Creating a WordPress Plugin to Integrate an External Script

This tutorial will show you the making of the ReadRatio WordPress plugin.

If you need to integrate an external JavaScript file into WordPress via a plugin, keep reading.

The plugin will:

  • Add a script tag on all pages
  • Add a custom setting in the WordPress admin dashboard

For the background, ReadRatio is my latest project, a web analytics tool designed for bloggers.

If you're new to WordPress plugin development, you should start by reading the Writing a Plugin guide on the WordPress Codex.

The directory structure

Since this is a basic plugin, we will fit everything into a single PHP file. Here is how I structured my project:

├── Makefile
└── readratio
    ├── readme.txt
    └── readratio.php

1 directory, 4 files

Hooking the admin dashboard

Our first goal is to let the user input a custom setting in the admin dashboard.

Adding settings is easy, we just need to use add_action with the admin_init tag.

The WordPress Plugin Handbook explains it very well so take a look at Registering a Setting section for more details.

function readratio_settings_api_init() {
        'ReadRatio Settings',

        'ReadRatio Website ID',

    register_setting( 'general', 'readratio_website_id' );

add_action( 'admin_init', 'readratio_settings_api_init' );

function readratio_setting_section_callback_function() {
    <p>You can get your <strong>website id</strong> in the <strong>Tracking Code</strong> section on <a href="">ReadRatio</a>.</p>

function readratio_setting_callback_function() {
    $setting = esc_attr( get_option( 'readratio_website_id' ) );
    echo "<input type='text' name='readratio_website_id' value='$setting' />";

See the result:

Including the script

The second goal is to insert an HTML snippet into every page.

There is two way to achieve this:

  • wp_enqueue_script, if you need to include a single script, without any setting.
  • add_action with the wp_footer tag, it will insert the output of the callback function into the footer.

I will show you the add_action method since it let you access previously saved settings.

function readratio_scripts() {
    $setting = esc_attr( get_option( 'readratio_website_id' ) );
    if ($setting) {
<script type="text/javascript">
var _readratio = _readratio || [];
_readratio.push(['_setID', <?php echo json_encode( $setting ); ?>]);
(function() {
  var b = document.createElement('script'); b.type = 'text/javascript'; b.async = true;
  b.src = '';
  var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(b, s);
add_action( 'wp_footer', 'readratio_scripts' );

If you want to load a script locally, you will need to use plugins_url to help you find your script url.

Installing the widget

To install the widget, you have to upload the zipped directory in your admin dashboard.

Let's zip the plugin:

$ zip -r "" readratio

Source Code

The ReadRatio WordPress plugin that inspired this article is open source and hosted on GitHub.

Useful Links

Bonus: Start a WordPress sandbox with Docker

If you have Docker installed on your server, using the "Out-of-the-box" WordPress docker image by Tutum is a quick way to start a clean WordPress instance.

$ docker run -d -p 8001:80 tutum/wordpress

This will listen on port 8001.

Bonus: The Makefile

Plugins are usually distributed as a zip file, this basic Makefile will produce the gip file and use the git tag to name the file i.e.

V=$(shell git describe --tags)

        -rm readratio-$(V).zip
        zip -r "readratio-$(V).zip" readratio

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