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Using Pods and Divi To Easily Transform WordPress Into A Highly Customizable Content Management System

Using Pods and Divi To Easily Transform WordPress Into A Highly Customizable Content Management System


While WordPress started out as a content management system for blogs, it’s evolved into a platform for managing any type of content. This is made possible by custom post types and custom fields, which allow you to organize your content into separate groups, and add additional data to them.

While that may sound complicated, and it can be, luckily there are several plugins that make this all very easy. One is Pods, a totally free development framework that makes it easy to add custom post types and fields, and also gives you a wide variety of front-end tools for outputting your content.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to make a simple content management site, with custom layouts and all without writing a single line of PHP (OK one optional line.) We’ll be doing this without leaving the WordPress admin area, except to view the results. All you need is Divi and the Pods plugin (which you can install via the WordPress plugin installer from WordPress.org).

As an example, I’ll be showing you how to make an informational site about rocket ships, since I’m that kind of nerd. You could use the same concepts to add event listings, information about your collection of seashells, or book reviews.

WordPress Content Types

Everyone is familiar with the built-in post types in WordPress (posts, pages and attachments), but WordPress also lets you define any number of custom post types. Posts in custom post types can have all of the functionality of regular posts, or only certain features, it’s up to you.

There are a lot of ways to add custom post types to WordPress, but in order to make it easier and skip writing a lot of extra code, a lot of people choose to use a plugin that can create them from the WordPress backend, such as Pods. Pods also gives you a range of tools for displaying your content as well as the ability to add other content types, including custom taxonomies (tags and categories are examples of taxonomies).

WordPress Custom Fields

All WordPress posts of any post type can have custom fields. These fields, which can be added by a plugin, programmatically or via the custom fields UI, are used to house additional “meta” information about a post. The most common meta fields for blog-type WordPress sites are SEO fields.

While custom fields can store any type of data, WordPress doesn’t know what type of data is stored in them. One of the advantages of using a plugin like Pods for adding custom fields is that Pods stores what type of field it is, and can give you the right type of selector tool for the field. For example, a color picker for a color field, or a date picker for a date field.

Creating Custom Post Types With Pods

In order to create a custom post type with Pods, you simply go to Pods’ admin menu in the dashboard and select “Add New”. On the next screen, you are given the choice to create a new content type or extend an existing one. The latter option is good for adding custom fields to a custom post type added by a theme or plugin, or for adding built-in content types. For now, select “Add New”. On the next screen select “Custom Post Type” for your Pod type and give it the singular label “rocket.” Click the blue button to advance.

The next screen you will see is the Pods editor. This is where you can add fields for your Pod and make other changes to the Pods’ settings. We’re going to add three fields, but before we do there is one thing I want to point out. When creating these types of Pods, new users are often tempted to add fields like “Name” or “Description”, but WordPress already has two perfectly good fields for this type of data: the post title and the post content. When we use the default fields, then our theme will show those automatically and we avoid adding redundant data.

Speaking of which, we’re obviously going to want to have a picture of the rocket ship. While Pods has all sort of fields for image, video and other type of media types, the easiest thing to do is use a featured image. By default Pods custom post types do not support featured images. We can change this in the “Advanced Options” tab of the Pods editor.

pods-supports

In that tab’s “Supports” section we can choose our features, such as title, author and featured image. This enables a custom post type to have some or all of the capabilities of a regular post, allowing for increased customization of your custom post type.

First let’s add plain text field called “Most Notable” Mission”. Plain text fields are the most basic of all fields, allowing you to enter a simple string. Pods has two types of field types, plain paragraph, and WYSIWYG. The latter of which gives you the same formatting tools as you get for post content in the WordPress post editor, while the former just allows basic text entry.

The second field will be a custom relationship. These fields allow you to create a list of options that a user can select from. In this type of field we define the options line by line, and set both the value and label on the line, separated by a | character. The value is what is stored in the database, and must be all lowercase and one word. The label is what is outputted in the post editor. The label can include spaces and upper case letters.

