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NC State’s
“Shortcake”-Powered Design Strategy

Brian DeConinck

OIT Design

  ·  

  ·  

A Love Letter to the WordPress Visual Editor

Brian DeConinck

OIT Design

  ·  

  ·  

PART 1:
Falling in Love

A major university looks like this...

  • Well-organized institution
  • Centralized leadership

+

A major university actually operates like this...

  • Decentralized administration
  • Miscommunication
  • Different units have very different needs

Map of the Holy Roman Empire in 1618, Wikimedia

Work in higher ed? Have a lot of higher ed clients?
Check out
wpcampus.org!

WordPress is Perfect for Higher Ed

  • Flexible deployment options
    (multisite vs. single install)
  • Incredibly customizable
  • Easy to get content in,
    easy to get content out

Centrally-Managed Multisites

College- or Unit-Level
Multisites

Ad hoc collection of
Single-Site Installs + Small Multisites

Student, Faculty & Staff Blogs

Departments, Research Groups, etc.

OIT

ORIED

DASA

OFA

HR

Engr.

Ed.

Sci.

Some of these sites...

Dedicated IT or communications staff

Local staff can handle most needs

OIT

ORIED

DASA

OFA

HR

Engr.

Ed.

Sci.

Most of these sites...

Admin assistants, grad students

"Run the website" added to long list of other job responsibilities

Student, Faculty & Staff Blogs

Departments, Research Groups, etc.

The central IT office supports all of these sites directly or indirectly with...

 

  • 3 full-time staff
  • 1 part-time grad student
  • 1-3 part-time undergrad interns

 

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

PART 2:
Relationship Trouble

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

Our 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

Most of these sites...

Admin assistants, grad students

"Run the website" added to long list of other job responsibilities

Student, Faculty & Staff Blogs

Departments, Research Groups, etc.

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.

If you don't know what I'm talking about:

go.ncsu.edu/hello-computer

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.',
            )
        )
    )
);

But you don't have to take my word for it!

1. Install and activate
Shortcake: wordpress.org/plugins/shortcode-ui

2. Install and activate the
Major Link plugin:
go.ncsu.edu/major-link

3. Click "Insert Post Element"
and add a Major Link

4. Transparent Aluminum

Not "Just Another Plugin"

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

 

If Shortcake stopped working tomorrow...

  • Visitors to our sites would see no change
  • Content creators would still be able to edit all of their content

PART 5:
The Next Stage of Our Relationship

A theme is a collection of templates.

canvas for building posts and pages!

Hillsborough
OIT Design's main WordPress theme

 

Generic NC State-branded theme

Our theme provides...

  • Site Identity (Header, Footer)
  • Basic styles + appearance
  • Core WordPress features
    • Widget areas in sidebars, footer
    • Navigation menus
    • Blog index template

NC State Shortcodes
Shortcake-powered shortcode toolbox

 

Pattern library of NC State-branded page elements
 

Modeled after the
Shortcake Bakery plugin

Our plugin provides...

  • Customizable, NC State-branded &
    accessible page elements
  • Shortcake-powered UI

 

Theme Agnostic

Works on any* campus theme!

Things You Should Try!

  • Pattern library for UX/UI elements
  • JS for conditional display of shortcode attributes
    • Guide your users through a decision-making process
  • Re-use content across multiple websites!
    WP REST API + Shortcake-powered Shortcodes

PART 6:
Relationship #RealTalk

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.

A lot more activity!!!

A lot less activity...

:)

:(

Gutenberg

Actually, yeah, this looks pretty cool.

But what happens to shortcodes?

What happens to Shortcake?

Editor Blocks API

Shortcake of the future???

On GitHub: #104, #300, #302

editor.blocks.register('my-fancy-block', {
    type: 'simple',
    title: 'My fancy block',
    icon: 'my-fancy-icon',
    toolbar: [
        {
            icon: 'align-left',
            tooltip: 'Align left',
            action: function (api) {
                api.dom().className = 'align-left';
            }
        },
        {
            icon: 'align-right',
            tooltip: 'Align right',
            action: function (api) {
                api.dom().className = 'align-right';
            }
        }
    ],

    insert: function (api, callback) {
        var element = document.createElement('div');
        element.innerHTML = 'My fancy block';
        callback(element);
    },

    remove: function (api) {
        // Unregister custom events etc
    },

    load: function (api) {
        return api.dom();
    },

    save: function (api) {
        return api.dom();
    }
});

But Shortcake is still really exciting!

Big changes to WordPress take time.

(See: REST API)

Shortcake-powered shortcodes
will teach you how to think about
content in a block-based editor.

You can do some really cool stuff with Shortcake!

Jen Simmons wants us to try things like this:

Recap

  1. Try Shortcake-powered shortcodes!
    wordpress.org/plugins/shortcode-ui/   +   go.ncsu.edu/major-link

     
  2. Go build amazing things!
    And then tell me about them! Tweet @BrianDeConinck

     
  3. Get excited about Gutenberg, but...
     
  4. Love and appreciate your Visual Editor.
    It's been a loyal companion through so many websites.
    Don't give up on it quite yet.