A New Type of WordPress Plugin

There are over fourty-five thousand plugins listed in the WordPress Plugin Directory. The vast majority of them follow the same format to handle their installation: An essentially unstyled settings page which collects some assorted information from the user and a “Save” button to make those settings live.

An example of a WordPress settings page

This has the advantage of sharing a common format from one plugin to another, making it something of a standard which users can expect and understand. What could it be though? What would be the ideal plugin installation experience? We had a chance to answer that, and this is what we came up with:

Live Preview

What if, on that settings page, we could show a live preview of the plugin? What if we could update it with whatever settings the user selects? Even better, what if we could show it on the live website exactly how it will appear to users when it’s installed?

Account Registration

Most WordPress plugins make you to sign up for an account with the service involved, and then paste some sort of “API Key” into the plugin’s settings page. Why not allow the user to OAuth into their account instead, so they just have to login? Even better, why not allow them to register an account inside the plugin itself?

This is great not just for installers, but it means companies can acquire new users through the plugin itself.

Universal

Many plugins which get created for WordPress are just thin wrappers on top of a JavaScript snippet being inserted into the page. Why should plugin creators have to make a seperate plugin for WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal and every other CMS? Why not make it possible to release the same code an every platform?

The Future

I’m proud to report we were able to build all three of these features into Eager. This means if you take a few minutes to turn your tool or service into an Eager App, you can export it as a powerful WordPress plugin.

This method of plugin installation is never going to replace all traditional WordPress plugins. Many plugins need to run complex PHP code which makes live preview, for example, challenging. For a class of plugins though, those which essentially just help you install a service like Disqus or Appcues, this could be a better way.

Try It Now

Try installing Drift onto your WordPress site, or watch a video of me doing it.

If you’re ready to get started building a plugin, take a look at our docs.

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