It has become common knowledge by now that WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System. Owing to its ease of use and user friendly interface, WordPress has established itself as the apex software when it comes to creating a website or a blog.
Speaking of websites, WordPress nowadays can be used to power a vast plethora of sites. Be it a news or magazine website, an art portfolio, a photoblog or even an eCommerce site, WordPress has the capability to suit your needs. Thus, due to such extensive target user base, WordPress is often the preferred tool of trade for many developers and designers alike.
However, what if, you are not a developer or designer? Let us assume for a moment that you wish to create an advanced website using WordPress, but do not have the required coding skills — maybe you need custom post types and neatly defined user roles, but your expertise lies in Anthropology, and words such as PHP and database handles sound scary to you?
If you can identify with the above situation, do not feel small. WordPress can still work for you, and yes, you do not need to learn PHP in one night. In fact, you do not need to learn PHP at all!
Allow me to introduce you to WordPress Toolset — a set of WP plugins devised especially to make the non-coder’s life easier! Wanna find out how? Read on!
WordPress Toolset — Creating Efficient Websites Without Coding
So, what exactly is this Toolset that we are talking about? As mentioned above, Toolset is a set of plugins. However, the question that now arises is, which plugins?
There are multiple plugins in the entire collection, and the most notable ones are as follows:
Types: Types lets you define custom post types, taxonomies and various other special fields. It is an extremely useful plugin if you wish to extend your WP site using custom post types and taxonomies, but do not really want to be bound by post types defined by a WP theme.
Views: Views lets you modify the appearance of pages, lists and widgets. All in all, if used properly, Views can help you tweak the look and feel of your entire WordPress website within minutes. The interface surely requires some level of ‘getting used to’, but once you get the hang of it, Views can make your life really simple.
CRED: CRED allows you to create and edit content for front page. Yes, we are also talking about building web apps using WordPress.
Types Access: Types Access helps you to define user roles. If your website has multiple users and you wish to have absolute control of which user account can perform what action, Types Access is the plugin meant for you!
Ah… there’s more to come! But enough talking already; let us now focus on the Toolset’s working to better understand the concept behind each plugin.
Gearing Up For Testing
In order to test WP Toolset plugins, I decided to create an entire dummy website using it. I installed WordPress on a demo site and then uploaded the plugins. Thereafter, I got to work.
My goal behind this test was to proceed as if I were creating a design magazine website. Why a magazine site? Well, for a start, it will really help us assess the usefulness of all the plugins quickly. Furthermore, a magazine site is comparable to a design blog in itself, and a good number of WP users are keen on starting a popular blog themselves.
So, for the purpose of this new website, this is what we shall be needing:
- Some Custom Post Types: basically, two of them, namely, Breaking News and Tutorials.
- Ability to check User Roles: Considering the fact that our magazine will most likely have multiple authors and contributors, we need to be sure that each user account has the required permissions. In other words, it will be helpful if we can have Moderators for comments, and it will also be logical to ensure that unnecessary permissions are not granted to less trusted folks.
Beyond that, we will also be taking a quick look at the Forms Creation mechanism as well as the Views plugin.
Alright, let us now check out the Toolset.
Watching it in Action!
Having installed WordPress and done the prelims (creation of user accounts, installation of the required theme, customization of plugins such as Akismet, and so on), we can safely turn our attentions towards building the website using Toolset plugins.
First up, we need to create two custom post types. While we can also have a make-shift arrangement using Categories or Tags, it will be useful to have custom post types for Tutorials and Breaking News sections, so that the concerned authors/contributors can enter special info (such as ‘required software’ for Tutorials).
Once you activate the Types plugin, you will be greeted with a new menu in the admin panel. Adding a new custom post type is fairly simple: you need to specify details such as slug and post type name, and you are good to go.
However, looking at the detailed options: you can alter the labels, visibility settings, and many other features. Once we create the two custom post types for Tutorials and Breaking News, this is what our admin panel navigation bar will look like:
Now, we need to be certain that our concerned authors and contributors have the proper level of access. Sometimes, an over-enthusiastic author may require permission to moderate comments. Or perhaps, as our magazine grows over time, we need to hire multiple co-editors to edit and publish articles, but not for admin roles. This is where user roles need to be clarified.
The plugin set clubs the User Roles plugin menu under the Post Types menu. Head to Types–>Access Control and User Roles.
Thereafter, the management itself is a matter of simple check boxes, as shown below:
Now, coming to the interesting part. The two custom post types that we created above can also be managed under this section (if you choose not to, they will inherit the same access settings as the default Post type). Let us configure Breaking News first. Most likely, we might need to hire a writer who will be focusing entirely on crisp and latest news. Thus, we can grant him access by adding his user name to this custom post type access settings.
Similarly, for Tutorial post type, we can grant specific access to our tutorial writer(s):
And what about Views? Ideally, most such customization can be accomplished by means of a good premium theme. In fact, frameworks such as Thesis and Genesis have built a niche for themselves by offering such customization abilities to their users. That said, it is not a bad decision to opt for such functions by means of a plugin, so that we do not lose our changes if we ever decide to change the theme.
Once you head to the Add New View page, you will be greeted with multiple options. Basically, you will need to have a working knowledge about Views, before actually accomplishing anything out of this page. That said, when I was playing around with the plugin, I was tempted to compare it to Drupal’s Module Manager.
Back in the days of Drupal 6.x, the modules used to be added much the same way as these views, just that the process was way more complex. I still feel a good theme framework can eliminate the need of this Views plugin, but overall, it is a very capable and useful addition to the Toolset.
Basically, you can specify settings related to pagination, query as well as layout of Views.
And now, before we wind it up, let us create a form using CRED. While the CRED API can do much more than just simple forms, since the purpose behind this plugin set is to either help end users get more out of WP without coding or make a developer’s life easier, I wouldn’t really expect the API to be a blazing gun.
The CRED form creation mechanism is fairly simple, and has an installation wizard like touch to it. Step 1 is where you will be asked to name your new form, and step is where you can choose what happens after the form is shown:
Thereafter, you need to specify the HTML part, as under:
That’s it! You can then display your form as you deem fit.
Pricing and Verdict
The entire Toolset package is available at $149. It includes a year full of support and upgrades, and you can use it on unlimited websites.
Is it worth it? Definitely yes!
With the ever growing popularity of WordPress, more and more end users are migrating to WP, and Toolset offers them a nifty way to create websites without coding. Furthermore, even if you are a developer, you can make use of Toolset for client work.
That said, I also feel that certain plugins in the collection may not be used beyond a given point: CRED, for instance, is a powerful and decent addition to the set. However, considering the fact that the USP of the Toolset is to help end users work with WordPress without getting their hands dirty with coding, CRED does not seem to belong in the set. Unless you know how to work your way with coding (alright, HTML, not PHP, but still….), CRED will only leave you confused.
And… Some Live Examples
And now, before winding it up, let us take a look at a couple of websites that are actually making use of the Toolset:
1. Founders’ Quotes
The website displays quotes from America’s Founding Fathers. Naturally, it makes use of custom post types using Types plugin and the Views plugin displays them.
2. KKFI Community Radio
The website of KKFI Community Radio makes use of Types to create custom post types for Programmers, Programs and Program Episodes.
Wanna check out more examples of the plugin set in action? Head over to this page.
What do you think of WordPress Toolset? Will you be giving it a try? Have your say in the comments below!
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