With more than 40,000 free plugins available in the repository alone, creating a plugin that will stand out from the crowd can seem like an impossible feat. There is a lot of valuable content out there that provides insight on how to create a successful WordPress plugin, from attending WordCamps and Meetups and contributing to WordPress core, to creating brand awareness and so on.
While these are useful strategies, Elliot Condon, creator of the wildly popular Advanced Custom Fields plugin (winner of the first Torque Plugin Madness Tournament), proves that creating a successful plugin isn’t always about brand recognition and networking, but rather in the plugin’s ability to address a real problem better than any other product. We recently talked to Condon about his journey and creating his super-popular custom fields plugin.
Condon doesn’t attend WordCamps or Meetups, and he doesn’t actively network with folks in the WordPress community. Still ACF has become one of the most well-known, respected, and useful plugins in the repository. “This is because of the timing, reliability, and overall usefulness of the plugin,” Condon told Torque.
Condon said he is a believer in the sometimes controversial “build it and they will come” approach.
He said he created ACF to address a real problem he was facing. At the time, Condon was developing professional sites for clients and was frustrated by the lack of custom fields available in WordPress. Condon would deliver a site to the client but the interface in which the client would interact with the website was confusing and just didn’t look nice.
“I would hand over a beautifully designed site to the client but the interface in which the client would interact with the website just didn’t make sense to add their content,” Condon said.
Condon pointed out that “the plugins available at the time weren’t able to achieve the right goal,” which is what prompted him to create ACF. After adding it to the repository, Condon was surprised by how many people began to download it. There was apparently a need for an easy way to create complex fields that seem native to WordPress. It was a challenge other users were facing as well.
ACF has since become one of the most beloved WordPress plugins, with more than 1 million downloads and a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. For more than two years now, Condon has worked full-time on the ACF plugin to make it even more powerful.