From Idea to Reality: How to Make a Chrome Extension
13 min.

Looking for how to make a Chrome extension? No wonder; according to Statista, Chrome takes up around 65% of the desktop web browser niche as of February 2024.

Chrome extension

This ProCoders guide is your comprehensive roadmap, designed to navigate you through the intricacies of Chrome extensions, from conceptualization to deployment and beyond. Whether you’re a budding developer eager to expand your skillset or an experienced programmer looking to delve into new territories, this article promises a rich blend of insights and practical steps to bring your vision to life.

Key Takeaways:

After reading this article, you will:

  • Gain a deep understanding of Chrome extensions and their capabilities
  • Learn the step-by-step process of how to make a Google Chrome extension from scratch
  • Discover best practices for designing, testing, and publishing your extension
  • Explore advanced concepts like content scripts and background workers
  • Leverage ProCoders’ expertise to create a standout Chrome extension

Decoding the Chrome Extension Universe

From its definition to its anatomy, let us help you enter the Chrome extension niche and see how you can use it for your business.

What Exactly is a Chrome Extension?

A Chrome extension is a lightweight application built using web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) that can modify and enhance the functionality of the Google Chrome browser. 

These extensions use Chrome’s extensive APIs to interact with web pages and the browser itself, allowing for a highly customizable browsing experience.

Exploring Browser Augmentation

Browser augmentation through Chrome extensions opens up a spectrum of enhancements that can:

  • simplify tasks
  • provide valuable information at a glance
  • integrate seamlessly with other services and applications 

From productivity boosters and security enhancers to aesthetic modifications, extensions empower users to customize their web browsers to reflect their needs and preferences precisely.

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“Unlike web applications, Chrome Extensions are generally simple and intuitive for users. Therefore, if you have a complex product, it makes sense to complement it with a Chrome Extension that can assume some of the functionalities of this complex web application, thereby easing users into understanding the whole product. 

By focusing on streamlined functionality and user-friendly interfaces, Chrome Extensions can act as a gateway, offering users a taste of what the main application offers without overwhelming them. This strategic division of functionality not only enhances user engagement but also simplifies the onboarding process, making it more likely for users to explore the full capabilities of your main application.”

Oleksii Guzenkov

Senior Vue.js Developer at ProCoders

Common Use Cases and Real-World Examples

  • Productivity Tools: Extensions like Todoist and Evernote Web Clipper help users manage their tasks and notes directly from the browser, streamlining their workflow.
  • Ad Blockers and Privacy Tools: AdBlock, uBlock Origin, and Privacy Badger protect users from intrusive ads and trackers, offering a safer and cleaner browsing experience.
  • Developer Utilities: Tools like React Developer Tools and JSON Viewer assist developers in debugging and analyzing web applications with ease.
  • Educational Enhancements: Extensions such as Grammarly and Google Translate offer on-the-fly grammar checking and language translation, enhancing learning and communication.
  • AI Enhancements: AI-powered extensions like Grammarly and OmniMind automate and personalize tasks, from improving writing to transcribing voice. They streamline interactions online, making digital experiences more efficient.
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“Moreover, a Chrome Extension is always at the user’s fingertips, making it a constant presence that can significantly boost user engagement with your main project’s business processes. This accessibility ensures that users can interact with your application effortlessly, at any moment, directly from their browser. 

By providing such immediate access, you not only make it convenient for users to utilize your services but also subtly integrate your project into their daily online activities. This constant accessibility encourages a deeper and more frequent interaction, which can lead to a higher level of involvement in the business processes of your main project, fostering a stronger connection between the user and your product.”

Oleksii Guzenkov

Senior Vue.js Developer at ProCoders

The Anatomy of a Chrome Extension

A typical Chrome extension consists of several key components, including:

  • Manifest File: A JSON file (manifest.json) that defines the basic settings of the extension, such as its version, name, permissions, and the files it includes.
  • Background Scripts: Used to manage the extension’s lifecycle events and maintain state across different parts of the extension.
  • Content Scripts: JavaScript files that run in the context of web pages, allowing the extension to read or modify webpage content.
  • Popup HTML: The HTML document that defines the extension’s user interface appears when a user clicks on its icon in the browser toolbar.
  • Options Page: An optional HTML page allowing users to customize the extension’s settings according to their preferences.

