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The plugin itself was one PHP file and three JS files.
The framework was over two megs.
The framework ‘made it pretty.’
I’m right up there telling people that the WordPress Settings API is a giant bag of wet hair. It’s confusing, it’s cryptic, it doesn’t always play well with everything, and sometimes it makes you feel like the point is to make us have decisions, not options, for our plugins. But I don’t think plugin frameworks are the answer. At least not the way most people seem to be going about them.
When I say frameworks, I don’t mean the libraries like the AWSSDK for PHP framework that you package up into your plugin and do a proper check for a function, calling yours if the the library isn’t there. No, I mean the plugins that are totally separate plugins but are meant to be called by yours in order to make development easier and more consistent.
That’s what I hate.
I love the idea of these frameworks, actually. I think that a boilerplate plugin, similar to _underscores, where I can put in my plugin name, my information, and press a button to have the basic plugin files generated for me is brilliant! But I think most of the libraries out there are doing it in a way that will annoy and upset most people.
The problem is less the framework and more the people using them as a ‘quick fix’ without properly thinking about what they want to do.
They’re Too Large They’re Too Large
In the case of this plugin, one file with three settings could just be done with two functions (maybe three) and instead he’s made a download half the size of WordPress core. The zip is large, it makes things take just a little bit longer for people on slow servers to download and upgrade, and the larger you get, the worse you are for the really small shared hosts. I know a lot of people argue with me about this, but remember than a high number of hosts still default you to allow 7M in PHP upload size. That means when your plugin becomes the 30 meg behemoth with all your dev files, you’ve made things pretty bad for some users. But even when you’ve only made your plugin 2 or 3 megs, why would you do that when you have one file of actual code?
The logic escapes me.
They’ve Got Too Many Files They’ve Got Too Many Files
Not the same thing as too large! There are hundreds of files in a framework, and if you’re using only 4, that means you have 96+ files to review for security. You just increased your workload for not enough value. Which is really a major part of my next issue. The point here is you, the developer, are responsible for every single file in that framework. You are expected to know everything about it, where it installs, what it uses, why it uses it, and when to upgrade. This is a pain. It’s a chore. And it’s your job now.
You Don’t Know How to WordPress You Don’t Know How to WordPress
This is also why I don’t like the idea of making Multisite too much easier. The further you take a developer from writing this code, the further they get from understanding how it all comes together and the harder it is for them to debug their own plugins. If you’re developing a plugin you plan to share with other people, even a teeny tiny one, you need to understand what you’re doing. You need to learn about the way the code interacts with the CMS tool, you need to understand why some things are secure and others are not.
You Use the Frameworks Wrong You Use the Frameworks Wrong
I said before, I love the idea. And I do. They’re a brilliant idea and, when done right, work perfectly. The problem with them is, a bit, a problem with WordPress, which is we really don’t have a way to handle children plugins. You see, the best thing for a true framework plugin would be to have it be a separate plugin. But without plugin dependency support in core or the directory, it becomes another level of hassle for users.
For example… if you have the plugin as a separate plugin, these are the issues we’ve see for end-users (not developers):
- Not recognizing the framework plugin, and thus deleting it (causing the plugin(s) to break)
- Not recognizing the framework plugin and thinking they’ve been hacked
- Updating the framework plugin separately from the dependent plugins, possibly leading to breakage
- Updating a dependent plugin without updating the framework, possibly leading to breakage
- Different plugins requiring different versions of the framework
And bearing in mind that the framework and plugin developers are different people, that’s another level of coordination/compatibility issues. Frameworks and libraries should be packaged with each plugin (hopefully in a way that doesn’t conflict with other plugins using the framework or libraries). At least until core supports plugin dependencies.
But I still think that’s wrong.
I still think the best framework plugin isn’t a plugin at all, it’s a tool to help you design and build a plugin via your editor of choice. Or maybe a Grunt Script that lets you build it out based on parameters. Time spend making a framework for making the plugin ‘interface’ better would be better spent making the Settings API better.