WordPress as CMS: How to make custom fields easy to use

Ed: This article is part of the 21 Days of WordPress Tips

The most frustrating feature of WordPress is custom fields. They provide huge potential for usability but remain largely under developed.

The term “custom fields” means nothing to anyone but a WordPress power user and their explanation (“Custom fields can be used to add extra metadata to a post that you can use in your theme.”) is even less helpful.

morefields1

However, they can be very powerful if used correctly.

You can use them any time you want to show content on a specific part of your page. Here’s a few examples:

  • Contact information
  • Embed code for videos, Wufoo forms, etc
  • Links to specific images
  • Product information (model, price, quantity, etc)

By having this content in a specific custom field, it allows you to display and manipulate it apart from the other page content.

The problem is the user interface is absolutely horrid. Any custom field you’ve every used is in a drop down box. Not to mention the text box for holding the data is small. And if you want to add any HTML tags, it again becomes completely useless to the average user.

Thankfully a developer by the name of Henrik Melin also saw this deficiency and wrote a plugin called More Fields.

This plugin takes control of the custom fields and allows you to add any number of new input blocks to the Write/Edit pages in WordPress. The input types include:

  • Text
  • Textarea
  • WYSIWYG
  • Select
  • Radio
  • Checkbox

I’ve already used this plugin for a few clients and it works fantastic. It allows you to add any number of custom fields in a way that makes it extremely easy to update.

Here is a screenshot of a Test Box I created in just a couple minutes that uses a WYSIWYG, radio select and drop down select:

morefields

If you’ve ever wanted to take control of your Write/Edit pages in WordPress and make them much more useful for you or your client, download and install the More Fields plugin immediately!

Now that you’re made some custom fields that are actually useful, how do you use them in your theme development? This will be in Tuesday’s tip, so stay tuned!

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