Understanding WordPress AutoLoad function with an analogy

Let’s break down the concept of autoload in WordPress options with a simpler explanation and a relatable analogy.

What is autoload in WordPress?

In WordPress, the autoload column in the wp_options database table determines whether an option should be loaded automatically with every page load or not.

Why autoload Matters

Autoload ‘yes’

  • Function: Options with autoload set to ‘yes’ are automatically loaded by WordPress every time any page on your site is accessed.
  • Purpose: This is useful for options that are required frequently or on every page, as it makes them immediately available without additional database queries.
  • Example: Core settings like site URL, home URL, or site name, which are needed on almost every page.

Autoload ‘no’

  • Function: Options with autoload set to ‘no’ are not automatically loaded. They are loaded only when specifically requested by a function such as get_option().
  • Purpose: This is useful for options that are rarely used or only needed in specific circumstances, reducing unnecessary memory usage.
  • Example: Settings for a plugin that is used infrequently or configuration options for an admin tool.

Relatable Analogy

Imagine your WordPress site is a restaurant:

  • Autoload ‘yes’: These are like the essential items always available on every table, such as salt, pepper, and napkins. They’re used frequently by most customers, so it’s efficient to have them ready at every table.
  • Autoload ‘no’: These are like special condiments or sauces that customers can request. They’re kept in the kitchen and brought out only when someone asks for them. This saves space on the tables and ensures that only what’s needed is used.

Simplified Example

Your WordPress Site Needs:

  1. Site URL: Used on every page for links and references (autoload ‘yes’).
  2. Custom CSS for Admin Page: Only used on a specific settings page in the admin area (autoload ‘no’).

In Code

// Autoload 'yes'
add_option('site_url', 'https://example.com', '', 'yes');

// Autoload 'no'
add_option('custom_css', 'body { background-color: #000; }', '', 'no');

How WordPress Handles These

  • Autoload ‘yes’: When a page is loaded, WordPress automatically loads all options with autoload set to ‘yes’. This means the site URL is available immediately without extra database queries.
  • Autoload ‘no’: The custom CSS is not loaded initially. If a specific part of your code needs this option, it will call:
  $custom_css = get_option('custom_css');

This tells WordPress to fetch the custom_css value from the database only when needed.


  • Autoload ‘yes’: For options used frequently across most pages, to improve efficiency and performance.
  • Autoload ‘no’: For options used rarely, to save memory and avoid unnecessary loading.

By properly setting the autoload value, you ensure that essential options are readily available without overloading the system with unnecessary data, maintaining an optimal balance of performance and resource usage.

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