For this field, call it “Fuel Type”, and set the options like this:


solid|Solid Propellent

liquid|Liquid Fueled

hybrid|Solid and Liquid Hybrid


add-pods-fields

For our third field, let’s create a plain number field. We’ll call this field “mass” and use it to store the mass of the rocket ship. All Pods fields have the option to set a description to be shown under the field input in the post editor. For this field we can enter a description such as “Enter mass in kilograms.”

Be sure to click the blue “Save Pod” button on the right side of the screen when you’re done. That’s all it takes to create a new custom post type and add fields to it.

Creating Posts In Your Custom Post Types

One of the best parts of custom post types is that their editors work the same way as a regular post. There is nothing new to learn. Once you create the Custom Post Type Pod, you will see it as an option under the default post types in the WordPress admin menu. Creating posts works the same way as with other post types. In our “rocket” post type, you will see a new meta box with the title “More Fields” with inputs for the custom fields we created.

Go ahead and add a new rocket ship, for example the PSLV, which is the type of rocket that was used to launch India’s recent Mars Orbiter mission. You will see that the fields will only accept the correct type of data, a major improvement over WordPress’ built-in custom fields UI, which will allow any type of data in any field.

Don’t forget to choose an image and set as the featured image, just like you would a regular post.

Showing Your Content

If you click on the “View Rocket” button in the post editor once the post is published you will see that the normal built-in fields, such as post title, post content and featured image will be there automatically. This is the great thing about sticking to standards whenever possible. Your theme likely doesn’t know about your custom fields.

Pods gives you a lot of ways to output your custom fields. One of the easiest ways is to create a Pods Template. Pods Templates allow you to create, via the WordPress admin, a simple HTML template for showing your custom fields. In it you can get a fields value using a magic tag. These magical devices just require you to use the field’s name inside of brackets, with an @ sign before the field name. For example, to get the value of the field we called “Notable Mission” we would use “{@notable_mission}”.

I’m going to show you how to use the Pods Shortcode, along with the Divi shortcodes, to quickly create a grid based layout of all items in the rocket post type using one Page. By default, Pods Templates can not contain shortcodes. This is a problem if you want to use Divi’s shortcode based layouts, which you probably do if you’re a Divi fan. This is where the one, optional line of PHP comes in. In order to allow shortcodes in your templates called from a Pods shortcodes, you must set one constant in your site’s wp-config file. Working with constants in wp-config was the subject of my post here last week. Check it out if you need more information on how to do this. The one line to set in wp-config.php is this:


define( 'PODS_SHORTCODE_ALLOW_SUB_SHORTCODES', true );


Now in a new page, you can use the Pods shortcode with other shortcodes inside of it as long as you set the argument shortcodes to true. The Pods shortcode can enclose content, which uses the same syntax as a Pods Template. It can also call a Pods Template created in the Pods Template editor. For today, let’s put the template markup inside the shortcode. There is an entire sub section of the Tutorials section of the Pods site on Pods Templates you can review if you want to take this further.

To begin, let’s start with just the Pods shortcode with just empty space to place content in:


[pods name="rocket" shortcodes=1]

[/pods]


Now inside of this shortcode we can use any mix of shortcodes, html and Pods magic tags. Here’s what my markup looks like:


[pods name="rocket" shortcodes="1"]

<h3>{@post_title}</h3>

<ul> <li>Notable Mission: {@notable_mission}</li> <li>Mass: {@mass} kg</li> </ul>
{@post_thumbnail}
{@post_content} [/pods]

Notice that I am able to use the built-in fields post_title, post_content and post_thumbnail along with my custom fields using the same magic tag syntax. Here’s what this looks like in the front-end when using Divi:

divi-pods-rockets

One of the cool features of this system is that once I add another rocket, it will show up as well. If I add a lot of rockets then the content on the page might get overwhelming, but don’t worry, pagination is easy. We can add pagination to the shortcode like this:


[pods name="rocket" shortcodes="1" pagination="basic" limit="10" ]


Now we will have pagination after the tenth item. The limit argument can be adjusted to set how many posts you want to see per page.


Thats It?

That could be it, but using Pods and WordPress as a highly customizable content management system is a huge topic. I hope that while reading this article you thought of a how you can put a system like this to use for one of your own projects and are ready to dive into Pods. There are plenty of tutorials, and a free support forum to help you out.

Article thumbnail image by judylinn / shutterstock.com



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