Ahmad Awais



Coding a Basic Shortcodes WordPress Plugin Boilerplate

Ahmad AwaisAhmad Awais
This article follows a deprecated branch of AA Basic Shortcodes Boilerplate but most of the concepts are fine. I recommend that after reading this article you take a look at the latest update of AA Basic Shortcodes Boilerplate

Shortcode API in WordPress is really cool. I already wrote about coding your very first shortcode in WordPress. Today’s discussion is about using your WordPress knowledge in the best possible way. Today I’ll be creating the same three shortcodes we created in the earlier article, but this time we will be coding them through a WordPress plugin.

Where to Code WordPress Shortcodes?#

Enough talk! There are two options when it comes to coding shortcodes in WordPress

 Shortcodes in functions.php#

In a WordPress install, there is a folder wp-content which contains both the plugins & themes folders. If you browse the path wp-content/themes/YourActivatedThemeDirectory/ you can always find a functions.php file here. Yes! in the root of your activated theme’s folder. One can easily put the code for shortcodes in this functions.php file to create a shortcode. I wrote about this method in coding your very first shortcode in WordPres.


The problem with this method is that whenever you change your theme you end up loosing all the shortcodes. Solution to which is hunting down all the shortcodes in old theme’s functions.php file and then re-adding them to the new theme’s functions.php file. Even a beginner can sense something fishy here.

Shortcodes in a Custom Plugin#

When you create shortcodes in the form of a WordPress plugin, you never ever have to worry about them. Even when you change your theme, the plugin keeps on working, flawlessly. This is the right way of doing it.

So, if you are a freelancer/WordPress developer, then the very next time your client ask you to add some shortcodes in his project, do it through a plugin. I am starting a very basic plugin for shortcodes which I will keep updating to create a full-fledged boilerplate for shortcode plugins in WordPress. But for now, it only allows you to understand the basics of creating a plugin and then using standard, organized and modular approach to executing your needs.



Themes are used for presentation while plugins are responsible for the functionality relevant features in WordPress projects. Whenever you are building something in WordPress, think it through. Decide what is a presentation and what is functionality. Then decide what should and shouldn’t be there in theme’s functions.php file.

Coding a Basic Shortcodes Plugin Boilerplate#

We are going to code a basic shortcodes plugin which will have a base plugin file and shortcodes’ module files in it. Before I start, let me tell you that the base file in a WordPress plugin acts similar to functions.php in your theme. This base file can have a custom name. It can execute functions in WordPress just like the functions.php file of a theme. So, the code of shortcodes is not going to be changed. It will be similar to what I wrote about in code your first shortcode in WordPress tutorial, this tutorial is more about where to add this code and how to add it.

Fork at Github

Plugin Files/Folders Hierarchy#



The structure of our basic plugin is as follows



There are empty index files, license files and some of the GitHub/Git relevant files which you can ignore.

Registering the Plugin#

First of all, for WordPress to recognize your plugin, you need to populate the header of your base plugin file with few lines of a PHP comment. Let’s see what are these lines

Requiring the Shortcode Modules#

Then I added few lines of code to ensure no one calls this PHP file directly. Then comes the code where I required the shortcode modules in the shortcode folder.

Shortcode Modules#

I have added three basic shortcode modules.

In each of these shortcode modules, we have shortcode functions and their registering actions. Pretty simple, but modular.


Adsense Ad Shortcode#


Members Only Shortcode#


I hope you people get the idea of how to organize and code a standard shortcode plugin in WordPress. In future, I’ll try to improve this boilerplate to OOP code for industrial level shortcodes.

It Your Turn?#

Did you enjoy the maintainable standard WordPress plugin code with documentation? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Pull requests and issues are most welcomed at the GitHub’s repository.

Fork at Github

I help businesses understand developers 📟 Currently recording Node.js CLI Automation Course 👨‍🏫 Edutainer at VSCode.pro 🎩 An award-winning open-source engineer and developer advocate 🦊 Google Developers Expert for web 🌳 Node.js foundation Community Committee member ✌️ Author of various open-source dev-tools and software libraries used by millions of developers worldwide ⓦ WordPress Core Developer 📣 TEDx Speaker 🙌 Leading developers and publishing technical content for over a decade 😂 Self-confessed tech comedian cracking silly jokes in the JavaScript web and cloud communities 💜 Loves his wife (Maedah) ❯ Learn more about Awais ↣

Say 👋 on Twitter @MrAhmadAwais | Subscribe to the Developers Takeaway!


Developers Takeaway

Takeaway my professional opinion on open-source, developer relations, growing your business with family, and everything in between! Delivered to your inbox a couple of times every year. I'm even funny at times. I hate spam — pinky-promise!

👨‍💻👩‍💻 115,834 Developers Already Subscribed