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How To Create Custom Strapi Plugins

January 31, 2024 by Daria Andrieieva
  • User Experience
strapi plugins

Strapi, a headless CMS (Content Management System), is renowned for its flexibility and extensibility. One key feature that makes Strapi such a powerful tool for developers is its ability to create custom plugins. These plugins allow you to extend Strapi's functionality to suit your project requirements. 
 

Join Kapsys as we explore the process of developing your own Strapi plugin, from conception to implementation, and provide valuable insights to start your journey of creating custom Strapi plugins.

 

What is Strapi 

Strapi is an open-source, headless CMS that allows developers to build highly customizable and flexible APIs for content delivery. It is designed to simplify creating, managing, and delivering digital content, making it a popular choice for building websites, web applications, and mobile applications.
 

Here are the five most important aspects of Strapi:

Customizable content types

Strapi's ability to define and create custom content types with tailored fields is one of its most crucial features. It allows users to structure and manage their content precisely as needed, making it adaptable to various projects.

RESTful and GraphQL APIs

Strapi's automatic generation of APIs simplifies data retrieval and manipulation for developers. The support for RESTful and GraphQL APIs ensures flexibility in accessing and presenting data to users.

User authentication and permissions

Built-in user authentication and role-based access control are vital for securing content and resources within a Strapi application. This feature ensures that only authorized users can access and modify content.

Extensible with plugins

Strapi plugins are essential for extending its functionality. Developers can easily add custom features or integrate third-party services, reducing development time and effort.

Database agnostics

Strapi's support for various databases allows developers to choose the system that best suits their project's requirements and constraints. This flexibility is crucial for scalability and performance optimization.
 

Read: A Quick Guide To Strapi Headless CMS

what is strapi

Understanding Strapi Plugins

Strapi plugins are extensions that enhance the core functionality of Strapi. They can add new content types, extend existing ones, or introduce new features to your Strapi application. These plugins are built using JavaScript, making them versatile and accessible to developers of all skill levels.

Why create custom Strapi plugins?

There are several reasons why you might want to develop custom Strapi plugins:

  • Tailored Functionality: Custom plugins allow you to tailor Strapi to your project's specific requirements, ensuring that your CMS serves your unique needs.
     

  • Reuse and Share: Once created, custom plugins can be reused across multiple projects or even shared with the Strapi community, contributing to the open-source ecosystem.
     

  • Flexibility: Custom Strapi plugins provide the flexibility to integrate third-party services, APIs, or custom logic seamlessly.
     

  • Maintainability: Keeping custom features in separate plugins can make your codebase more organized and maintainable.

Now that we understand why custom Strapi plugins are valuable let's walk through the process of creating one.
 

Read: Strapi Plugins: Community And Content Moderation

Prerequisites

Creating custom Strapi plugins can be a powerful way to extend Strapi's functionality for your specific project needs. However, having particular prerequisites is essential before you start developing custom plugins. 

Here are the crucial requirements for creating custom Strapi plugins: 

  • Basic Knowledge of JavaScript and Node.js: A fundamental understanding of JavaScript and Node.js is essential, as Strapi plugins are developed using these technologies.
     

  • Strapi Project: You need a Strapi project as the development environment. You can either create a new Strapi project or use an existing one.
     

  • Strapi CLI Installed: Install the Strapi CLI globally on your machine using npm:
     

npm install -g strapi@latest

Having these prerequisites in place will enable you to start developing custom Strapi plugins effectively.

Here's How You Create Custom Strapi Plugins

Developing custom Strapi plugins involves several steps, from planning and development to testing and deployment. Let's break down each step in detail.

Step 1: Planning your plugin

Planning is the core step of creating your Strapi plugins. Here's what you need to do during the first step: 

Define the purpose

Start by defining the purpose of your plugin. What specific functionality or feature do you want to add or modify within Strapi? Understanding your plugin's purpose is crucial to its successful development.

Set clear objectives

Identify the objectives your Strapi plugins need to achieve. Create a list of features and functionalities your plugin will offer, allowing you to maintain a clear focus throughout development.

Design the Plugin

Create a rough design or architecture for your Strapi plugins. If necessary, this includes deciding on the database structure, API endpoints, and user interfaces. Consider how your plugin will integrate with Strapi's existing system.
 

Read: How To Customize Strapi CMS: Adding Plugins And Modifying Configurations

Step 2: Setting up your development environment

Before diving into the coding process, you must set up your development environment. Ensure you have the following tools and resources ready:

Node.js and npm

Strapi plugins are developed using Node.js, so make sure you have it installed on your machine along with npm (Node Package Manager).

