Your WordPress Plugin Idea – What’s The Point?

When it comes to coming up with WordPress plugin ideas (or themes or general applications on any platform, for that matter), we all have different ways of going about doing it.

Some of us do it by scratching our own itch, some of us do it by modifying or adjusting an existing project to meet our needs, some of us dream up a random idea, and some of us do all of the above.

But coming up with an idea for a project is only half of it – you’ve also got to determine if your project serves a particular purpose, solves a particular problem, or has a particular use case.

I mean, very few things in this world are created “just because,” right?

What’s It’s Use Case?

Case in point: Earlier this week, I released PDF Comments – admittedly what I believe to be an incredibly niche plugin – but one that seeks to provide a particular use case.

On the announcement post for the plugin, Philip left the common:

Just curious, what’s a typical use case for this plugin?

This was a good question. Honestly, up to this point, I’ve never really had to explain the use case of a plugin to someone.

Truth be told, part me of believes that the title of the plugin or some of the initial documentation should do a good job of that (which means that that falls on me and that perhaps I should clean that up a bit).

"What's this thing do, again?"
What’s This Thing Do?

Nonetheless, I responded basically saying that the idea for this particular plugin came from a client project from months ago that I generalized a bit more for release.

Aside from simply being a way to attach PDF files to your comment, one use case would be the following:

  • A site administrator is serving as an educator to which the blog subscribers are responsible for turning in assignments on lessons that are on posts (or a custom post type, or what have you). The synopsis, details, and/or timestamp of turn-in is captured in the comment, and the essay, document, or whatever is attached to the comment from which the administrator can manage from the dashboard.

I covered this in slightly more detail in my response, but the point of bringing this up is that I think it’s important to know exactly where you’re getting your WordPress plugin ideas.

WordPress Plugin Ideas: See What Sticks

I’ve mentioned before as to how I believe there are a lot of things going on in WordPress that practically resemble a gold rush.

People are throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks, and then running with that. On one hand, that’s not a bad thing to do if you’ve got the time and capitol to do it – in fact, some of the projects that I’ve worked in the past (and continue to work on today, actually) are based on experiments like this.

On the other hand, if you’re primary vocation is working on plugins or similar projects, then I do believe it helps to have a solid idea serve as the foundation for your plugin.

As Philip asked in the aforementioned post, “what’s the typical use case for this plugin?”

This is a question that I think we constantly need to be asking ourselves as we work on our projects whatever they may be. Because if there’s no use case for them, is there a point?

4 Replies to “Your WordPress Plugin Idea – What’s The Point?”

  1. So I work alot with ecommerce plugins, like Jigoshop, EDD, and to a much lesser extent WooCommerce. Generally, my method for coming up with a plugin idea, is simply not to. I work for Jigoshop and EDD’s support, and so customers simply tell you what they are looking for or need.

    While some of this becomes core functionality, alot simply doesn’t belong in core.

    So what I do is everytime someone says and idea, I write it up on a whiteboard behind me, with the current counts of requests. When I get spare time, I just write the one with the most requests. This means that whenever I make a plugin, I know it’s needed and has a usecase for a sizeable number of people.

    Seems to work pretty well :)

    -Chris

    1. Generally, my method for coming up with a plugin idea, is simply not to. I work for Jigoshop and EDD’s support, and so customers simply tell you what they are looking for or need.

      I think this works perfectly, but only in the context when there has been an established foundation off of which to build, you know?

      Listening to customers is really important. Sometimes, their ideas aren’t always going to be worth doing, but that doesn’t hold true for everyone, of course.

      So what I do is everytime someone says and idea, I write it up on a whiteboard behind me, with the current counts of requests. When I get spare time, I just write the one with the most requests.

      I was actually going to mention this but then, you know, you did :). This is what we do at 8BIT for some of our stuff, too.

      Love hearing this kind of stuff.

        1. @Adam You can get them really cheap off Amazon or even inside like Staples or Office Depot. The trick I’ve found with them is it’s really worth it to invest in one good large one (96 by 48 or 72 by 48). I’ve found whiteboards to just be invaluable. You don’t realize how much you’ll use them until after you get one.

          @Tom
          but only in the context when there has been an established foundation off of which to build, you know?

          I agree. But there’s so many foundations out there that are overlooked. Heck I wish I could just clone myself a couple times, add 12 hours to the length of a day, and just start working on serving those areas. There’s alot of potential out there that is really missed everyday.

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