WordPress Options Class with JSON Support

A while back I had an article title: WordPress Options Class, which was my way of accessing and storing options in WordPress for some of the plugins that I create. After using WordPress for some time now it’s become apparent that storing options in a serialized array in the database is not the best way to do things. I’ve updated my options class to now save the options going forward as JSON. My hope is that other developers will start to do the same.

Why Do It This Way?

At my previous job, there were several times I had to go into some other plugin’s database tables and update a serialized string because some value on our end changed and there was no way to update it through the UI. Using JSON, makes those sorts of changes much easier.


Using this will allow your options to still be stored as a serialized array, but the next time you save them using this class, the serialized array will be changed to JSON.

The Code

March WordPress St. Louis Developers Meetup

This month, I presented on the WordPress database and discussed the tables, how to use the wpdb class and how to create your own custom tables. You can view the presentation here:

Other Things Mentioned

  • I mentioned that everyone interested should try taking the WordPress quiz from Code Poet.
  • People want a re-poll for the best Monday of the month
  • Next month’s topic will be Enterprise Deployment and Setup (a round table discussion about our experiences)
  • An interesting idea that I hadn’t though of was instead of storing serialized data in the database, store it as JSON instead. I’m going to do some research on this.

February WordPress St. Louis Developers Meetup Notes

The second every St. Louis WordPress developers meetup has come to a conclusion. Here are some notes that I took during the meetup.

Security Best Practices Discussion


  • Don’t use admin as your default username
  • Change the default table prefix to something unique
  • Consider moving your wp-config.php outside of your website root folder
  • In code, check user permissions before running actions or even displaying the page
  • Sanitize database inputs

Security Plugins to Check Out

Other Security-related Discussion

I can see this turning into a total flame war, but choosing another cms because it isn’t used as much for added security. For example, choosing Drupal over WordPress since WordPress is targeted for attacks more because it is more widely used. Again, I’m not trying to start a flame war, just adding this to the list since someone mentioned it. Side note: this is totally how I feel about the Windows vs. Mac debate for security. Windows has more vulnerabilities because there are more people to harm by looking for vulnerabilities on Windows. You can affect a larger percentage of people by going with the big dog.

Group Project

We talked last month about possibly working on a group project together for the hell of it. Some ideas were thrown out for plugins:

  • Forums
  • Wiki
  • Project management system
  • Picking up an abandoned plugin
  • Writing blog content about WordPress development

March Meetup Topic

WordPress Database/Table Management Best Practices

Here is a list of the things I would like to see Paul and myself cover:

  • Dive into the WordPress tables and see what they actually hold
  • Talk about some of the functions available in $wpdb
  • Talk about integrating with the posts table
  • How to create your own database tables for your plugins.

New Plugin: Speak Pirate

Argh mateys! Shiver me timbers! Sometimes it feels good to step out of your normal coding routine and do something a little different.

Yesterday, @arod2634 posted this tweet:

One of the APIs listed was a pirate translation api that would take English and turn it into the equivalent as a pirate would say it. What better way to put it to use then make a WordPress plugin out of it: Speak Pirate.

This new plugin be hot off yonder press and working hard to convert ye plain text into pirate jargon. Simply use ye new shortcode [speak_pirate] around ye text you want translated and it shall be done.

[speak_pirate]Text to translate goes here[/speak_pirate]

Enjoy, ye land lubbers!

Hungry For More Information?

Here is the commented code:

WordPress St. Louis Developers Meetup Notes

Tonight marks the first night of a meetup in St. Louis for WordPress developers! I know, exciting times right? Tonight’s meeting was more of a planning meeting for the future of the group.

When and where will we meet in the future?

It was suggested that we meet at 6:30 instead of 6 pm. We are going to post another poll for the group to figure out the optimal week for the meetup. Apparently the STL Ruby group meets on the 2nd & 4th Monday of the month. And the regular WordPress meetup group meets the 3rd Wednesday of the month. I think the consensus is to stay with Mondays, just figure out the best week for it. The location will stay as Integrity Corporation for the time being.

Suggested Topics for Group Discussion/Presentation

  • Theme review
  • Code review
  • Enterprise deployment and setup
  • How to create a plugin from scratch
  • Security best practices
  • Speed optimization for WordPress
  • Discuss your development environment (how do you make your WordPress magic happen)
    • What tools do we use? (IDE and other useful tools)
    • Testing environment (PHPUnit, etc)
  • Actions and filters
  • Rewrite Endpoints
  • Using WordPress as a service (REST, XML-RPC)
  • Advanced Custom Fields
  • Database/table management best practices
  • Exploring the WordPress database (talk about the tables and how they tie together)

Other Stuff

We also talked about working on plugins/themes together as a group. And we talked about creating an organization on GitHub to host the code. I’m really excited to see what we come up with as a group! Please leave comments below for anything that I left off, or other topics to discuss.

Object-Oriented Plugins for WordPress

Making your WordPress plugins (and themes for that matter) object-oriented definitely has it’s benefits; most notably not running into naming conflicts with other functions. You are essentially creating a new workspace for your functions to live and could have the same function name as found in the WordPress core.

