One of the best parts about being someone who uses WordPress on a daily basis both for personal use and in doing work for others is the ability to create solutions to problems that you encounter throughout your day-to-day.

Obviously, some problems are more complex than others and require more elaborate solutions, whereas others are easier problems that still may call for a simpler solution, but a solution nonetheless.

Case in point: In a few recent projects, I’ve needed to integrate an image widget that allows users to easily upload images into sidebars and/or widgetized areas of their blog. The challenge, however, is that there are multiple ways to go about doing this.

So my first take at implementing a solution for this particular problem comes in the form of the Pressware Image Widget for WordPress.

Yet Another Image Widget for WordPress?

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, there are literally hundreds of thousands of themes and plugins that are available in the WordPress economy and I think that that’s a great thing; however, each solution is a little bit different than the others.

Sometimes, plugins include features that you dislike, don’t need, or are overkill, sometimes they haven’t been kept up to standard, and sometimes they don’t provide enough functionality. Of course, this is generally relevant to your own personal needs.

Regardless, there are some absolutely great plugins that are available that do similar things. There are also less than stellar options, as well. Such is the nature of the economy.

Anyway, to that end, that’s when it’s sometimes better to implement your own solution rather than use someone else’s.

On a Tangential Note

With that said, I do feel that given recent posts about developers and implementers that this could be misconstrued as a case of a developer creating something that’s already been done. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen – it certainly does – and I believe that developer should be pragmatic about how they implement projects.

But in this case, this particular project was an implementation that met the specific needs of a few of my own projects. It was meant to fulfill a specific approach that I couldn’t find in similar plugins (this, of course, doesn’t mean they don’t exist – I just didn’t come across one).

Back to the Point

You can read all about the Pressware Image Widget on the corresponding product page and its associated blog post, but the gist of it is this:

  • The plugin comes in two variants: a free version and a premium version
  • The premium version will include support, access to more features, and upgrades

Since I tend to talk about more technical matters on this particular site, the plugin was also built using the following:

The goal was to create a lightweight, easy-to-use plugin that uses as many native WordPress features as possible so not to break the user out of the experience they are used to having when working with media for posts, pages, and other post types.

Additionally, developing the plugin was an exercise striving for simplicity in that I attempted to make it as painless as possible to get started using it.

I believe that the user should be able to:

  1. Download the plugin
  2. Install it and activate it
  3. Drag it to a widgetized area
  4. Click on the ‘Upload Image’ button
  5. Upload and/or select an image

…and be done. And that’s that I set out to do.

Furthermore, the image should scale to fit within the constraints of the sidebar of the theme so not to disrupt the site’s layout.

Here are a few shots of the first version of the plugin in action:

Image Widget Display

The widget running in the sidebar of the Twentytwelve theme.

The Media Library

Selecting an image from the media uploader.

The Image Widget Dashboard

The widget’s dashboard after selecting an image.

Regarding the Business Model

It feels a little funny to talk about a business model for a plugin that’s as straightforward as this, but it’s a model nonetheless.

As much as I want to contribute to forcing a change in the WordPress economy around pricing and quality of products, I couldn’t fully abandon the option of offering a free plugin.

Not just yet. And all of the following comes from various comments, emails, and pieces of advice offered by others that I respect and whose opinion I value.

  • I still need to build brand awareness around Pressware and its products. The WordPress Plugin Repository offers high visibility.
  • Although a variation of the plugin can be released for free, this doesn’t mean that other features of the plugin outside of the source code are available for free.
  • Thus, for those who need access to support, additional features, and more, then there is the ability to upgrade.

To be honest, it’s all a bit of an experiment to see how it goes, but that doesn’t change the fact that a significant amount of effort has gone into trying to create a well-architected, lightweight, easy-to-use plugin that helps users add images to their sidebar.

Whether or not this particular approach will work is yet to be proven, so I’m eager to see it play out.

In the meantime, I’m also interested in hearing feedback from those of you who have worked on similar plugins, taken a similar (or different!) approach, and who are curious about the technical details that went into building the plugin.