Making theme options modular

Today I submitted version 1.1 of Museum Core to the WordPress theme repository for review. Originally this was going to just be a simple update with some bugfixes, but I had thought of a way to make it easier to build child themes that include some options settings from the parent theme (Museum Core) without having to include all of the options from the parent. It started out with this ticket I created on GitHub.

Now, the ticket evolved from that first sketch of an idea, and I ultimately abandoned the concept of using actions and remove_action to change what options get used. But the current approach is, I think, a pretty powerful way to approach theme options development so that things can be reused or abandoned in child themes and it isn’t something that I’ve seen other people doing. (To be fair, this is actually what’s described in the WordPress Codex, but I haven’t seen it in action on very many theme options pages, or any tutorials talking about how one would go about writing a theme options page, so I thought it was worth writing about.) And it reduces my entire theme options down to this code:

So let’s take a look at what we’re doing in ap_core_do_theme_options

First of all, I’ve pulled out all the code and put it into a new file called option-setup.php. This handles all the stuff that was previously where the _do_theme_options function is now but everything has been pretty drastically rewritten. First we have ap_core_do_theme_options which looks like this:

If you’ve tried or are currently using Museum Core, you’ll already know that the theme options page sports some tabs. So the first function we’re calling in _do_theme_options is the tab setup. This is a pretty straightforward function that just spits out the html needed to set up the tabs. The real meat is in the next three functions. We won’t look at every single function, we’ll just dig into the main highlights so you get an idea of what’s going on. Let’s peek at ap_core_general_settings which handles the, wait for it, general settings tab.

ap_core_general_settings looks an awful lot like ap_core_do_theme_options, with a bit of HTML thrown in to set up the table that’s going to hold the actual options. That uniformity is intentional, the idea is that you can swap functions in and out however you want. You can use your own modified version of ap_core_general_settings in your child theme, or you can do away with the tabs and just put all your options straight into ap_core_do_theme_options. Or you can mix and match options from the various settings tabs and create your own tabs, it’s up to you. Let’s take a look at what an individual option looks like now.

That’s got a bit more heft to it. But it’s still pretty basic. All I did here is pull the table row from the original theme-options.php and added it to this function. I’m using output buffering to store all the php/html as a variable and echoing the variable at the end which is what gets sent to the function calling this function (in this case ap_core_sidebar_option). I’m also calling the defaults and options from the database so our values are loaded and stored. This is done ad nauseum for each setting, so each setting gets called separately and can be isolated, grouped, cut out, whatever as needed by a child theme.

So what happens when I want to build a child theme and use some of these options? Here’s an example:

First what I’m going to do is start with a new theme options function. I’m keeping the 3 tabs from Core, but I’m adding a 4th tab. Since Core only supports 3 tabs, and I’ll need to set up the title for the fourth tab, I’m doing my own tabs. We’ll start by setting up the tabs. Remember, you don’t have to use the tabs at all; if you just want all of your options on the Theme Options page, you can just cut out the tabs function and then they’ll display normally, one on top of the other.

The two things that are changed are highlighted by the fact that the textdomain (‘museum-core’, ‘my-theme’) has changed. We don’t need to change the textdomain of the other tabs, because, assuming the text was translated in a language file, those would already be covered by the existing translation in Core — only the new translation strings need to be added (of course, none of this is necessary, really, if you don’t care about localization of your child theme). We changed “Typography & Fonts” to “Font Stuff” and added the fourth tab, “Custom Tab”. So far, so good. This is what it looks like:

Theme Options 2039 Localhost Test site 2014 WordPress


Now that we’ve got the tabs, and we’ve added the options pages that we’re pulling from Core, it’s time to create our new settings page. We’ll do this really minimally and just add one option. We won’t add a bunch of function calls (although we could), we’ll just put our option straight into the new my_custom_theme_settings function. It looks something like this:

Now, in order for this to be actually functional, we’d need to define some new options for our theme so we could store them in the database, this is just meant to be an example and illustrate how we’re able to still pull functions from the parent theme and mix them into our custom theme functions. Here’s what that new tab looks like:

custom tab

To summarize, what I’ve got is a modular way of calling individual settings that can be swapped in and out at will and replaced with custom settings (or not) however you want. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to post in the comments. If you’d like to dig into the source files, you can grab the latest version of Museum Core from GitHub. You can also take a look at the complete code from this tutorial on GitHub. And if you want to take a look at the files on your computer and hack them up, you can download the source files used to create the child theme in the screenshots here.