WordPress has a never-ending list of capabilities to help you expand and improve your website — one of which is WordPress hooks. What are WordPress hooks and how can they help you reach your website goals?

Hooks allow you to change or modify your site’s functionality without actually needing to edit the core code of WordPress itself. 👨‍💻

What are WordPress hooks? Understanding WordPress hooks

WordPress hooks are like triggers that allow you to modify or add functionality to a WordPress website without modifying the core code. They allow you to execute your own code at specific points in the WordPress execution process. Hooks let you edit default settings, create new functions, and automatically run them. You can use them on themes and plugins, and they can either be action or filter hooks.

Think of them like an invitation to a party – you can customize your experience by accepting the invitation and bringing your own unique contribution to the party.

There are two main types of hooks:

  • action hooks
  • filter hooks

🎬 Action hooks allow you to change how your website works by modifying some of WordPress’ native functions. You can trigger them at different stages of execution of WordPress’ native core code.

The most common example of an action hook is adding a custom piece of JavaScript code to WordPress’ queue of scripts. You can do this using a hook like so:

function enqueue_custom_script() {
    wp_enqueue_script('your-unique-handle', 'some_script.js');
add_action('wp_enqueue_scripts', 'enqueue_custom_script');

⚙️ Filter hooks are a bit different from action hooks. Instead of jumping in and taking action in between function calls, they can modify the default behavior of a given function – as in, they filter the data that the function works on.

A good example of a filter hook would be limiting the post excerpt to have only 50 characters:

function custom_excerpt_length($length) { 
    return 50; 
add_filter('excerpt_length', 'custom_excerpt_length');

Using WordPress hooks

Now that we have the answer to “what are WordPress hooks?” let’s look at how to create and use them. It’s essential to know that hooks require a little knowledge of HTML and PHP. While adding hooks themselves isn’t too difficult, knowing what you actually want to achieve with them does require some experience in this area.

Adding action hooks and filter hooks works the same way. But first:

The structure of a new WordPress hook

Both action hooks and filter hooks have kind of the same structure. There are two elements of them:

  • (a) The function definition that sets what the hook should do
  • (b) The function call that triggers the hook to take action

In our examples above, (a) are our custom_excerpt_length() and enqueue_custom_script() function definitions. The job of (b) is done by those add_action() and add_filter() function calls.

Adding hooks via your theme’s functions.php file

Once you have the code of your new hook ready, the most traditional way is to add it to your theme’s functions.php file. Anything you add to that file will be executed each time WordPress loads, which means anytime anyone visits your site.

Just copy and paste your hook at the end of the file.

Warning! Your custom hook will be removed if you ever update your theme to the latest version. To prevent that, add your hook in an alternative way:

Adding hooks via a custom snippet

A better way to add a new hook is to use a plugin called Code Snippets. It allows you to add custom code to your WordPress site and not have it vanished when you update any theme or plugin.

With the plugin installed, go to Snippets Add New.

Pick the type of the snippet to be PHP and copy and paste your snippet code into the main field.

Adding hooks via a custom snippet.

Set the snippet to run “everywhere” and save the changes and activate it. Your hook is now in operation!

Note; It’s also possible to disable an action or filter hook by using remove_action() or remove_filter(). As a result, you can modify a plugin or theme with countless unnecessary hooks! Remember, these hooks can also affect your website’s performance.

Conclusion 🧐

Hooks let you modify and customize the platform, allowing it to fit your needs perfectly. They make WordPress stand out from other CMS platforms, and with some knowledge of HTML and PHP, you can use hooks to customize your website.

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