How to Get Started?

Plugin Declaration

The first part of the code is your plugin declaration in the commented out lines. This is required by WordPress!

Class Declaration

You will have to create a unique class name for your plugin. Once you’ve figured out what to call it, you’ll want to add a __construct() function to it. This is typically where I will put all of my actions and filters, along with any special initialization code for my plugin.

Actions and Filters

This line may look a little different from normal add_action() and add_filter() calls. For our second parameter, instead of passing a string for our function name, we are passing an array containing our class object, $this, and the corresponding function in our class, admin_init. The function name is arbitrary; it could be erics_super_awesome_admin_function for all WordPress cares. I typically name my function the same thing as the action or filter for clarity on my end. It seems easier to find things that way to me, and I know precisely when it’s going to happen.

Instance of Class

This is a major step. If you forget this, your plugin (or theme) won’t work. We have to create an instance of our class for the code to run. I’ve created a new variable named $my_object_oriented_plugin that contains an instance of the class.


Fire away in the comments.

I would highly recommend that anyone doing WordPress plugin or theme development look into writing object-oriented code. It’s not as hard or scary as people think it is.

Edit Post Author Name in WordPress Feeds

Just today someone approached me at work about the author’s name displaying in Google search results instead of our company name. You can change what shows for each individual author in the your profile for WordPress, but if you want to keep it all the same regardless of who posted the article (useful for a business), you can use the following code as an example:

What’s Going On in this Code?

The first thing we are doing is using an action in the feed file to set a global variable that says we are currently in the feed.

Note: WordPress offers different types of feeds, so you may want to perform this for each of them. If you look in your wp-includes/ folder, you should see some files that begin with “feeds-“. Each of these has their own hook you can use to create the global variable (as done above in the my_rss2_ns function). I’ve listed the file and the hooks below:

File Hook
wp-includes/feeds-rdp.php rdf_ns
wp-includes/feeds-rss.php rss_ns
wp-includes/feeds-rss2.php rss2_ns

The last thing we are doing is simply checking if our global variable is true, and if so, updating the author text with something we’ve specified.

Custom Taxonomy Control for the Theme Customizer

Otto had a series of articles highlighting how to use the theme customizer in your WordPress themes instead of creating an options panel.

One of his articles covered making your own custom control and it inspired me to make a custom control for showing a certain taxonomy dropdown on the theme customizer. At first, I had just wanted this for the purpose of choosing from a dropdown of categories to use as featured posts in my theme. Then I thought it could really just as well be used for any taxonomy object. Behind the scenes, this control is using the wp_dropdown_categories function, which allows you to build a dropdown of categories (or any other registered taxonomy).

The code for the control really wasn’t bad. After actually implementing this and trying to use it, I found that my changes were not being saved. There is a data-customize-setting-link attribute that must be appended to your element. Below is the code from my functions.php file and the class being called by functions.php:

Extending Hide Inactive Sites Plugin

In my Hide Inactive Sites plugin I’ve added several filters to manipulate the data. You can modify the emails sent to the end users and edit the times available in the plugin settings. I thought it might be helpful to show how to change some of these that may want to do so.

Note: please never edit the plugin code directly! You are best off creating your own plugin or putting code in your theme’s functions.php file.

Let’s say that I want to warn my users that their site will be hidden if they haven’t updated it in 2 days. Well, by default, the plugin doesn’t offer you the option to warn in 2 days. It allows you to warn after 1 day of inactivity. One week is the next closest time to warn a user of inactivity. So, let’s add an option for “2 days”:

function add_inactivity_warning_threshold($inactivity_warning_thresholds){
    $inactivity_warning_thresholds[60*60*24*2] = __('2 Days');
    return $inactivity_warning_thresholds;
add_filter('hide-inactive-sites-manage-inactivity-warning-thresholds', 'add_inactivity_warning_threshold', 1, 1);

Ok, how about another example? Let’s edit the text sent in the email when a site is hidden:

function edit_hidden_email_message($message, $site_details){
    $message = '';
    $message .= '

Hey admin, your site is no longer available! You should probably have updated it more often!

'; $message .= ''; } add_filter('hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_hidden_message', 'edit_hidden_email_message', 1, 2);

Other Filters Available

Site Hidden Email

  • Edit list of email recipients: hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_hidden_to_emails
  • Edit email headers: hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_hidden_headers
  • Edit subject line: hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_hidden_subject
  • Edit message (used above): hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_hidden_message

Site Warning Email

  • Edit list of email recipients: hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_almost_hidden_to_emails
  • Edit email headers: hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_almost_hidden_headers
  • Edit subject line: hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_almost_hidden_subject
  • Edit message: hide_inactive_sites_edit_site_almost_hidden_message

Plugin Options

  • Edit update frequencies: hide-inactive-sites-manage-update-frequency
  • Edit inactivity thresholds: hide-inactive-sites-manage-inactivity-thresholds
  • Edit inactivity warning thresholds: hide-inactive-sites-manage-inactivity-warning-thresholds
  • Edit number of minimum posts: hide-inactive-sites-manage-min-posts