Those who know me know that I’m a strong advocate for not putting all of your dependance on plugins that typically don’t sustain themselves long enough to be considered stable, let alone build on.
But I get it, leveraging existing plugins is one of the reasons the plugin repo exists. And it exists for users who do not know how to code, or in other words, non-developers. It exists for “developers” who don’t like spending a lot of time trying to build their own. But I tell you, as much fooling around as you do with a plugin, you could have spent the time learning how to build it yourself.
There’s tremendous value in building plugins from scratch. I’m not talking about full-fledged event calendar plugins or slideshow plugins, there’s a ton of great jQuery scripts for these things. I’m referring more to building plugins that are entirely engineered from scratch. Plugins that you know how they work inside and out because you hand-rolled every piece of it. You’re able to better support it because you’re intimately involved with it.
This trick to learning how to build from scratch? Copy and replicate. I’m serious, if you see something awesome on another site, build it! For example, I recently saw this pretty awesome lightbox style gallery from the NY Times, so I’m building it. Now granted I would not have been able to do this years ago, but I think this is how we grow as developers. Use existing plugins as a stepping stone, figure out how they work, and build your own. Then, rinse and repeat.
Find something that you don’t think you can do, and do it. I think you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.