A "Shortcake"-Powered Design Strategy

Brian DeConinck

OIT Design

go.ncsu.edu/shortcake-coworking

A Love Letter to the WordPress Visual Editor

Brian DeConinck

OIT Design

go.ncsu.edu/shortcake-coworking

PART 1:
Falling in Love

WordPress at NC State (OIT Design's point-of-view)

Campus-wide
Managed Multisites

Partner Unit
Multisites

Maintenance Contract
Single-Site Installs + Small Multisites

Rest of Campus...

WP Blogs

Hosted WP

OIT

ORIED

DASA

Arts

OFA

HR

OIT

ORIED

DASA

Arts

OFA

HR

Some of the sites we support...

  • Dedicated IT and/or communications staff
  • Local staff handle most user needs

WP Blogs

Hosted WP

Most of the sites we support...

  • Admin assistants, grad students
  • "Run the website" added to long list of other job responsibilities

We manage all of these sites and
support these users with...

 

  • 3 full-time staff
  • 1 part-time grad student
  • 1-3 part-time undergrad interns
  • The kindness of Charles Brabec
    when we dig ourselves into a hole

 

But it's okay!
This system mostly works!

On a daily basis, most of our users...

  • Write blog posts
  • Update existing pages
  • Create new pages

WordPress at NC State (OIT Design's point-of-view)

Campus-wide
Managed Multisites

Partner Unit
Multisites

Maintenance Contract
Single-Site Installs + Small Multisites

Rest of Campus...

WP Blogs

Hosted WP

OIT

ORIED

DASA

Arts

OFA

HR

PART 2:
Relationship Trouble

How do you make one of these in the Visual Editor?

Increasingly, users expect a flexible and robust page-building experience.

 

The Visual Editor on its own doesn't give them that.

There are three main focuses this year: the REST API, the editor, and the customizer...
The editor will endeavour to create a new page and post building experience...

PART 3:
Let's Work Through Our Problems

So a user says,

"I need a page that
looks like this!"

 

What are our answers?

ANSWER #1:
"No."

... but we can do better than that, right?

I stole these visuals from Jen Simmons.
Go watch her talk about this stuff!

The Only Two Types of Websites That Exist

ANSWER #2:
"There's a plugin to do that!"

Page-building plugins require:

  • Training on how to use them
  • Training on how to follow brand guidelines
  • Training on how to follow accessibility rules
  • Monitoring for when users go off on their own

ANSWER #3:
"Sure, let me add that
template to the theme."

Content from
Visual Editor

Set this in the Theme Options

Grid of "sidebar" widgets

And then they ask you to add another template to the theme!

  • Cryptic names
  • Complicated rules

THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE!

ACF

ACF

ACF

... or, if you use
Advanced Custom Fields

Advanced Custom Fields is great, but...

  • Still playing the this meta box goes here game
  • Requires putting a lot of code into the theme
  • Content stored in wp_postmeta instead of wp_posts

I mean, sure, it's fine. But let's be more ambitious!

PART 4:
Falling In Love Again

What if I told you we could have...

  • User-driven page design
    Complex layouts and page elements, minimal developer time,
    just like those "page-builder" plugins

     
  • Everything branded and accessible
    Just enough limits to ensure quality. Users locked into our
    best practices and requirements.

     
  • All page building happens in the WordPress Visual Editor
    Minimal learning curve. Same familiar interface, with no special template rules for users to remember.

Shortcodes + Shortcake

Shortcodes

Part of WordPress
since version 2.5

WP sees your shortcode and replaces it with a pre-defined block of HTML

function major_link_shortcode($atts, $content = null) {
    extract(shortcode_atts(array(
      'url' => null,
    ), $atts));

    return sprintf(
      '<a href="%s" class="major-link">%s <img 
          src="arrow.svg" aria-hidden="true" />',
      esc_url( $attrs['url'] ),
      $content
    );
}

function register_shortcode(){
   add_shortcode('major-link', 'major_link_shortcode');
}

add_action('init', 'register_shortcode');
[major-link url="https://www.ncsu.edu/"]Visit the NC State Homepage[/major-link]

Example:

Shortcake

"Feature Plugin"
  = candidate for WP core

 

Now you can register a simple user interface for inserting shortcodes!

Shortcake

"Feature Plugin"
  = candidate for WP core

 

Now you can register a simple user interface for inserting shortcodes!

shortcode_ui_register_for_shortcode(
    'major-link',
    array(
        'label'         => 'Major Link',
        'listItemImage' => 'dashicons-arrow-right-alt',
        'inner_content' => array(
            'label'           => 'Link Text',
            'description'     => 'Enter the text that will 
                                be clicked on.',
        ),
        'attrs'         => array(
            array(
                'label'       => 'URL',
                'attr'        => 'url',
                'type'        => 'url',
                'description' => 'Enter your destination 
                                URL.',
            )
        )
    )
);

Not "Just Another Plugin"

  • "Feature Plugin" status
  • Built on well-established shortcode functionality

 

If the Shortcake plugin stopped working tomorrow...

  • No change for end users
  • Content creators would still be able to edit all of their content

PART 5:
The Next Stage of Our Relationship

NC State Shortcodes
Shortcake-powered shortcode toolbox

 

Branded page elements for common needs at NC State

Now available through Cthulhu!

https://www.webtools.ncsu.edu/wp-updates/pkg/oit

Hillsborough
OIT Design's main WordPress theme

Also available through Cthulhu!

https://www.webtools.ncsu.edu/wp-updates/pkg/oit

Help me build this plugin!

Things I want to add:

  • MORE SHORTCODES
  • Integrations with ServiceNow
  • Complex Layouts
  • Option to disable plugin CSS, choose which shortcodes to enable

PART 6:
No Matter How Much You Change...

They're still just shortcodes.

It's still just the Visual Editor.

  • No rich text (for now)
  • No nested shortcodes
  • Sometimes you get some weird behavior

There are three main focuses this year: the REST API, the editor, and the customizer... 

 

The editor will endeavour to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery.

But still!

 

Big changes to WordPress take time.
(See: REST API)

 

Shortcake-powered shortcodes are available now 
and solve a lot of problems now, with few downsides.

 

And they have the potential to do a lot more!

Jen Simmons wants us to try things like this:

Now we can!

Recap

  1. Build your shortcodes with Shortcake in mind!
     
  2. Contribute to the NC State Shortcodes project!
     
  3. Love and appreciate your Visual Editor, and have an open mind about what it's capable of.

A "Shortcake"-Powered Design Strategy for WordPress

By Brian DeConinck

A "Shortcake"-Powered Design Strategy for WordPress

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