Custom Post Types are not Posts

Custom post types are e-commerce products, books, real estate properties and many other things, but the last thing they are, are posts. So why do we continue to use the default posts interface to manage all this awesome additional information we’re storing?


I was wondering about this issue a while back, as we (Theme Force) use custom post types to store information for a number of the features we maintain (after all, it’s a darn powerful feature of WordPress). Our features are all relatively simple concepts (food, event, slides, etc.), but we were making it far too hard to use. This, simply because we had visually ridiculed information that already had context, to plain old data bound by post_id’s, thus leaving it up to the user to find their way around a table that doesn’t differ much from the SQL one (like the screenshot below):

custom post type customized wordpress

Mind you, the above was an awesome interface to us, but our users let us know in many ways that this wasn’t working for them (in the worst possible way,  not using it at all). The pretty design, easy accessibility to add/update items was really cool, but it didn’t bring enough structure or hierarchy for the user to even remotely feel productive (see my previous article for more on that, WP Admin is an Experience too.). Imagine you order a hamburger in a restaurant, and 20 minutes later you’re served a plate with each individual ingredient laid out flat on the plate in a uniform manner. Not very appetizing right? Neither are the default one-size-fits-all data tables.

Data + Context.

Fast-forward a few months, we’re now taking the time to build an interface for our food menu custom post type that actually reflects the look and feel of a real menu (seems so logical when you think of it now), bringing together context and hierarchy. It is after all our goal to become the top provider of restaurant websites globally, and not every user is as forgiving and patient as our awesome early adopters have been. Whilst it isn’t complete yet and we’ll certainly have changes to make after it goes live, it’s already miles ahead of its predecessor. Watch the video in full-screen below to get a feel for a different kind of post type.

Click on the full-screen icon in the bottom-right hand corner:

Final Thoughts

Whilst some custom post types can easily use the standard interface, there are a number of cases that could be simplified a whole lot more.  In other environments, you may have no end-users and be the sole person responsible for input, in which case it doesn’t make sense either. However, it’d be really interesting to see where the level of customization goes within the WordPress community when representing custom post types within the admin area. With the already included jQuery UI and a handful of functions (wp_insert_post, wp_update_post, wp_delete_post) you’re already 90% of the way there. Less screen clutter, less clicks for the user and more visual hierarchy all lead to a more awesome experience for your users. What are your thoughts?