How to Brainstorm New WordPress Plugin Ideas

According to Ecclesiastes, there’s nothing new under the sun and that thought certainly hits home when you’re trying to come up with an idea for the next must-have WordPress plugin. With over 40,000 plugins already in existence, it’s easy to feel like all the good ideas have already been taken.

Don’t despair though – you know what else ol’ Ecclesiastes says? “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again”. Find inspiration instead of discouragement in these timeless words. You’ve had great ideas before and you will have them again!

In this article we’ll show you how you can generate ideas for in-demand new plugins by setting goals, focusing on trends, examining how existing ideas can be improved and reflecting on your own experiences.

Let’s get going!

Think About What You’d Like to Achieve and Set Goals to Get There

We all want the same thing when we sit down to create a plugin: unheard of success, piles of praise and riches. Mmm…riches.

Savvy developers who build a career out of creating new technology know that the success of a product doesn’t begin and end with an ingenious idea. In reality, the initial idea is just a small part of the process.

Before you try to imagine what you want to create, think about what you’re trying to achieve. It’s safe to assume that most developers want to create a popular plugin that generates a healthy number of sales. Alongside that obvious goal however, you may also want to challenge yourself technically, create something novel that you can be proud of, service a large yet niche market or create something truly innovative.

Begin by writing down the personal goals that will make the creation of your new plugin personally fulfilling. By starting out with the goal of developing something that can give you a true sense of accomplishment, you ensure you’ll be dedicated to and passionate about seeing the project through to completion and ready to do your best work.

The success of your plugin doesn’t come from thinking up a great idea. It comes from following through with the entire process. Brainstorming is an important first step in that regard, so let’s get to it.

Research Current Trends to Help you Generate New Plugin Ideas

Make sure you’re regularly immersing yourself in the culture of your audience and would-be clients by following popular tech blogs like Mashable, Gizmodo, GigaOM, ZDNet, TechCrunch, How-To Geek, The Next Web and more.

Gizmodo logo

Use sites like Gizmodo to harvest ideas.

From news stories on security and commenting to blog tips on SEO and caching, tech news reflects what’s on users’ minds and tells you what might be a priority in the future. This research is essential in keeping you up-to-date with trends and helping you think like your end user.

Have a look at currently popular plugins and examine what they’re fundamentally trying to achieve. For example, spam-reduction plugins offer increased security and more trustworthy, authentic content. SEO plugins help users find an audience. Are there other ways that you could help users achieve these basic goals?

Always keep an eye on emerging technology. Use Alexa often to see what users are doing online and to monitor which new sites and services are growing in popularity. When you examine popular plugins, you can often trace their origins back to a role in making new technology more easily adaptable.

Rating Widget Plugin

Our popular Rating Widget plugin.

For example, the increased popularity of smartphones and tablets resulted in plugins to help format WordPress content especially for mobile. Facebook gave rise to the increased popularity of social sharing plugins. Twitter helped created a demand for link-shorteners. Demand for on-site review solutions led to the creation of our very own Rating-Widget plugin. Ask yourself what new service is currently emerging and what kinds of plugins you could create to make that service easier for users.

At the same time that you’re dreaming about piggybacking on the next Twitter, it’s crucial that you realistically evaluate potential market share. If you think that your plugin will only be valuable to 100 people, developing a commercial plugin is likely to be a waste of time. By staying in-touch with tech news, you’ll be better able to tell the next Periscope from the next Meerkat and make sure you’re backing the right horse.

Research Existing Products to See How They Can Be Improved

The WordPress.com ideas forum should be your online second home. Get comfy here and hang out to find what users want, what they value and what isn’t currently working for them. This type of info can spark an idea for a related plugin and help you better understand the goals of users. Keep your users in mind at all times and you’ll be ready to design a new plugin to help them meet their goals.

You’ll also find inspiration by analyzing what’s currently at the top of WordPress’ popular plugin directory. Read the plugin reviews to learn where users are having trouble with existing products. Is there a way that you can design a fix for these in your new plugin? Even if you don’t agree with users’ evaluation of these plugins, you’ll be in a better position to understand how they use the plugin, what they expect from it and where it falls short.

Rely on Your Own Experience As a WordPress User and Developer

As well as learning as much as possible about how others use WordPress, it’s important to pay attention to how you work with WordPress yourself. What aspects of functionality, no matter how small, do you find lacking?

If you find something that you personally would like to see improved or simplified, it’s likely that others feel the same way. Necessity is the mother of invention.

If you freelance or consult and notice you’re getting the same request twice or more, it’s time to look into how you can address it. Hints at what users want can come from anywhere. Try to train yourself to tune into these clues in your daily activities online, in your communications with friends and in your work.

There Are Many Great Plugin Ideas Just Waiting to Be Developed

Great ideas for new WordPress Plugins are everywhere, and once you get into the habit of looking for them, you’ll find they are there for the taking. You can discover ideas by analyzing trends, researching what users want, relying on your experience, and building on the success of existing plugins. Remember to focus on ideas that work for you in terms of your personal goals so you’ll be sure to complete them to the best of your ability.

What’s your favorite strategy or source for dreaming up new plugin ideas? Let us know in the comments section!

6 comments

  1. Great article. Worth reading. To find real world WordPress problems and develop plugins to fix them, freelance platforms (Upwork, Elance etc) are also a good source. In my personal experience, many clients share come there with WordPress problems and they ask to build custom solutions for them. Those ideas can also be used to build new plugins.

     
    1. Hi Muhammad,

      Thanks!

      I hadn’t thought of that, but it does sound like a good way to come up with ideas. Great suggestion!

      Cheers,

      Tom

       
  2. I’ve found my best plugin ideas have come from developing websites. Needing certain functionality and either deciding to do it myself instead of using an existing one, or not finding exactly what I’m looking for

    If you’re looking for a good place to analyse trending and popular plugins, ManageWP have a great section here: https://managewp.org/plugins/

     
  3. Great post with solid ideas. We’ve been considering building out some WP plugins to expand our current digital marketing agency into related areas, and this post does a great job of summing up where to start and how to approach it. Keep up the great work!

     

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