So, now that we’re more familiar with Chrome extensions, it’s time to learn how to build one. We asked our developers to be precise yet easy to understand, but you’re the one to judge.

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How to Create a Chrome Extension: A Comprehensive Guide by ProCoders

Step 1: Conceptualize Your Extension

The first step is all about laying the groundwork for your extension. 

Start with pinpointing the exact issue your extension will solve. Whether it’s streamlining online research, blocking unwanted content, or integrating with a third-party service, having a precise problem statement will guide your development process.

With a problem defined, outline the core functionalities your extension will offer. Consider which features are essential for solving the issue and which could be added as bonuses. This step helps prioritize development tasks.

Finally, the user interface (UI). It plays a pivotal role in the success of your extension. Sketch out the UI design and think through the user experience (UX) flow. Even if you’re not a design expert, rough sketches can help visualize how users will interact with your extension, laying the foundation for a user-friendly product.

Step 2: Take Care of the Documentation

Familiarize yourself with the technical aspects of how to build a Chrome extension. Google provides comprehensive resources that cover everything from beginner tutorials to advanced features.

Google’s Chrome Developers site is a treasure trove of information, including official documentation, tutorials, and best practices. Starting here can give you a solid understanding of the basics and inspire ideas for what your extension could achieve.

Next is grasping the architecture of Chrome extensions, including background scripts, content scripts, and the various components (like popups and options pages), which is vital. Knowing how these elements work together will influence how you design and develop Chrome extension.

Another important point in this step – the manifest file (manifest.json). It acts as the backbone of your extension, containing metadata and settings that define how your extension behaves. Understanding the structure and options available in the manifest file is crucial for configuring your extension correctly.

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Step 3: Set Up Your Development Environment

This setup will streamline your workflow and ensure that you have the necessary tools and permissions to develop, test, and eventually publish your Chrome extension.

Here’s how we at ProCoders do it:

  • Creating a Google Developer Account: To publish your extension on the Chrome Web Store, you’ll need a Google Developer Account. Navigate to the Chrome Web Store Developer Dashboard and sign up for an account. Note that there might be a one-time registration fee, which helps to ensure the quality and security of extensions published on the platform.
  • Installing Essential Tools and Dependencies: The core tools you’ll need are a code editor (such as Visual Studio Code, Atom, or Sublime Text) and a good understanding of web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript). Depending on the complexity of your extension, you may also require Node.js and npm for managing packages and dependencies, especially if you’re incorporating external libraries or frameworks.
  • Configuring Your Workspace for Extension Development: Ensure your workspace is set up to facilitate easy development and testing. This includes configuring your code editor with relevant extensions for linting and syntax highlighting, setting up version control (such as Git), and organizing your file structure for easy access and navigation.

Step 4: Establish the Project Structure

Taking the time to structure your extension project correctly from the start can save countless hours of troubleshooting and refactoring down the line.

Your project directory should clearly separate the different parts of your extension. A typical structure might include:

  • folders for background scripts
  • content scripts
  • popup pages
  • options pages
  • images
  • stylesheets

Such organization makes it easier to locate and manage your project’s components.

Follow the principle of separation of concerns by keeping your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files separate whenever possible. This approach not only improves maintainability but also aligns with best practices in web development, making your code more readable and manageable.

As you structure your project, consider scalability: 

  • use modular JavaScript
  • employ CSS methodologies like BEM (Block, Element, Modifier) for styling
  • consider using a front-end framework or library if your extension’s UI is complex
  • document your code and include a README file with setup instructions and details about the extension
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Step 5: Craft the Manifest File

The manifest file, manifest.json, is the heart of your Chrome extension. It provides Chrome with information about your extension, such as:

  • its name
  • description
  • version
  • permissions it requires

Crafting this file carefully is essential to ensure your extension functions as intended.

