for development assistance from other developers, but even then, you control what does and does not make it into your actual codebase. You can be sure to thoroughly test and approve any and all changes before merging them into your existing codebase, thereby maintaining a high level of quality.
Even Commercial Plugins Can Suck
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worked on a WordPress project and the client rejected the idea of a custom WordPress plugin in favor of an off-the-shelf plugin, only to find out at some point that the plugin doesn’t adhere to those WordPress Coding Standards, follow good practices, and most definitely doesn’t spit out quality markup for our designers and developers to work with. This is where the hidden cost of off-the-shelf plugins comes into play.
When I’ve experienced issues with off-the-shelf plugins, my estimates are that it takes me triple the time to overcome the issues the plugin itself presents. Many times addressing the issues means making changes to the plugin’s code. That is a time-consuming process that you avoid with a custom WordPress plugin. Even when you overcome the issues, there is still the possibility that a future update ruins all the customizations done, which wastes the money originally spent on those customizations.
We Should Have Developed a Custom WordPress Plugin
This decision isn’t always easy, but thankfully, asking the right questions will help make the decision as easy as possible. Does the plugin developer know your needs? Do they understand your workflow? Do they empower your website to do the job you intended? If the answer to these questions is no, you should probably develop a custom WordPress plugin.
What Can a Custom WordPress Plugin Do?
The purpose of a WordPress plugin is to provide additional functionality the platform itself doesn’t already provide. A custom WordPress plugin can provide customizations to existing functionality of an e-commerce website. They can integrate outside APIs into the site or potentially merge the data from two existing plugins. They can even change some of the built in functionality of tools like Woo commerce.
As previously mentioned, building a custom WordPress plugin can save time and money. Instead of hoping the off-the-shelf plugin meets your needs, the custom-built plugin will definitely meet your needs because you are driving its development. You will likely find that the more customizations you need, the more money you save doing it from scratch. This ensures your custom WordPress plugin uses WordPress Coding Standards, making it less likely to be hacked. It makes future maintenance easier and insures that features are not broken during an update process. Your developer knows your needs. S/he knows your workflow. They will empower your site to do what you intended with your custom WordPress plugin. These are all good reasons to have your own custom WordPress plugin.