WordPress Plugins – Using the Options Table Properly

by Steve on July 7, 2010

Note: if you’re not a WordPress plugin developer, this probably won’t interest you.

I ran across this again today, hence my rant:

I installed a plugin from the WordPress Plugin Repository ( the place that hosts WordPress plugins so you can download them ), THEN looked through the code. This small specialty plugin added 17 options to the options table!

WP developer peeps, there is no excuse for this. By adding so many options, you clog up the options table. Unless you specify the option as an autoload, you’re using a database read every time you call get_option(). What a waste!

What should you do instead? Glad you asked!

Combine your options into an array. Easy smeasy. WordPress will store your options array as serialized data. Return get_option() to a variable at the start of your script, giving you easy access to all its components.

The WordPress core is getting sizable enough that responsible developers need to optimize their code as much as possible. Eliminating unnecessary database reads/writes is a good first step.

If you need an example, leave a comment and I’ll post one.

EDIT: as requested, here’s a couple of examples. First, what many developers do but shouldn’t:

$myoption1 = "ted";
$myoption2 = "fred";
$myoption3 = "jed";

update_option( 'myoption1', $myoption1);
update_option( 'myoption2', $myoption2);
update_option( 'myoption3', $myoption3);

Notice how the above uses 3 different options: myoption1, myoption2, myoption3. These take up 3 rows in the database, and require 3 different calls to get_option() when the data is needed. Now, 3 isn’t very many – but consider when your plugin uses 30 or 40 different options or presets ( some of mine do ). The potential to clutter up the database and cause a slowdown in your page load times is huge.

Here’s how you should code your options:

$myoptions = array( 'option1' => 'ted', 'option2' => 'fred', 'option3' => 'jed');
update_option( 'myoption', $myoptions );

And that’s all there is to it. The update_option function recognizes that you are passing an array and serializes the values for entry in the database. When you need to retrieve the options, simply call get_option into an array variable, and access from there. One call, 40 options. Lotsa overhead saved :)

$myoptions = get_option( 'myoption');

now, $myoptions['option1'] = 'ted', $myoptions['option2'] = 'fred', and so on.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

johnny August 1, 2010 at 3:16 pm

good advice. Could you post the example so I can make sure to do this in the future. (and anyone else that will read the post).



Steve August 2, 2010 at 11:21 am

Johnny, I tacked an example on the end of the post; hopefully it gives you a good enough example. If you have questions, be sure to ask.


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