If you find yourself surrounded by strange people who keep monotonously repeating the phrase “Custom Post Types”, don’t panic. You have stumbled across a gathering of WordPress developers and, as long as you do not make any sudden movements, you will be perfectly safe. This ancient tribe has many strange customs: Custom Taxonomies, Custom Fields and, as you’ve already noticed, the most sacred custom of all, Custom Post Types.
As mysterious as Custom Post Types may sound, it is entirely possible for you to master them, along with all the other impressive-sounding technologies that magically expand what you can achieve with WordPress, without even needing to learn how to code.
Does that sound crazy? Does it sound impossible that there might be a way to start operating on a higher level, creating WordPress sites with far more advanced functionality and, hopefully, getting paid heaps more money because there is so much more you are able to do, all without having to touch a line of that filthy, disgusting PHP code?
Welcome to Toolset.
Toolset is a set of plugins created to enable you to do some pretty impressive stuff. It is made by the same folks who made the WordPress Multilingual Plugin, commonly know as WPML, which enables you to make versions of your WordPress sites in different languages, which is pretty cool, but what Toolset can do is far more exciting if you have ever dreamt of using WordPress to build sites with far more advanced functionality.
Toolset consists of:
This is the cornerstone of Toolset functionality. It allows you to go beyond the simple posts and pages that WordPress provides out-of-the-box, and create entirely new post types representing anything you can imagine, from directory listings to testimonials to hotel bookings.
These are called Custom Post Types, CPTs for short, and you use them to create custom posts. The CPT, defined by you, controls what types of data these custom posts contain, who gets access to them and how they relate to one another.
Now, at this stage, you might be banging your head off your keyboard and begging for mercy but bear with me. This stuff really is not as complicated as it at first appears to be. Read back over that last two paragraphs again, just one more time, because in the next paragraph we are going to starting using Custom Fields to add things to our Custom Posts.
You use Custom Fields to define the types of information that will be requested every time a new custom post is created of a particular CPT. If you create a CPT called Movie, you might ask for Custom Fields such as Title, Release Date, Plot, Budget etc, and each Movie custom post, made from that CPT, with have its own unique Title, Release Date, Plot etc.
You use Custom Taxonomies to define a new taxonomy type, to use alongside the two standard WordPress taxonomy types: Categories and Tags. For instance, if you were designing an accommodation booking site, you might have created a Custom Post Type to spit out a custom post for each of your properties. You might want to categorize each the type of property each custom post is, so, you would create a “Property Types” custom taxonomy, to define which of your properties are apartments, and which ones are cottages.
You use Post Relationships to define to define the relationships between your Custom Post Types. For example, you might have one CPT for Movies, and another CPT for Movie Directors. You could define a Parent / Child Relationship that makes each Movie the Child of a specific Movie Director, while each Movie Director is the Parent of at least on Movie. This categorization can control the order in which each custom post appears within your site.
The above capabilities completely open up what WordPress can represent. They are all native WordPress features that can be unleashed by editing raw code, but the free Toolset Types plugin allows you to do the same magic by pointing and clicking around a well-designed visual interface.
This is where it gets really exciting! Views allows you to take that funky new data structure you have been creating in Types, and create templates to display the collected data on the front-end of your site in a wide variety of ways.
Again, no need to go splashing around in a mucky puddle of code, Views lets you do all this via a simple visual interface.
This is how you gather data from your users, allowing you to store that data or use it to spit out new custom posts based upon a CPT.
This functionality – gathering data from users and doing stuff with it – may sound basic, but it the foundation of all programming, and now it is being handed to you… and you still have touched a line of code, you spunky monkey.
This drag-and-drop editor allows you design entire pages, in which to show off your new Toolset skills.
control who gets to see what on your site, applying different rules to different WordPress user types. This is often called “role management”.
In upcoming articles within this series, we will take a look at the many other tools and integrations that make Toolset so powerful but, for now, in those five plugins – Types, Views, CRED, Layouts and Access – you have the heart of it, and I hope that I have at least planted in your mind the possibility that you could jump to an entirely new level of WordPress skill and ability without needing to become a coder.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it will be easy, there is always a learning curve when you try to develop powerful new skills – not having to code doesn’t make the whole thing simple – but you might perhaps now, at least, have the sense that you will be in good hands if you hop onboard the Toolset bandwagon.
On a final note for now, bear in mind that adding so many advanced features can be resource intensive. Before adding any significant new functionality to your WordPress sites, you need to consider whether your current hosting is capable of handling that strain.
Once you actually have traffic, you don’t want visitors to your site to be confronted with unexplained delays. More importantly, you definitely don’t want them contacting you to ask why your site isn’t working!
The advice we always give is to make sure you get properly resourced hosting in place before you launch. We recommend two hosts that we have seen work out well for our readers, the choice between them comes down to money:
If you are on a tight budget, SiteGround has a good reputation for well-managed and well-supported shared hosting at a good price. They are by far the best at that price level. In particular, consider their GoGeek level.
If, on the other hand, absolute reliability and performance is more important to you than price, WP Engine provides the best possible managed WordPress hosting, I use it for all of my most important sites, the ones that generate money.