I recently released my first WordPress plugin. Here's what I've learned about building and releasing something for free.
On Tuesday the 21st of August I published my first WordPress plugin live for the world to see. Everything below is what I've learned about building and releasing Calendi, the simple editorial calendar for WordPress.
For the last 10 years, I've been building websites with WordPress. That's a lot of themes and plugins. However, until the last week, I'd never released a plugin on the official directory.
Don't get me wrong, I've built hundreds of themes and well over 50 plugins, yet I've never released one the "official" way. By official, I mean via WordPress itself, whether that's on the theme directory or the plugin directory.
There have been ideas that have come and gone. Some have fizzled out in the planning stage, others in the design stage and some even got into development. Yet I've always fallen out of love with the idea before it actually becomes reality. This time, however, things are different.
Time after time of trying to build a plugin, just to get my feet wet with releasing something, I've failed.
The main reason I kept letting these little ideas fizzle out was due to the reason I started making them, which was just for the sake of it. With Calendi however, it's much different.
Inspirational Pixels is a web development tutorial site I run in my spare time. I've been publishing posts more frequently in the past few months and began needing a better way to schedule and see all my content for the forthcoming weeks.
My biggest issue with WordPress for publishing content on a regular basis is that is has no built-in calendar, so I ended up building my own...but aren't there already solutions out? Yes, there are loads.
So, why did I not want to use one of the solutions that already existed? The quick answer is because I didn't like them, but a more truthful answer is that they try to be all things to all people, and that's not what I was after.
The main point of Calendi is that it's simple and does exactly what it says on the tin. It shows you what's been published, what's going to be published and allows you to select multiple post types.
The ability to see custom post types in the calendar was something a lot of calendars were missing, yet it's one of the earliest and easiest features I added.
In the end, the only solution I saw when it came to managing my own content was to build my own.
I've long been an advocate of not re-inventing the wheel if it already does the job. However, the exception has always been that if the already built solution does the job badly or just doesn't fit nicely with how you do things, make your own.
I read a really great post a few days ago by Spencer Fry about running his own SaaS business and what he's learned so far.
The thing I liked most is that it wasn't filled with the usual bullshit most posts of that nature have. It was a really insightful article talking about real problems he's faced and how he's grown from them.
One thing that really stuck out was the advice to not look at what others are doing and just make your product the best it can be. I didn't realise whilst building Calendi, but I'd already taken the advice. Where I'd been so focused on making it the best it could be, I never even thought to look at the competition.
In hindsight, a quick look at what others were doing might have been helpful, but I don't feel as though it would've made Calendi any better or worse.
All in all, I'm very happy with how my first official WordPress plugin ended up and am excited to launch some new features for it very soon. The biggest one being drag and drop to change post dates, something I have limited experience with. Exciting!
You can download Calendi for free on the official WordPress directory.