WordPress themes have come a long way in the last few years and a lot of the advancement has come in the way of being able to simply add design elements to your posts and pages to make it look much fancier with ease. This is usually done by the theme providing an abundance of shortcodes to add things like separators, buttons, boxes and highlights.
If you’ve heard me rant about functionality plugins, you might know why this approach is an issue. With a functionality plugin, you keep all of your functions in a separate plugin from your theme, so that when you change themes, you don’t lose all of that functionality. The same applies to these shortcodes: because they’re embedded in your theme files, as soon as you change themes, those shortcodes are not active any more: they’ll just appear as plain text in your posts and look worse than they would have done if they weren’t styled in the first place!
There are several plugins that aim to resolve this by providing shortcodes for design elements that will look good on most themes (the advantage of having them in a theme is that they can be designed specifically for your theme, rather than being generic for all themes). By putting it in a plugin, it is independent of your theme and you can keep the shortcodes active forever, so that when you change theme, your site still looks as you intended it.
The plugin that I think is the best option at the moment and that has the most promise is called Symple Shortcodes by WPExplorer.
As of version 1.3, the plugin supports the following styles:
- Clear floats
- Google Maps
- Pricing Tables
- Social icons
- and toggles
That’s just about everything you could need to display information these days.
The styles are well-designed, and they’re plain enough to suit most themes, without being dull. I think WPExplorer has done really well and I hope the plugin is maintained.
Most of the styles have parameters that can help you modify the design of each element to suit your need, such as changing colors and adding border radii. Furthermore, if you want to style it a little bit more, you can create custom CSS classes for each style and include them in your theme’s CSS (or better yet, your functionality plugin) to personalise it a little bit.
It’s quite easy to use the shortcodes, because a new button will appear in your editor (red square with a white S) and you can select which style to insert and the shortcode will be pasted into your post automatically. It would be nice if a popup window presented all of the parameters that you could then define instead of having to remember the options, or look them up, but as the plugin’s only downside, I’m willing to overlook it. After all, you can have sexy buttons like this theme after theme: