I'm considering the saving of options for a plugin I'm developing. The first obvious candidate is the wp_options table.

While reading the Pro WP Plugin Development book I came across this:

Every option saved adds a new record in WordPress ’ option table. You can simply store several options at once, in one array: This avoids cluttering the database and updates the values in one single MySQL query for greater efficiency and speed.

On the other hand, I also imagine that if the plugin has a lot of settings it may hinder performance to store everything in one array. Would it therefore make sense to split options into separate records in such cases?

Third option I can think of is to create custom tables to store the plugin settings, as I've seen some plugins do this as well.

What are the rules/guidelines to decide which way to go?

2 Answers 2


Store the options in a single array and write your plugin as a class. Load the options in the constructor and save it as a member variable and you'll have access to it everywhere in the plugin.

  • 1
    How does this answer my question?
    – urok93
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 10:12
  • It's a suggestion on how to minimize database calls. With this solution you'll only load the array with the options once per plugin instance.
    – pbd
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 11:19

Use the settings API. It's awesome! Here's how you do it step by step.

 * Add the admin page
add_action('admin_menu', 'wpse61431_admin_page');
function wpse61431_admin_page(){
    add_menu_page('wpse61431 Settings', 'wpse61431', 'administrator', 'wpse61431-settings', 'wpse61431_admin_page_callback');

 * Register the settings
add_action('admin_init', 'wpse61431_register_settings');
function wpse61431_register_settings(){
    //this will save the option in the wp_options table as 'wpse61431_settings'
    //the third parameter is a function that will validate your input values
    register_setting('wpse61431_settings', 'wpse61431_settings', 'wpse61431_settings_validate');

function wpse61431_settings_validate($args){
    //$args will contain the values posted in your settings form, you can validate them as no spaces allowed, no special chars allowed or validate emails etc.
    if(!isset($args['wpse61431_email']) || !is_email($args['wpse61431_email'])){
        //add a settings error because the email is invalid and make the form field blank, so that the user can enter again
        $args['wpse61431_email'] = '';
    add_settings_error('wpse61431_settings', 'wpse61431_invalid_email', 'Please enter a valid email!', $type = 'error');   

    //make sure you return the args
    return $args;

//Display the validation errors and update messages
 * Admin notices
add_action('admin_notices', 'wpse61431_admin_notices');
function wpse61431_admin_notices(){

//The markup for your plugin settings page
function wpse61431_admin_page_callback(){ ?>
    <div class="wrap">
    <h2>wpse61431 Settings</h2>
    <form action="options.php" method="post"><?php
        settings_fields( 'wpse61431_settings' );
        do_settings_sections( __FILE__ );

        //get the older values, wont work the first time
        $options = get_option( 'wpse61431_settings' ); ?>
        <table class="form-table">
                <th scope="row">Email</th>
                            <input name="wpse61431_settings[wpse61431_email]" type="text" id="wpse61431_email" value="<?php echo (isset($options['wpse61431_email']) && $options['wpse61431_email'] != '') ? $options['wpse61431_email'] : ''; ?>"/>
                            <br />
                            <span class="description">Please enter a valid email.</span>
        <input type="submit" value="Save" />
<?php }

This is a working code, the mark up can be whatever you want, make sure you retain the settings_fields and do_settings_sections call! The input field's names should also be the way I mentioned.

For detailed information, read this awesome series on wp tutsplus.

  • Thanks I have come across this, but my question is more focused on how best to store the settings, rather than how to build and save the settings page.
    – urok93
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 10:13
  • 2
    remember to close your return $args with a ;
    – AO_
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 11:36

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