Now that you have your idea turned into reality it’s time for the hard part.
Once your plugin has been created you will need to start the testing process. Usually, your coder will have it uploaded to a test site you need to go in and:
a) make sure that everything you asked for in the specifications is there; and
b) that it is all working as it should.
Sounds easier than it is!
When you are testing you need to try every single option that the plugin performs and make sure that you test it in different ways to try to emulate what the average user will do. Make a note of any problems that you have found along the way with details of what you were doing when the problem occurred so the coder can fix it. Remember, if at this stage you want to add things this will cost money unless you included it in your specifications. The other important thing is to test the plugin with different variables so try changing the themes around, the plugins that are installed (to see if there are any conflicts) and try different browsers.
When you receive the plugin file from your coder you should also test the plugin on different installs (fantastico, auto install, wordpress network set up) and on different servers to see if there are any differences. You should also test that the plugin installs as it should from the WordPress dashboard and via a manual install. Now, is also a good time to get some other users to test it as well as beta testers. If you are a member of a forum that may find the plugin helpful then ask for beta testers there or ask friends or you can even outsource the testing process to people that specialise in this.
No matter how hard you try and how hard you test you will usually find that you need support after you release the plugin. Different users, different WordPress versions, plugin combinations and servers all make it virtually impossible to test every scenario. There will probably be bugs after your release or at least questions you will need answers to so this is why it is really important that you can arrange ongoing support from the plugin creator. One way to ensure that you get this support is to withhold some moneys until an adequate period of time has elapsed to discover and fix all bugs. This should be clearly stated in your job description.
Packing Up The Plugin
Now that you are satisfied with the testing and all bugs have been ironed out it’s time to get the plugin ready for the big world.
First of all you need to consider where you will be releasing the plugin. Are you uploading it to the WordPress repository, downloading from your own site or is it a paid plugin (or free and paid combination). No matter what option you decide you need to make sure that you will be able to handle the downloads on your server (if on your own site) and the support requests.
A quick and easy way to deal with support is to have a support forum. This means that problems can be categorized easily in the one area and it makes it easy for users to search out solutions for their own problem. A good of saving yourself some time is to add your coder as a moderator of the support forum and arrange for the forum software to notify him when posts are made relating to bugs. This means that you won’t have to rely on email/skype so much to keep the coder up to date with issues and you can spend more time following up with the coder rather than reporting problems. If you do not wish to have a support area then consider a Help Desk where each question and solution can become part of the knowledgebase and easily available for users to search out solutions. If that all seems too hard you can also tweet support by using Twitter. Personally, I don’t like twitter for support because I can’t keep my answers to 140 characters!
Whatever you decide make sure you have this system in place before you release the plugin.
First of all you will need to pack up the plugin. Inside the zip file for your plugin you should have the plugin, a “read me” file and details of any licensing. Check that the plugin has the correct version number on it and links to your site, your forum or support area for the plugin. You should make the installation of the plugin as easy as possible for your users. If the plugin involves a lot of configuration then consider setting up screenshots, a video or an online tutorial demonstrating these steps. The more time you spend making it as easy as possible to use your plugin the less time you will spend on support.
You will now need to upload the plugin to your site. If you are charging for the plugin you will obviously need to protect the download area for the plugin once payment has been made (otherwise you will find your plugin on all the free torrent sites!). If you are not charging for your plugin then you will want to keep track of the statistics for the downloads of your plugin. If you are using WordPress for the download then you can install a plugin like Download Manager or Download Monitor to do this for you. If you are not charging you may also want to add a donation button to your site. You can create a simple donation button at Pay Pal.
If you are uploading the plugin to the WordPress repository (or your coder is doing that) make sure you provide a page where people can visit your site for more information, view screenshots and videos and maybe even download a more detailed pdf.
Finally, once your plugin is accepted in the WordPress repository make sure you add it to sites like WebLog Tools and tweet about it on twitter. Ask your users to add their rating at WordPress as well.
If you are releasing a paid plugin then consider adding a special discount for the launch period and asking bloggers to write a review of your plugin. You will find that you can hire bloggers to do this on Review Me if you do not know any bloggers in your niche.