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How Can a Custom WordPress Plugin Help My Business?
Last Updated January 21st, 2022 · Custom Software,WordPress
WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. In fact, the CMS powers nearly 40% of all websites, according to WP Tavern.
A key factor behind the success of WordPress is its plugin ecosystem. As of 2020, the WordPress Plugin Directory had more than 55,000 third-party plugins supporting everything from e-commerce to project management. The WooCommerce plugin alone powers nearly a quarter of the top one million e-commerce websites worldwide!
The WordPress plugin ecosystem is a key factor behind its wild success—and you might be surprised what’s possible using them.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of using plugins to accomplish common tasks. We’ve also put together a list of five situations when a custom WordPress plugin was the right solution for one of our clients here at Link Software.
Why Use a Custom WordPress Plugin?
WordPress has become the de facto standard when it comes to building a website. With an easy-to-use interface, the platform makes it easy for non-technical individuals to build and maintain websites. The sheer ubiquity of WordPress also means that most business professionals are already familiar with the platform on some level.
Many businesses that require new functionality choose to develop a custom web application. Or they use an off-the-shelf solution in their chosen vertical (e.g., e-commerce). While purpose-built applications may be the best technical choice, there are many benefits to implementing the functionality with a custom WordPress plugin.
Some key reasons to consider custom plugins include:
- Cost: Custom web applications are often a lot more expensive to develop than a custom WordPress plugin. WordPress provides a lot of basic features, such as a datastore and authentication, out of the box.
- Familiarity: Most people that would be using the application are already familiar with the WordPress admin panel. Existing familiarity with WordPress reduces the learning curve and makes it easier to get up and running.
- Maintenance: Custom WordPress plugins may be easier to maintain than a custom web application with existing WordPress developers. There’s no need to learn other languages or frameworks to add new features or fix bugs over time.
WordPress may not seem like it’s built for things like e-commerce or project management, but the success of WooCommerce and other commercial plugins demonstrates its capabilities. Rather than starting from scratch with a huge learning curve, choosing a custom WordPress plugin can lower costs, cut time to market, and simplify maintenance over time.
5 Ways a Custom WordPress Plugin Can Improve Your Website
#1. Simplified Data Entry
Data entry is one of the most common reasons for a custom WordPress plugin. While WordPress supports posts and pages by default, many businesses require different types of data (e.g., staff) with different attributes (e.g., contact information, job title, etc.). Custom plugins can extend WordPress to support these new data types in a way that makes them easy to manipulate.
For example, a baseball team could add players as individual posts, but the approach isn’t very scalable. The team may want to break each player into structured data: position, age, height, etc. Maybe they want to store and track various statistics inside of WordPress. Custom plugins can provide an easy way to input data with unlimited attributes into the WordPress admin panel for use in other areas.
#2. Specialized Display and Layouts
While WordPress themes control the style, there are many cases where businesses may want to fine-tune the way that certain pieces of data are presented. Consider our baseball team example from above. Now that the team has all of their structured data inside of WordPress a custom plugin can be built to display it to visitors of the site. Fans can look up players, sort through their statistics, and so much more, all behind the power of a custom WordPress plugin.
For another, non-baseball example, suppose that a financial blog wants to display a stock price widget next to each ticker symbol. While it’s possible to hardcode a third-party snippet into each blog post, it’s much easier and more scalable to create a plugin that features a shortcode. Ticker symbols could then automatically update to show the stock price next to them.
#3. Third-Party Data Integrations
Another common use case for custom WordPress plugins is data manipulation. Using WordPress, you can easily take in external data from an API or other sources, combine it with your own data that’s already stored in WordPress, and display it in any way that you choose. These capabilities can add a lot of value for users without building a custom application.
Let’s go back to our baseball team as an example one last time. You may need to take in games from existing WordPress data along with scores from a public API and put both of them into a calendar widget for visitors that shows them the schedule and scores for past games. Custom plugins make it easy to accomplish these feats within a single codebase.
#4. Custom Pricing Quotes and Calculators
Most people are familiar with mortgage calculators, insurance calculators, or even price estimators that appear on some websites. Many of these tools are built via a custom WordPress plugin that is configurable in the WordPress admin (e.g., setting the current mortgage rate or product pricing) rather than relying on constant code changes.
#5. Unique Reporting & Analytics
Internal reporting and analytics tools are commonly built and generated with custom WordPress plugins. While most people think of plugins as changing the way a website looks to visitors, many plugins create company dashboards for everything from internal sales data to proprietary analytics. These dashboards can enable business owners to access data, export data, or view analytics associated with existing data.
For example, the owners of an e-commerce business may want to view specific sales statistics, such as their most popular SKUs or what SKUs are at risk of going out of stock. Or, they may need to integrate inventory data with a niche third-party manufacturer. These capabilities may not be available using their existing e-commerce solution and require a custom plugin.
The Bottom Line
WordPress has become tremendously popular in no small part due to its massive plugin ecosystem. Rather than building functionality from scratch, custom plugins can make your life easier. They allow companies to use existing data and keep all management under the same roof. You can even turn your ideas for WordPress plugins into a business of its own. Many people build custom plugins and then sell them to other WordPress users.
Would a custom WordPress plugin help your business? Link Software has extensive experience with custom WordPress development for a diverse set of clients. Contact us today to discuss your project and get a quote.