Like it or not, your readers have ADD. In a world where instant gratification and the complete lack of in depth attention to details plagues the general public, it is our job as the blogger to capture attention and keep it long enough to get our point across with our content. I bet right now you are looking for ways to scan this article to see if you can get the relevant information quickly to see if it will help your blogging. By using attention grabbing elements in your content like bold headlines, catchy titles and other style elements, you are able to keep your readers on your pages longer by interacting not only with words…but visually.
What Are Shortcodes?
Shortcodes have come about in recent WordPress themes to help bloggers style their content in an easy to digest manner without having to know any coding. Before, the designer would have to build in certain styling aspects into the CSS of the theme and then the blogger would have to know how to call that css within an article without calling out any complex code (typcially RSS feeds break on some code and WordPress won’t actually recognize it within an article).
A shortcode is a WordPress-specific code that lets you do nifty things with very little effort. Shortcodes can embed files or create objects that would normally require lots of complicated, ugly code in just one line. Shortcode = shortcut.
So what do you end up with? When you type something that looks like this (note the brackets around the text)…
[onehalf] Testing out shortcodes with 1/2 columns. [/onehalf] [onehalf last=”last”] Hey look! Another 1/2 column! [/onehalf]
That ends up looking like this on your article. (Note: The following code was generated via a plugin you are about to see below and is not apart of the stock WordPress install or with my current theme.)
By using brackets that call CSS elements in your code, you are able to simplify the process and use a predetermined library of functions to call out whatever you want to in your article. Basically, you are drastically simplifying the process of making your content easier to read while being able to grab more attention to elements that you deem important.
The Problem For The Blogger (You)
While shortcodes are an incredible way to create more engaging content, up until this point…most themes did not come with a library of shortcodes for you to choose from. Recently, themes from WooThemes and Theme Forest have started integrating shortcodes into their themes to give bloggers more options within their content. While this is great, it also runs into a unique problem for the blogger down the road. What if you want to change your theme to a different brand or custom option? All of the shortcodes that you setup within your content will become obsolete and your readers will see the brackets instead of the styling on all old articles!
One of the reasons I push WordPress so much for bloggers is the extensive ability to install plugins to enhance the WordPress experience. When you go to change how your site looks on the screen, your plugins go with your site as you update the look. The guys over at WPSwitch came up with an awesome plugin that makes your life much easier with shortcodes. With over 100 of different options, looks and tables, you are able to make columns, insert alerts, make picture slideshows and a whole host of other options to make your content more engaging. The best part…it operates independent of your theme via a plugin so you do not have to worry about transferring your shortcode styling when you change themes in the future. It is all integrated and ready to go once you hit the activate link.
To show you how easy this plugin is to use, I have put together this short screencast to show you how The Shortcode Kid plugin for WordPress operates.
If you are looking for an easy way to create more engaging content on your blog, I highly recommend the use of The Shortcode Kid plugin. It makes life much easier to create and manage shortcodes within your content and by using a plugin…you insure that the shortcodes will be compatible across future design needs. At $40.00 for the plugin, it is a premium option, but it adds a lot of value to your blog (future updates and additions to the plugin are free when you purchase).