- The process – how WordPress developers build sites
- The challenge – customizing themes requires more technical skills than many developers have.
- The solution – Views allows you to make these customizations without coding.
- How Views helps to integrate between the theme and plugins.
- Not only for beginners – advanced things that only Views can do.
What is the optimal skill-set for developing a WordPress site? If you ask a programmer, you will probably get a reply such as “knowing PHP, JS and HTML and mastering the WordPress API”. If you ask a marketing person, you might hear “understanding client needs and writing content that rocks”. If you ask a graphics designer, the answer may be “clean and modern design”.
Large WordPress development shops employ complete teams consisting of programmers, designers, marketing people and project managers. Certainly, having a strong team of experts to develop a site can produce good results, but this will also cost a lot of money.
How can an individual developer have all these skills and compete with the big shops?
The short answer is that it’s almost impossible. It takes years to master programming, visual design and marketing. Sure, some have all these skills, but most don’t. At least, not yet.
But is it really necessary to be an expert in everything to build great sites?
Let’s see what’s really needed. The process that many WordPress developers follow is:
- Get a theme
- Get plugins that do 80% of the necessary functionality
- Customize the theme and integrate the plugins
Getting a theme and choosing plugins doesn’t require any development skills. Customizing the theme almost always takes some (or a lot) of programming work. That’s a shame, because someone who’s a whiz at marketing could do everything else, but will get stuck on the theme customization.
The Views plugin, which is part of the Toolset package, offers a middle-road. It allows the less techy people to build custom WordPress sites without having to become expert programmers.
Views is the glue that allows you to connect great themes, plugins and custom functionality, all without having to write a single line of PHP.
Customization through shortcodes instead of PHP
Views uses shortcodes for everything. For example, a template for WooCommerce products developed with Views can look like this:
[wpv-add-to-cart-message] <div class="row"> <div class="span3"> <div class="thumbnail product-images"> [wpv-woo-product-image size="shop_single" output=""] </div> </div> <div class="span6"> <h1>[wpv-post-title]</h1> <span class="product-price">[wpv-woo-product-price]</span> <p> [wpv-post-body view_template="None"] </p> <div class="buy-options"> [wpv-woo-buy-options add_to_cart_text=""] </div> </div> </div>
While at first glance this may look intimidating, if you have a background in HTML you should be able to read this template and understand how it will display.
The template starts with the [wpv-add-to-cart-message] shortcode. As the name suggests, this shortcode will display the message about adding the product to the shopping cart. The next shortcode we see is [wpv-woo-product-image]. This will display the product image. Then, we display the product name (post title), the post body and buying options.
There are some great things about designing templates with Views.
First, all you need to do to create this design is to understand HTML. If you are among the 75% of WordPress developers who are fluent in HTML then this tool is right for you.
Next, you don’t need to memorize anything – especially not a list of shortcodes. When you want to insert a field (shortcode) into a template, click on the [ Fields and Views ] button where you will see a list of all the fields that are available to insert. When a field has options (like the size of an image), a menu will be displayed that allows you to set these options.
Finally, the absolutely best thing about designing with Views is that you can include shortcodes from your theme or from any other plugin in them. This way, you can integrate functionality between different plugins or your theme without writing any PHP.
For example, you could easily display Nextgen galleries in templates by inserting the [ngg_images] shortcode. If you visit the NGG shortcodes page you’ll notice that these shortcodes have plenty of options. That’s great because you can even control these options using custom fields and their shortcodes.
Adding custom content to the site’s homepage, without WP_Query
Did you ever need to add testimonials, or a showcase, or an ‘Our Services’ section to the theme’s homepage?
You’re not alone. The vast majority of WordPress sites use custom content, and while it’s pretty easy to set up custom content and fields, displaying it can be more tricky. Views makes content display a lot easier than with PHP.
A View lets you choose what content to display and how to display it. Once you’ve created a View you can put it anywhere in the site.
This very basic View will display the first 8 products, ordered by ‘post date’.
Each of the products will display using this template:
<a href="[wpv-post-url]">[wpv-woo-product-image size="shop_single" output="img_tag"]</a> <h3>[wpv-post-link]</h3> <span class="product-price">[wpv-woo-product-price]</span> [wpv-woo-buy-or-select add_to_cart_text="" link_to_product_text=""]
Now that you’re more familiar with how Views uses shortcodes, it should be easy to understand this template. It will display the product image, linking to the product page. Then, an H3 heading linking to the product. Finally, there are the product price and ‘add to cart’ link. Easy!
All we need now is to insert this View into the homepage and we get the 8 recent products.
Want to try Views yourself?
The two examples that we showed here are just scratching the surface of what you can do with Views plugin. You can explore the different features in the Views page. The 30-days unconditional refunds that comes with all Toolset plugins makes it especially sweet to evaluate and see how you like Views. You can get it and start building client sites. If you’re not happy, you can get your money back.