Category Archives: Programming

Beginner’s guide to regular expressions

No programming concept frightens programmers more than regular expressions. For a lot of us, seeing code with regular expressions in it can bring a sense of dread and anxiety. We often have no idea what’s going on or how a regular expression does what it does.

That said, regular expressions are a really powerful tool. (That’s why they’re used so much.) There’s always a problem that you can solve with a regular expression around the corner. (Or you can always imagine one!) On top of that, you can use them almost anywhere.

The good news is that you can get over that fear of regular expressions! Learning the basics is often enough to solve a wide range of problems. So let’s go over them together!

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Designing classes for the WordPress options API

Much like the plugin API, it’s almost impossible to build a plugin without using the options API. This can be a problem if you’re trying to learn object-oriented programming with WordPress. You need a way to build a class around it.

Lucky for us, this is a lot less complicated to do than with the plugin API. The options API is really nothing more than an API around a data store. Our job as designers is simple. We need to design a class that mirrors this API.

That said, we don’t have to limit ourselves to just copying the options API as is. We can also push things further by adding some extra functionality around it. This is what makes designing a class around the options API so interesting.

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Using the static factory method pattern with WordPress

If you use object-oriented programming, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the constructor. It’s this special method that an object-oriented programming language uses to initialize a new object. In PHP (and a lot of other object-oriented programming languages), the __construct method is a special method reserved for the role of constructor.

The role of the constructor isn’t always well understood. This is especially true when you’re new to object-oriented programming. You know the method exists, but you’re not too sure how to use it.

This can lead to some less than ideal practices around constructors. This is especially true in the WordPress world where two such practices are popular. First, there’s the habit of putting hooks in the constructor. And, because of that habit, WordPress developers tend to overuse the singleton pattern.

These two practices show a misunderstanding of the role that a constructor plays inside a class. This isn’t how object-oriented programming wants you to use constructors. There are other ways to solve those problems without sacrificing the role of a constructor.

Now, this isn’t to say that constructors don’t have any problems either. They do! In fact, that’s why we’re looking at the static factory method pattern. It solves one common problem that constructors have in PHP.

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How does a PHP application work?

Most of us are familiar with how a web application works. We know that when we enter an URL in our browser, it’ll contact a web server who’ll return some HTML. The browser will then make follow-up requests and then render the web page. (This is a simplification! But that’s the main idea.)

But what’s happening on the web server returning HTML? How is the web server getting the HTML that it returns to our browser? And, to be even more specific, how does this happen in PHP?

This isn’t something that most of us know how to answer. We know (or at least should know!) how to build a PHP website. But what happens between our PHP code and the browser is a bit of a mystery.

There’s a good chance that you’re thinking, “Well, my site loads. Why should I think twice about this?” And that’s true! But the truth is that knowing how a PHP application works can be useful.

It can affect how you design your PHP application. But it’s also important if you’re looking to improve its performance. For example, it’s hard to understand PHP application caching if you don’t understand how a PHP application works.

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Designing a class to generate HTML content in WordPress

As WordPress developers, we often have to generate HTML content for our plugins. (And, if you’re building a theme, that’s pretty much mandatory!) But generating HTML inside a function or method is messy. You have to close your PHP tag, write your HTML, reopen your PHP tag and so on.

This combination of HTML and code isn’t ideal. You’ve coupled your templating to your code in a way that often doesn’t scale well. That’s why it’s common to see such functions or methods grow out of proportion.

The common cause of that is adding conditional logic into the HTML code. This increases the complexity of the code and reduces its readability. So we’d like to avoid that if possible.

It’s worth pointing out that mixing HTML and PHP isn’t bad per se. After all, PHP is also a templating language. We just want to create a proper delimitation between what is regular PHP code and what is PHP template code.

So let’s find a solution to this problem! The twist (well it’s not really a twist for this site…) is that we’re going to use object-oriented programming to do it. We’ll design a class that generates HTML using PHP template.

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WordPress for the adventurous: Options API

As WordPress developers, we often need a way to store and retrieve data. The most common reason for that is that we need to store and retrieve settings for our plugin or theme. But the reality is that there are countless of other reasons why you’d need to store and retrieve data.

So how do we do it? Well, the primary tool that we have at our disposal to do this is the options API. It’s an API that offers a way for us to store and retrieve data from the WordPress database.

It’s pretty much as indispensable as the plugin API. We often can’t build anything in WordPress without it. That’s why it’s worth looking a bit deeper at how it works.

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Dependency inversion principle and WordPress

So let’s talk about coupling! Coupling is a complicated problem because you can never get rid of it completely. All that you can do is control how much it spreads. And there’s more than one way to do that.

One of these ways is the dependency inversion principle. It’s one of the most important principles in object-oriented design. And it’s why it’s part of the famous SOLID design principles. (It’s the “D” in SOLID.)

The dependency inversion principle isn’t something that you see with WordPress. That’s because most WordPress developers don’t use object-oriented programming. (But it’s always a good time to start if you’re not using it!) And the dependency inversion principle only helps when you’ve been using it for a while.

But what makes the dependency inversion principle special? Why is it such almost a mandatory aspect of object-oriented design? These are good questions that you deserve an answer to.

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How I setup my 2016 MacBook Pro

So this is another article that I’m doing for myself and also to be transparent. I don’t change my computer often (My old computer was a mid-2011 MacBook Air!) and I usually use the opportunity to review my workflow. This time around I wanted to document the process in some way.

The initial plan was to do something like this. That said, a few people told me that it would be something useful to write down. So this is what this article is going to be about.

Since everything is still quite fresh, I can walk through my thought process. I think it’s useful when you’re trying to make decisions whether this tool is useful for you or not. We don’t all work the same way so my workflow might not fit yours.

It’s also worth pointing out that this is going to be macOS centric. I haven’t developed on another operating system in a long time. So you might not get as much out of this if you’re using Windows or Linux.

Alright, so you have your new MacBook Pro box in front of you! You’re ready to get going. You unbox it, boot it up, set up your account for the first time and get to the desktop screen. What’s next!?

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Coupling and cohesion in WordPress and beyond

A concept that comes up a lot while doing object-oriented design is coupling. We use it to describe how connected the different parts of your code are to one another. But, even explained like that, the concept of coupling can still be a hard to grasp.

On top of that, we often pair it with another concept called cohesion. We use cohesion to describe how well the different parts of your code fit together. This tells us whether everything was well-designed or not.

In fact, this is why coupling and cohesion are so important. There’s a strong relationship between them and the quality of your code. Code that doesn’t have any major coupling or cohesion problem is more often of higher quality. It’s more maintainable, reusable and less prone to problems.

That’s why you want to keep these two concepts in the back of your mind when programming. But that’s easier said than done when these concepts aren’t well understood. That’s why we’ll demystify them today.

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How to use the static keyword with WordPress

This site has a lot of object-oriented programming articles. Most of them focus on solving WordPress problems using object-oriented programming. This is great when you’re comfortable with object-oriented programming.

But most WordPress developers aren’t that comfortable with it. (You’d think there’d be a book on that or something.) It’s one thing to read about basic concepts like encapsulation and inheritance. It’s another to put them in practice. There are a lot of obstacles that you have to overcome.

One of these obstacles is the proper use of the static keyword. Static methods are a great object-oriented tool to use. But, like all good things, we can also abuse it if we’re not careful.

This happens a lot more in the WordPress development world than anywhere else. And there are good reasons for that. We’ll look at why that is and what you can do about it.

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