Start by specifying basic metadata like name, description, version, and manifest_version (currently, manifest_version: 3 is the latest). This information helps users understand the purpose of your extension and its capabilities.

Permissions are also crucial for your extension’s functionality. They define what your extension can and cannot do, such as accessing tabs, reading or modifying user data, and more. Be precise with the permissions to avoid requesting unnecessary access, which might deter users from installing your extension. Additionally, if your extension interacts with web pages, specify content scripts in the manifest, including matches (to define which URLs the scripts should run on) and js (to list the script files).

Beyond the basics, the manifest can include definitions for background scripts, options pages, popup UIs, and more. 

For instance, if your extension uses a background script to listen for specific browser events or maintain state, declare it here. Use the Chrome Extensions documentation to explore all the manifest properties available for your extension’s requirements.

Step 6: Load and Test Your Unpacked Extension

Testing your extension early and often is vital to catch bugs and refine its functionality. Chrome makes it easy to load and test extensions in development.

  1. Open the Chrome Extensions page by navigating to chrome://extensions/ in your browser. Toggle the “Developer mode” switch on at the top right of this page. Developer mode unlocks additional functionality for extension developers, including the ability to load unpacked extensions.
  2. With Developer mode enabled, click the “Load unpacked” button and select the directory of your extension. This action will install your extension in Chrome, allowing you to test it in a real-world scenario. After loading, you’ll see your extension, including its ID, version, and a few options for managing it such as “Details” and “Remove.”
  3. As you test your extension, utilize Chrome’s Developer Tools for debugging. Right-click your extension’s icon in the toolbar and select “Inspect popup” (if your extension has a popup UI) to debug the popup’s HTML and JavaScript. 
  4. For background scripts, go to chrome://extensions/, find your extension, and click “background page” (if available). This opens the Developer Tools for the background script, allowing you to debug it in real time. 
  5. Use console.log statements and breakpoints to understand your extension’s behavior and identify issues.

Step 7: Design the User Interface (Popup or Options Page)

The user interface (UI) of your Chrome extension plays a critical role in user engagement and satisfaction. Whether it’s a popup that appears when users click your extension icon or an options page for customizable settings, your UI should be intuitive, functional, and visually appealing.

Focus on creating a user interface that is easy to navigate and understand. Use clear labels, consistent iconography, and a color scheme that aligns with your extension’s brand. The goal is to make the user’s interaction as straightforward and pleasant as possible.

Consider using frontend frameworks like React, Vue.js, or Angular to streamline your UI engineering. These libraries offer reusable components, which can significantly speed up development and ensure a consistent look and feel. 

Additionally, libraries such as Bootstrap or Material-UI provide ready-to-use components that are responsive and customizable.

Your UI should look great and function well on a variety of screen sizes and resolutions. Responsive design practices ensure that your extension’s UI adapts to different window sizes and orientations. 

Furthermore, prioritize accessibility by using semantic HTML, proper ARIA attributes, and ensuring keyboard navigability. This makes your extension usable by as wide an audience as possible, including those with disabilities.

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“A Chrome Extension can be positioned not only in a popup but also directly on any browser page within a tab, making it constantly visible to users. This capability greatly facilitates access and visibility for users, ensuring that the extension remains within easy reach at all times. 

By embedding the extension directly on web pages, developers can create a more integrated and immersive user experience, encouraging users to interact with the extension more frequently. This persistent visibility guarantees greater user engagement, as the extension becomes a natural part of the user’s daily online interactions, seamlessly blending with the web environment they are accustomed to. 

Such strategic placement underscores the extension’s utility and ensures that it remains a focal point of the user’s online activity, driving higher usage and engagement rates.”

Oleksii Guzenkov

Senior Vue.js Developer at ProCoders

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Step 8: Implement Background Scripts (Service Workers)

Background scripts, often implemented as service workers in modern Chrome extensions (Manifest V3), run in the background, independent of any specific webpage. They’re essential for extensions that need to perform actions regardless of whether their popups or options pages are open.

Background scripts can: 

  • listen for browser events
  • manage timers
  • perform computation
  • handle communication between different parts of your extension

For example, they can listen for clicks on the extension’s icon, manage push notifications, or synchronize data with a remote server.

