I have a custom options page. I have several sections of settings and some of them are even more closely related to each other so I decided to store them in arrays, seems more logical to me. It surely, minimizes the code a bit too. First question: Is this a good practice?



This results to an array which includes nested arrays at different levels. If we use get_option('header'); normally and supposedly store a string, we can use get_option('header', 'default value'); to echo a default value if the option is not set. How can I do this for a value within an array ex. get_option('header')['header_logo']; and similarly for get_option('header')['header_logo']['image'];? Also how can this be done for all items in the whole array at once?

Second question: Which is the best practice when it comes to setting default option values? Should I use the update_option function in the after_theme_setup function to set the defaults? Is there any better way?

Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


First question: Is this a good practice?

Based on the type of value you are saving, array as settings value is definitely good practice.

How can I do this for a value within an array ex. get_option('header')['header_logo']['image']?

If you believe option value for header might be empty or not saved, you can use this -

    'header_logo' => array(
      'image' => '.../default-image.png',
      'width' => '200',
      'height' => '60'

However, if the option header contains any value (even empty array), then the above option will not override the default. In that case, you could write a wrapper function for get_option function.

function wpse_get_header_settings( $group = '', $key = '', $default = null ) {

  $settings = get_option( 'header' );

  $defaults = array( 
    'header_logo' => array(
      'image' => '.../default-image.png',
      'width' => '200',
      'height' => '60'

  $settings = wp_parse_args( $settings, $defaults );

  if ( ! empty( $group ) ) {
    if ( ! array_key_exists( $group, $settings ) ) {
      return $default;

    $settings = $settings[ $group ];

    if ( ! empty( $key ) ) {
      return array_key_exists( $key, $settings ) ? $settings[ $key ] : $default;

  return $settings;

And then, you can safely get any desired value -

// would return the logo image
echo wpse_get_header_settings( 'header_logo', 'image' );

// would return the header text color
wpse_get_header_settings( 'header_color' );

Which is the best practice when it comes to setting default option values?

It's better to save default option values using after_theme_setup for theme and register_activation_hook for plugin. But, if you use a wrapper function to call settings, you shouldn't save it.

  • Shazzad, thank you very much this is a great answer. I am glad you've showed me the wrapper function in any case, however isn't this function unnecessary if I set defaults after theme setup?
    – Arg Geo
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 20:36
  • Yes, it's unnecessary if you set defaults after theme setup.
    – Shazzad
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 20:39
  • Am I right to say that you can get rid of possible error/warnings such as "illegal string" when using arrays by updating options with default values?
    – Arg Geo
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 20:42
  • Definitely. if called property exists within array, no warning will be given.
    – Shazzad
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 21:41

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