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Why I Don’t Like To Style My Content Using Theme Shortcodes

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More and more WordPress themes are incorporating shortcodes into their designs for styling content. Some shortcodes add icons and buttons easily whilst others add boxes, tables, columns, stylish fonts and much more.

One of the best theme purchases I have made is BigFeature. It’s a clean looking versatile design that has gone on to be one of the best selling themes on ThemeForest. One of the themes biggest selling points is its beautiful typography and how easy it makes styling your content with the included shortcodes.

There is one major drawback to using theme shortcodes though – they are theme specific. Designers are creating their own unique shortcodes for styling content on their designs. These shortcodes are controlled from the functions.php file and styled via style.css.

One of the benefits of using shortcodes is that posts and pages can be styled individually, giving different areas of your site a different look. They also make styling content accessible for users aren’t comfortable with long complicated lines of code.

If you don’t ever foresee changing your WordPress theme then shortcodes that are built into the theme are the perfect solution for making plain looking pages more professional. In reality, most websites will go through a design change at least every few years. When the design is changed, the shortcodes that are placed inside all of your posts and pages to style your content become useless and your content will look a little out of place.

I experienced this first hand after using the BigFeature design on one of my sites for a few weeks. I styled several of my posts using the themes shortcodes. My articles looked great however when I decided to change the design later the posts went back to looking ‘normal’.

This is why I don’t like using shortcodes that are built into themes. If you are designing a website for a client then you may not be concerned about the content looking different when the theme is changed. This is certainly not a problem if you or your company won’t be responsible for the next design; but a royal pain in the ass if you are.

There are solutions to this though:

  • Copy The Code From One Theme To Another – You can directly copy the code from your old design to the new one. Bear in mind that the style of the shortcodes may not fit in as well with your new design.
  • Use A Plugin – By using a plugin such as Shortcodes Ultimate to style your content you are ensuring that shortcodes can be applied to all of your designs (i.e. are not theme specific).

I believe plugins are the best solution for using shortcodes on your site. At the moment I don’t believe the plugins available for styling your content using shortcodes can match the great shortcodes that are being added to designs by theme developers. This raises the question: is it better to use theme shortcodes that are better styled and have more features and then copy the code to your new design later or is it better to use a shortcode plugin with less features that will cause you less hassle in the future?

What are your thoughts on shortcodes? I’d love to hear from WP Mods readers that are using them currently on their website. What do you think are the pros and cons of using them?

Thanks for reading :)


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Comments (4)

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Hi Serafina,

I haven’t used smooth slider myself however if you send me a temp admin login via the forums I can check it out in a day or so and see if I can get it working for you. Just let me know exactly what is wrong and what you are trying to achieve :)


Comment by Serafina says:


I’m ready to use the plugin mentioned in this article to see if it would help me in using a slider I purchased to incorporate into my blogs. I get very little help from the creators of this slider (Smooth Slider) but I like it and since I already invested in it I wanted to make it work. Only thing is that the placement of short codes is beating me and also I don’t understand how to change sliders when featuring selected topics. Hope you understand this question.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Good article. I am planning on trying to arrange more time so that I can start working on small plugins to address plugins that I need addressed. It’s a good way to improve functionality on your site and help others in the WordPress community.

Comment by Rev. Voodoo says:

I think the best option is a combination! Pull the awesome code providing the sweet shortcode functionality from the theme, and place it into a plugin. It’s something I’ve been working on with my sites. Collecting all the cool functionality I want cross sites, independent of theme, and making 1 great plugin I can share between all my sites. Is an article I wrote, trying to steer more folks towards making a custom plugin.

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