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.
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! 🙂