Service workers are designed to be short-lived and go dormant when not in use to conserve resources. For long-running tasks or persistent state, use modern APIs like the chrome.alarms API for scheduling and the API for storage. These are more efficient and won’t keep your service worker running unnecessarily.

Your extension may also need to exchange information between its UI components (like popups) and background scripts. For this communication, use message-passing mechanisms provided by Chrome APIs (chrome.runtime.sendMessage and chrome.runtime.onMessage). 

This allows, for example, a popup to request data from a background script, which could be fetched from an online source and then displayed in the popup.

Step 9: Enhance with Content Scripts

Content scripts play a vital role in Chrome extensions, allowing direct interaction with web pages viewed by users. They run in the context of specific pages and can read or modify the DOM, listen for page events, or even inject additional styles or scripts.

In your manifest.json file, define which pages your content scripts will run on, using the matches property to specify URL patterns. Content scripts can be injected automatically or programmatically using the Chrome scripting.executeScript API, providing flexibility in how and when your extension interacts with content.

Content scripts can access and manipulate the DOM of web pages, enabling your extension to modify page layouts, highlight text, or insert new elements. This capability allows you to build features like custom note-taking tools, ad blockers, or page theme customizations.

By interacting directly with page content, scripts extend the core functionalities of the browser to offer users a personalized and enhanced browsing experience. For example, they can extract data from web pages, such as product details on an e-commerce site, and use this information to provide price comparisons or reviews.

Step 10: Package Your Extension for Distribution

Once your extension is ready and thoroughly tested, the next step is to package it for distribution on the Chrome Web Store.

Your extension should be bundled into a .zip file containing all the necessary files, including:

  • the manifest file
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • any other assets (like images or icons) 

Tools like Webpack can help automate this process, ensuring that your extension is optimized for performance.

Before submitting your extension, review the Chrome Web Store Developer Program Policies to ensure compliance. Pay special attention to privacy, security, and user data handling guidelines to avoid common pitfalls that could result in rejection during the review process.

Finally, create detailed release notes outlining features, bug fixes, or any changes in the new version of your extension. Additionally, prepare high-quality screenshots, promotional images, and a compelling extension description to enhance your listing on the Chrome Web Store, attracting potential users.

Step 11: Launch and Promote Your Extension

The final step is to launch your extension on the Chrome Web Store and implement strategies to promote it and engage users.

  • Submitting Your Extension to the Chrome Web Store: Navigate to the Chrome Web Store Developer Dashboard and follow the process to submit your extension for review. You’ll need to:
    • provide details about your extension
    • upload the package
    • pay a registration fee if you haven’t done so already
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“Publishing a Chrome Extension on the marketplace is a multi-stage and meticulous process that can be challenging for a novice to navigate. This is because it requires a detailed ‘justification’ for every ‘permission’ listed in the manifest, preparation of visual and video materials, and filling out numerous other pieces of information. 

Each step is crucial to ensure your extension complies with the Chrome Web Store policies and meets the high standards for user security and experience. Given the complexity and importance of these steps, it’s advisable to entrust this task to highly skilled professionals, such as those at ProCoders. 

Our expertise can streamline the publication process, ensuring that your Chrome Extension not only gets approved but also stands out in the crowded marketplace, providing users with a seamless and engaging experience.”

Oleksii Guzenkov

Senior Vue.js Developer at ProCoders

  • Implementing Update and Versioning Strategies: Regularly update your extension to fix bugs, introduce new features, and ensure compatibility with the latest web standards and Chrome updates. Use semantic versioning to manage new releases and communicate changes to users effectively.
  • Marketing and User Acquisition Tactics: 
    • Use social media, blogs, and online communities to spread the word about your extension. 
    • Consider reaching out to influencers or tech bloggers in your extension’s niche for reviews or features. 
    • Engage with your users through support channels and actively seek feedback to improve your extension over time.
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Document Your Journey for Future Reference

Creating a Chrome extension is not just about coding and design; it’s also about documenting the journey. Proper documentation can save you (and others who might work on the project) considerable time and effort in the future. 

