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The Future of WordPress Post Formats UI?

Ever bought a stationary bike the entire family was ecstatic about using, only to see it turn into an expensive clothes rack? Then a few years later you finally decide to get serious about it and start spinning? In WordPress Universe, post formats are like that bike.

The main problem with post formats is that they make theme developers do a lot of guess work. If you search Post formats Codex page, you’ll find words could and may thirteen times (combined), should is there only once, not a perfect implementation of Decisions not Options principle.

The whole idea behind post formats was to create a standardized feature that looks and acts the same in every WordPress website. Or, as Nacin put it in January 2011:

Many have suggested that “the WordPress way” would be to establish a standard, but then still allow plugins and themes to hook in and add their own post formats. Ultimately, this feature is an exception of the rule. It’s not like we decided we liked the idea of post formats and then later came across the idea to force them to be standardized.

No, the idea we started with — before we had a name for them, even — was the standardization itself.

The only new thing this feature brings to the table is the portability enabled through standardization. Without that, the feature is useless.

Since they appeared in 3.1 post formats were half-standardized at best – if your theme supported them, post format meta information is always stored the same way – but that’s where standardization ends.

Luckily, things are changing! Post Formats team is currently discussing UI updates to Add/Edit post screen that would make publishing a quote, video, gallery (and so on) as straightforward as possible. Without that, you could have Theme A that uses a custom field to store quote text and Theme B that uses post content for it. Switch from Theme A to Theme B, refresh your quotes archive and see all the quotes disappear.

Ah, the magic of nonstandard implementation!

What post formats UI will end up looking like is anyone’s guess at this point, but some of the examples being mentioned in the discussion include Crowd Favorite’s WP Post Formats and WordPress.com’s interface.

Adding a video post at WordPress.com

Adding a video post at WordPress.com

Looks like in 3.6 post formats will finally stop being a feature with tons of potential and become something everyone knows how to use. Huge win for folks using WordPress to post lolcat photos! :)

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  • http://john.do/ John Saddington

    Great job on this Manic! The potential of increasing the UX and experience of post formats is incredibly exciting.

  • http://thematosoup.com Slobodan Manic

    Thanks John, I have high hopes for post formats, anything that makes it obvious how (and why) you’d use them would be a big improvement.

  • http://www.binarymoon.co.uk/ Ben

    This is going to be the big feature of WP3.6 for me. There’s lots of good things coming but this is the main one.

    • http://thematosoup.com Slobodan Manic

      What Alex did with his plugin is great. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3.6 UI looking very similar to it, with tabs at the top of Add/Edit screen.

  • http://jarederickson.com Jared Erickson

    i can’t wait been following this concept for a while and can’t wait for it to be part of the core. Love the work Alex King has already done – http://alexking.org/blog/2011/10/25/wordpress-post-formats-admin-ui

  • http://helenhousandi.com Helen H-S

    In WordPress Universe, post formats are like that bike.

    Oh, how I agree. :) Glad to hear at least some people are looking forward to it! It’s a neat feature to be leading, that’s for sure.

    • http://thematosoup.com Slobodan Manic


      What do you mean “at least some people”? I have no doubt this will be the one everyone’s talking about when 3.6 is released :)

      • http://helenhousandi.com Helen H-S

        I must just see all the naysayers :) “Who even uses post formats”, “no themes support them”, “they’re useless because we can’t extend them”, etc.

  • http://everchangingmedia.com Jason Bradley

    How sweet would it be if when you toggle between the Post Formats that the Visual Editor would change to reflect the way it would look like before publishing. It would be a live preview instead of having to open a preview up in a new tab.

    • http://thematosoup.com Slobodan Manic

      Would be great to have a real preview and not just editor-style.css but with the way edit screen is now, it’s probably not possible because what’s inside TinyMCE is only a part of what’s shown.

      The problem is that themes would need to hook into admin area somehow to make that preview possible. I don’t think there’s a mechanism for that.

      You know what could be good way to achieve what you described? Something similar to Customizer that would allow you to preview the post as you create it. But no way we’re seeing that in 3.6 :)

      Still, this is a step in the right direction, at least theme developers will get a standard they can follow and custom data for each post format will be portable, after that gets done, it will be much easier to create that live preview.