When you are looking at putting content on your WordPress website, you can get intimidated by things that may alter the layout of your site. Worry no more. With Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) you can put content blocks, data groups and custom maps in an easy to use, visual interface.
We first started looking at Advanced Custom Fields in order to find an alternative to Visual Composer / WP Bakery Page Builder. We wanted to simplify the CMS editing process for our clients and use a WordPress plugin with less over head that doesn’t take over the whole site. Adding WP Bakery Page Builder on top of your WordPress site is like installing another CMS software layer on top of your WordPress CMS software layer. There is a lot of software BLOAT. Speed issues are a big concern. ACF is good way to build a WordPress site and make it easy for the client to edit the pages and content.
ACF The Good
With a few simple steps, you can set up a content block, completely customizable, with the ability to not only control the text that goes in, but the background images, colors, specialized headers and footers for the content, all within your existing page layout, without risking your layout. In a recent project we wanted to test the limits, and came nowhere near hitting them.
We designed a client editable slideshow, with the ability to add or change the main image, the text overlay, header and content areas, the link location and text, along with placement of the content on the slide (left, right or center, etc), text color, transparencies… you name it, and we added it. We couldn’t think of anything we wanted to throw at it that we couldn’t accomplish quickly and easily.
Creating a list in WordPress is easy, but sometimes WordPress likes to throw in some extra spacing (line breaks, doubled indents) with them if you aren’t careful with the editor. With ACF we have been able to take the “coding” out of making a list by giving our clients simple input boxes for each item, with the ability to add or remove boxes and not worry about affecting the layout of their page and it’s effect on content or look of the page.
Embedding a map into any web page can be confusing, especially if you are wanting to place map marker pins, link to an external map or other custom map integration work. ACF can be used to do custom Google map integration work.
ACF The Bad
The only real negative we have found with ACF, and that is not a really limiting factor, is that you need to set up your template to receive the data. This means it is going to be in a consistent place every time. Your web design layouts need to be final. The layout of the page is built with ACF and you can’t change the design or layout on the fly. The layout is set. That is not a problem, if you set it up smartly, but it is a limiting factor and not for the novice. If you are trying to set up a block inside your content you can create a [shortcode] for it, but that is not how it was intended to be used, and it is best to have a fixed place in your template for the data. Most people want consistency when looking at a website, so that is a good thing, but I started off saying it was a limit, not a negative.
If the client wants every page to have a different layout or they want the power to be able to ‘design’ pages on the fly then WP Bakery Page Builder would be a better solution for them. ACF is better for clients who approve 3-4 templates that are locked down. The client just enters their data and content into text fields in the CMS and they don’t need to do any design work.
Overall, ACF is a great plugin, and the pro version is definitely worth the small fee. There is not much it isn’t prepared to do for you, and even if you can’t do something out of the box there is always a way to make it happen. At least, that is what we have found. So give us a challenge, hire us for a project that you think we can’t do with ACF and we will prove to you we can.
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Jim has been with Internet Design and Publishing since 2013 and has worked his way from the bottom of the totem pole to lead PHP developer in that time. With over 15 years experience in PHP development and a passion for keeping up with new technologies and doing things the right way, he has worked hard at making IDP the place it is today.