Here’s how you can ensure that your development process is well-documented and easy to follow:

Detailed Documentation

Start with documenting your code and architectural decisions. Use inline comments for complex code blocks and maintain a separate documentation file for architectural decisions, setup instructions, and usage guides. Tools like JSDoc for JavaScript can help generate documentation from your source code.

Version Control and Collaboration Tools

Use version control systems like Git, hosted on platforms like:

  • GitHub
  • GitLab
  • Bitbucket

These tools not only help keep track of changes and manage versions but also facilitate collaboration with others. Make sure to commit changes with descriptive messages and maintain a README file for an overview of the project, installation steps, and contribution guidelines.

Proper Development and Deployment Processes

Document your development workflow, including how to:

  • set up the development environment
  • run tests
  • deploy new versions of the extension 

Automate repetitive tasks using scripts or tools like GitHub Actions or GitLab CI/CD. This not only speeds up the development process but also ensures consistency in testing and deployment.

Start Your Way to a Successful Chrome Extension with ProCoders

The complexity of bringing a Chrome extension from concept to reality cannot be underestimated. This is where ProCoders steps in, bridging the gap between ambition and achievement.

With a decade of experience in the tech industry, ProCoders has mastered the art and science of how to build Chrome extensions. Our track record speaks volumes: we’ve augmented over 150 teams, and our team of over 120 developers is well-versed in the nuances of Chrome extension development, from initial ideation to deployment and beyond. 

Why Partner with Us?

Aside from everything we write about when introducing our company, the ProCoders team has actually created several extensions for our own AI solution – OmniMind.

  • OmniMind Extension – This Chrome extension allows you to infuse your project with information effortlessly. By uploading your project through the extension and integrating your database, you can create an AI assistant, enable smart search capabilities, or deploy other AI-driven solutions. OmniMind is designed to enhance your project’s intelligence and accessibility seamlessly.
  • OmniTalker – Revolutionize your social media interactions with OmniTalker. When viewing comments, select your desired tone of voice—positive, curious, or neutral—and let the algorithm craft replies for you. This extension simplifies engaging with your audience, ensuring your social media presence is both active and consistent.
  • Omnibnb – Designed for Airbnb hosts, Omnibnb analyzes conversations with tenants, leveraging this data to partially automate communication. With a simple button click, the extension generates responses for your clients, streamlining interactions and saving you time. This tool is perfect for enhancing the efficiency of managing guest communications. 

With ProCoders as your development partner, you can start this journey confidently, assured of our commitment to quality, innovation, and your project’s success. 

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Can I make my own Chrome extension?

If you’re looking for a professionally crafted extension for your business, reach out to ProCoders for expert developers. They will make sure you get a Chrome extension your business needs.

Is making a Chrome extension easy?

For simple extensions that modify a webpage’s appearance or add basic functionality, the process can be quite straightforward, especially if you have some background in web development. However, more complex extensions requiring advanced features like background processes, content scripts, or external API integrations may present more of a challenge and require recruiting professional developers.

Is creating a Chrome extension hard?

Creating a Chrome extension can range from relatively simple to complex, depending on the extension’s functionality and your experience with web development. If you’re new to programming or web development, you might find the process challenging at first. However, with a plethora of tutorials, documentation, and community support available, learning to create an extension is definitely achievable.

What language are Chrome extensions written in?

Chrome extensions are written using web technologies: HTML (HyperText Markup Language) for structure, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for styling, and JavaScript for functionality. This means if you’re familiar with developing for the web, you already have the skills needed to have the full answer to how to create Chrome extension.


How to make a Chrome extension? This question might have seemed daunting at first has now been unpacked into a clear and manageable process. 

From conceptualizing your idea to launching your creation into the world, each step has been designed to guide you through this exciting journey. 

With the expertise of ProCoders, the path from idea to reality is not only achievable but also enriched with professional guidance and support. Remember that building a Chrome extension is a journey of innovation and learning. Embrace the process, use the available resources, and let your digital vision come to life.

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