Twenty Eleven Post Formats – What Are They and Why Should I Care?

This week I’m going to be hanging around inside WordPress 3.2 ahead of its release, taking a look at some of the things you can expect and what you can down with them.

With the arrival of WordPress 3.2 and its new default theme – Twenty Eleven, millions of people are going to all of a sudden become aware of post formats. Of course, post formats have been around since WordPress 3.1 so it’s not like they’re new. But what is new is that there are so many of them active in the default theme. This means that there will be plenty of end users who upgrade, activate their shiny new theme and think “wtf are all these new radio buttons?”

In preparation for WordPress 3.2 and TwentyEleven, post formats are certainly worth revisiting.

Custom Post Types vs Post Formats

Unfortunately the terminology used by WordPress is not exactly clear and it’s not always easy to separate out what is going on. Briefly:

  • Custom Post Types – These are the types of content – post or page; or maybe you have custom ones like “books”, “movies”, “products.”
  • Post Format – the format applied to a content type

TwentyTen used the aside and gallery formats. Here they are:

twenty ten post formats

But TwentyEleven has a whole lot more:

Let’s take a look at each of these post formats, how you can use them, and how you can add more.

Aside

Aside post format on index

An aside is a short piece of text – usually no more than a paragraph. It appears on the index page without a title.

Link

link post typeA link is, well, a link, obviously. Like the aside it appears on the index page without a title.

Gallery

Gallery on index page

gallery on page

A gallery page consists of a gallery attached to that post. You can use the [ gallery] shortcode to insert the gallery or upload your images, click the gallery tab on the uploader and click “insert gallery.”

Status

status on index pageThe status post format is a bit like Twitter. You can post a status message and it will appear with your gravatar on the index page.

Quote

quote on index pageA quote is for a post using a lot of quotes. This will make the quotes stand out on your index page.

Image

image index pageThe image format is great for photoblogging. You can use it to post a single image which will contain post meta like a caption around it. It makes Twenty Eleven into a viable option for a photoblogging theme.

Adding Additional Post Formats to Twenty Eleven

There are three additional post formats that you can add to Twenty Eleven:

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Chat

These are pretty self explanatory. It would have been nice to see video and audio included on Twenty Eleven – personally I think they’re more useful than quote or aside. Not sure what I would ever use chat for – I can see how it would be useful for development and support blogs though.

It is very easy to add these other post formats to Twenty Eleven. Open up functions .php and go to line 104. You’ll find this:

// Add support for a variety of post formats
add_theme_support( 'post-formats', array( 'aside', 'link', 'gallery', 'status', 'quote', 'image') );

You can add the extra formats by adding them to your array:

// Add support for a variety of post formats
add_theme_support( 'post-formats', array( 'aside', 'link', 'gallery', 'status', 'quote', 'image', 'chat', 'video', 'audio' ) );

This will just add the format, it will not style it. Check out these posts for some help on doing so:

The Twenty Eleven Ephemera widget

ephemera widget

The ephemera widget is included with Twenty Eleven to let you easily show your ephemera in your sidebar. Your ephemera are the small stuff –asides, quotes and links. The links act in a much more interesting way when they appear in the ephemera widget than on the index page. In the widget the title picks up the top link in the post and links directly to it. This is pretty much how I would have expected links to act on the index page so it’s nice that they do here.

Are They So Great?

Yes, and no. I think post formats are awesome because they extend WordPress’ flexibility so much. You can easily transform the default twenty-eleven theme into a photoblogging theme, a micro blogging theme and a tumblog with absolutely no changes to the code and this represents a fantastic step forward.

But I think that where they fall down is in user experience. Let’s take a look at the input fields for a few of Tumblr posts:

Tumblr quote input fields

Tumblr link format

tumblr audio input

Check out the input field for all of the WordPress post formats:

add wordpress post

See the difference? Adding content to WordPress Post formats is not intuitive. It took me a while to figure out how the link format works. Do you insert the link in the title field? Do you insert it straight into the post field or do you attach it to some text? It’s just not self evident. Quotes are another problem – I want to be able to add the quote author and the source, maybe even the date. For these to work effectively I need to start adding custom fields and for lots of standard end users this just isn’t an option.

Tumblr now has more blogs than WordPress.com. Tumblr has been around for 4 years, WordPress.com for 6 years. This is an impressive feat for the microblogging site. And with the introduction of post formats it’s obvious that WordPress is taking note. And while it’s a huge step in the right direction I don’t feel that it’s quite there. Each post format needs a different input field to improve user experience. It’d be nice to see by the time we get to WordPress 4.0! An effective WordPress Tumblog Multisite would be awesome :)

Further Reading