Strapi project

Create a new Strapi project or use an existing one as a basis for your plugin development. You can do this by running:
 

npx create-strapi-app my-project --quickstart

Initialize your plugin

Initialize your plugin within the Strapi project using the following command:
 

strapi generate:plugin my-plugin


Replace 'my-plugin' with your desired plugin name.


Read: Strapi API Development: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 3: Develop your plugin

With your environment set up, you can start developing your Strapi plugins.

Define models

If your Strapi plugins require a database structure, define the necessary models using Strapi's built-in model system. You can do this by navigating to your plugin's directory and running:
 

strapi generate:model myModel

Create controllers and services

Implement the business logic of your Strapi plugins by creating controllers and services. Controllers handle HTTP requests, while services contain the core functionality of your plugin. These can be generated using:
 

strapi generate:controller myController
strapi generate:service myService

Configure routes

Define the routes for your plugin to expose its functionalities. Configure these routes in your plugin's config/routes.json file.

User interfaces

If your Strapi plugins require custom user interfaces, you can create them using React or any other frontend framework you choose. Strapi's plugin system allows you to add frontend assets easily.

strapi plugin

Step 4: Testing your plugin

Before deploying your custom Strapi plugins, thorough testing is essential to ensure they function correctly and do not introduce any issues to your Strapi application.

Unit testing

Write unit tests to validate the functionality of your plugin's controllers and services. You can use testing frameworks like Jest to automate this process.

Integration testing

Perform integration testing to ensure that your plugin works seamlessly with the rest of your Strapi application.

User acceptance testing

Engage with users or stakeholders to conduct user acceptance testing to ensure your Strapi plugins meet their requirements and expectations.


Read: Why Strapi is the Leading Choice for Headless CMS in 2024

Step 5: Document your plugin

Documentation is crucial for users who want to install and use your Strapi plugins. Create clear and comprehensive documentation that explains:

  • How to install your plugin.

  • The configuration options are available.

  • How to use the plugin's features.

  • Any potential troubleshooting steps.

Step 6: Packaging and deployment

Once your Strapi plugins are fully developed and tested, it's time to package and deploy it.

Packaging your plugin

Package your plugin into a distributable package by running:
 

strapi package my-plugin

Deployment

To share your plugin with the Strapi community or use it in other projects, you can publish it to npm or share the package through other means.

Step 7: Maintaining your plugin

After deploying your Strapi plugins, it's essential to keep them up to date and ensure they remain compatible with newer versions of Strapi. 

Regularly monitor for bug reports and issues from users and address them promptly.
 

Read: A Step-by-Step Guide for Strapi Applications

Additional Best Practises

To ensure your plugins are efficient, maintainable, and compatible with Strapi updates, it's essential to follow best practices. Here are some less-talked-about best practices for creating custom Strapi plugins:

Code comments and documentation

While documentation is essential, remember to include meaningful code comments within your plugin's codebase. Comments help future developers understand complex logic, algorithms, or unusual implementation details. Clear, concise comments can significantly improve code maintainability.

Consistent error messages

Maintain consistency in the error messages returned by your Strapi plugins. This practice benefits both developers using your plugin and end-users who may encounter errors. Standardized error messages make troubleshooting and debugging more straightforward and less error-prone.

User-focused logging

While error logging is crucial, consider implementing user-focused logging. Track user interactions and actions within your Strapi plugins to gain insights into users' engagement with its features. This data can inform future improvements and feature enhancements, leading to a better user experience.

Performance optimization for large datasets

Often overlooked, optimizing your Strapi plugins performance for large datasets can be vital. Consider implementing paginationlazy loading, or caching mechanisms to ensure your plugin remains efficient and responsive, even when dealing with extensive data.

Graceful degradation

Plan for graceful degradation when your Strapi plugins rely on external resources or APIs that may become temporarily unavailable. Implement fallback mechanisms or alternative workflows to ensure your plugin continues functioning, even when specific dependencies encounter issues.

develop your own plugin

Conclusion

Creating custom Strapi plugins empowers developers to extend Strapi's capabilities to meet specific project requirements. With careful planning, development, testing, and documentation, you can create powerful and versatile plugins that enhance the functionality of Strapi and contribute to the open-source community.
 

Whether you're building custom content types, integrating third-party services, or adding unique features, the ability to develop custom Strapi plugins is a valuable skill that opens up endless possibilities for your Strapi projects. 
 

So, start your plugin development journey today, and watch your Strapi-powered applications evolve to meet your exact needs.
 

Keep up with Kapsys to learn more about productive coding!