Store Locator Plus® PHP 8 Compatible & Relisting Status

This past week we published an updated version of the base Store Locator Plus® WordPress plugin for version 5.12.4.  This patch allows Store Locator Plus® to run in PHP 8 environments despite WordPress itself clearly stating PHP 8 is NOT officially supported in the core WordPress install.

Unfortunately you still need to go to our main WordPress site to get the latest release.   The WordPress plugin team has yet to approve our plugin for listing in the direct despite providing a patch for the initial security concern during the summer of 2021.

Speaking of Relisting…

We have been working on literally hundreds of code changes to meet the new strict demands of the WordPress plugin team.  They insisted on a full code scan and review of all data I/O calls and required that we publish hundreds of escaping and sanitizing methods throughout.  While some of these updates did help close potential security holes, many of the changes flagged by the “AI bot code sniffer” were not true security weaknesses; This highlights a notable concern when humans employ digital intelligence tools to make decisions — but that is a debate for another day.

For now, we have spent hundreds of hours running the scanning tools we found for analyzing the code, evaluating thousands of warnings, and addresses dozens of legitimate concerns.  We worked around hundreds of false flags in the reports. The end result is a new version of the base plugin that is a good bit more secure against potential security issues.

The latest problems uncovered in testing have not come about from our security updates, but uncovered fundamental breaking changes in WordPress core.     WordPress has put the emphasis on block themes and the supporting core utilities that support them.   This has broken fundamental features of WordPress and has changed the order of precedence in which their hooks-and-filters are called.   This leads to notably different behavior in plugins and themes — not just Store Locator Plus®. Thankfully our QA team has found the issues with these new WordPress behaviors before we released our latest update and we have been working diligently to resolve them.   Our hope is the new 5.13 release not only passes the WordPress security scan but also works better than our 5.12 release when it comes to new block-based themes while retaining full compatibility with legacy themes.

With that said, we are hoping to pass our QA tests soon and have a new 5.13 release officially listed in the WordPress plugin directory.     Then we can start focusing on new features and a user experience overhaul that all of our customers can enjoy — including our SaaS customers.

Speaking of the SaaS version, thankfully none of these security things impact the SaaS version.   For those of you that switched over to the Saas release — we’ll have new features and UX updates coming your way later this year!

Store Locator Plus® Updates For WP Directory Relisting

It has been a while since we’ve had updates for the Store Locator Plus® plugin and SaaS service.   We’ve been busy over the past year adding new development staff and getting them up-to-speed in order to address new demands presented by the WordPress Plugin Team in order to get Store Locator Plus® re-listed in the plugin directory.    Their demands to shore up potential weaknesses in the main plugin turned out to be a major project.

Over the past 8 months the development team has updated nearly 1,000 lines of code in the base plugin.  It is important to note that these changes did NOT fix known security breaches or exploits; The changes were done primarily to address hypothetical what-if security concerns in the plugin.   While the updates do little to improve security of the plugin and have a minor negative impact on performance, the changes were necessary in order to meet the new WordPress Plugin Team guidelines for getting our plugin re-listed.

Finally, after 8 months of effort we are nearing the finish line.   We are now testing an updated 5.13.X prerelease version of the Store Locator Plus® plugin.      Once we have finished our own internal testing and all base functionality has been approved, we will re-submit the plugin for re-listing on the WordPress directory.

While this is a milestone that has been in the works for a long time, it is only the first step in many new changes that are planned for the coming year.   Our lead architect, along with the rest of the development team, have a lot of great new ideas to improve our product.    The 10-year-old technology is ready for an overhaul using modern standards.    A vastly improved user experience is in the works as well as a much improved turn-key experience with a tighter WordPress Plugin integration with our SaaS platform.

We are excited to get past this year-long maintenance and security cycle and start building new things for our customers.

In the meantime, if anyone is interested in helping us test the prerelease version of Store Locator Plus® 5.13, please reach out via the contact form and we’ll send you an early release at no charge.     Our Premier Subscription holders can already download the prerelease from their account downloads page.

We appreciate your patience while we get things rebooted on the WordPress directory.  We look forward to providing improved user experiences and application performance in the coming months.

Location Category Markers Update

Store Locator Plus® was updated with a small, but important, change to how location map markers are displayed when users are interacting with the category selector.   Users of the Professional level offering have the ability to create location categories.   Locations can belong to more than one category, for instance a location can be both a “Retail” location and a “Service” location.    Some locations will be only “Retail”.

Category Map Markers

Each location category can also be assigned a unique map marker.   All yellow map markers are retail, and blue markers are for service.     For those locations where they offer both retail and service , Store Locator Plus® would always display the yellow map marker based on the default “marker is the first category, chosen by alphabetical order”.

While there are some caveats to this general rule, there were some confusing results.    If you created a map with a category filter that allowed users to pick “either retail” or “service” locations and the user selected “service” they could see a map with both yellow and blue markers.    How is that happening when all service locations are supposed to be showing blue markers?

The answer — those dual-purpose locations that are in both the retail and service category.   Prior to the late-September update, the marker for the location would ALWAYS pick from the “highest ranked” category which would default to “retail” by the alphabetical rule noted above.    All locations that were service only would be displayed alongside a handful or retail-and-service locations.

Multiple Categories Marker Change

In the late-September update that went online today, IF a user is filtering the list of locations by a SINGLE category, the map marker that is displayed will be filtered as well — in essence filtering out the yellow “retail” marker if the user has elected “show only service location” with the blue marker.     With this update only blue markers will appear.

For another description of how this works along with an “explainer” video, check out our Categorical Location Markers article on the documentation site.

Still using the legacy WordPress plugins?   This feature is part of the Power 5.5.7 release.