WordPress As An Application Framework

A summary of my notes from my SyntaxCon 2017 “WordPress As An Application Framework” presentation.



Constraints of working in and around the WordPress application.

Built-In Overhead

Using any framework adds overhead to your application.  It is the trade-off for rapid development with well-vetted components.   The bigger the framework the more overhead.

WordPress did not originate with the intent to become an application framework.  In addition, Automattic continues to be driven by Matt’s what some would consider an over-zealous desire to maintain backwards compatibility with prior releases of the core product.   Along with those attributes comes some overhead you may not see in other frameworks.

WordPress Heartbeat

The “heartbeat” is one example.   WordPress is configured to fire off a “heartbeat” every 60 seconds.   When the heartbeat process executes it loads the entire WordPress application and runs configured “heartbeat tasks”.   That means all plugins and themes are loaded and executed, often doing nothing.   Depending what you have running on your site that can be a lot of overhead.    Most plugins and themes do not “short circuit” when the heartbeat happens despite the fact that they do not do anything to process or influence “heartbeat tasks”.   That means more overhead do literally do nothing.

On a positive note, one of the advantages of writing your own application on top of WordPress is that you are controlling the environment.  You can craft your own plugins and theme to short circuit if that piece of your app is not doing “heartbeat stuff”.   In the top of most of my plugins you will find the following line which basically says “don’t load up anything else in this plugin when the heartbeat comes in” saving file I/O and server memory.

if ( defined( 'DOING_AJAX' ) && DOING_AJAX && ! empty( $_POST[ 'action' ] ) && ( $_POST['action'] === 'heartbeat' ) ) {



Benefits of having pre-defined libraries and UI components.

Time Savings

Time savings at each phase of development.


Flexibility of WordPress as a foundation.


Extensibility of WordPress both internally and via exposed services.


Scalability of the application.

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