WordPress Custom Post Types & Pods: What’s Next?

Posted: May 31, 2010 Comments(22)

On more than on occasion I’ve been asked about my future with Pods specifically given the immanent release of WordPress 3.0 featuring Custom Post Types. On the spot, I didn’t have to ponder too much, but I did want to let things seep in for a while before explaining my stance in full. There’s a lot to consider with both Custom Post Types and Pods and also a lot of theory and philosophy behind each, in my opinion. I’m going to avoid the technical details in this overview and keep it simple.

What are Custom Post Types?

First and foremost we need to understand what Custom Post Types are. I’ll try to do my best to sum them up as quickly and as easily as possible in my own words.

Custom Post Types defines our new ability to better organize more advanced content structures within our WordPress sites. That is to say, using Custom Post Types will allow us to create groups of content in addition to the stock Posts and Pages. Subsequently, we’re also able to define the data fields used in each group. Further, we’re able to take advantage of many standard features built into WordPress such as creating custom taxonomies (used for categorization among other things) and more.

If I had to label one final stake in the ground that WordPress is fantastically stating that it is no longer a “blogging” platform and instead a content platform, it would be Custom Post Types.

Custom Post Types have got a ton of attention lately, and as such deserves it. I can’t emphasize how much of a game changer this is on a platform level not only for WordPress developers, but for users as well. We’re going to see a lot of changes on the theme level which in turn will spread the word about WordPress’ adaptiveness.

Where does Pods fit in?

Custom Post Types sound great, but what about Pods? If you want the short version: I love Pods and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon as a result of Custom Post Types.

Now for the extended version.

Pods and Custom Post Types, although they have some overlapping functionality, don’t directly compete with one another top to bottom. Custom Post Types open a lot of doors, and I plan on using those doors as often as possible. Pods, however, is functionally superior to Custom Post Types in ways that I’ve been taking advantage of on nearly every project in recent memory.

The superiority lies in the fact that instead of being a new group of Custom Posts or Pages, Pods focuses on the relationship factor by keeping the doors wide open when it comes to how the data is displayed, how users interact with it, and how you use it. Additionally, the Pods developers are super focused on performance. That’s not to say that I’ve noticed a performance problem with WordPress, but it’s great to read that they’re focused on speed and integrity to the level of creating one-off database tables every time Pods needs one for your content types.

Pods takes a different approach entirely when it comes to the database level. WordPress Custom Post Types simply append your new content groups to the Posts table and under the hood are using Custom Fields to take care of your custom data. This is nowhere near magic to anyone who has written a plugin before that accomplishes the same thing. Attachments, for example, uses that philosophy to function.

Don’t take me wrong, I don’t think that’s wrong to do, not by any means. I always try to KISS and I think Custom Post Types do the same thing. I also appreciate, though, that Pods focuses on performance at its root.

Pods also offers more when it comes to functionality offered. Custom Post Types leave things pretty open-ended for you to get done what you’d like, but I’m not sure how easy it will be to relate one Post to another, or multiple for that matter in that group. What about relating that Post to a Post from a completely different group? What if you want to limit that list of available Posts to include a certain number of Posts from one group, and more from another? Pods has you covered out of the box.

I’ve also become addicted to the way Pods UI lets you present the Pods you’ve created. You’re able to organize and group your content types in such a way that it makes perfect sense when your client needs to hop in the driver’s seat. Pods UI is founded on built-in WordPress functions and I’m not sure to what extent it can be replicated with Custom Post Types at this stage, but I’m smitten with Pods UI and hopefully that functionality can eventually find its way to Custom Post Types.

I’ve become very comfortable with the advanced features offered by Pods, especially when Pods UI comes into play, and I won’t backtrack at this point just to take advantage of built-in functionality (my personal preference by default). I think Pods still stands on its own two feet by a long shot.

Will they blend?

That said, I plan on using a combination of Custom Post Types and Pods until a new catalyst enters which will cause me to reevaluate the situation at that point. I have a set of rules that help me build sites on top of WordPress and incorporate Pods all to make things as easy as possible for my clients to use and I will continue with that school of thought now that Custom Post Types are here.

I’ve got a lot to learn about Custom Post Types and what’s technically functional, possible, and stable. You can be sure I’ll be posting my findings along the way. I feel that Pods and Custom Post Types make a good team and will continue to do so beyond the launch of WordPress 3.0.

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  1. I’ve been playing with Custom Post Types for a few weeks now and I’m pretty impressed with the functionality it will deliver.

    However, I do believe there is some confusion about what it can provide if you look at some of the early tutorials. It does NOT easily allow you to add custom fields that look integrated into the WordPress look in the same way that Pods does. I mean, you can do this but it requires a little leg work and at that point you are creating your own plug-in.

    What Custom Post Types can do is easily allow you to create your own content bucket and assign some custom taxonomies. That’s really what you want to use it for. If you have to go beyond a Title, Content, Categories, and Tags (i.e Custom Fields), then you are probably better off using Pods or a plug-in such as Verve Meta Boxes.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Christopher, Pods CMS. Pods CMS said: RT @jchristopher: I've been asked a few times about Custom Post Types in WordPress 3.0 and Pods isn't going away. http://is.gd/cwXyt […]

  3. Nice explanation, the only thing I would add would be that I use Pods for everything outside of Posts / Pages — even things Custom Post Types do. This is simply because I’m well beyond the curve of where it takes less time to develop with Pods vs Custom Post Types in 3.0 😉

  4. Like Scott, I too am very familiar with Pods and would prefer to continue using it over Custom Post Types. However, Custom Post Types may provide a way to tap into the hundreds of WordPress plugins that don’t work with Pods.

    For example, the GDStar Ratings plugin would be amazing to have but it does not work with pods content but will probably be updated to support Custom Post Types. I’m using the Pods Ratings package already but I miss functionality like thumb up/down ratings etc.

  5. I’m very excited about the custom posts & taxonomies. I have tested both for a few weeks on a upcoming site and I’m sure that if you add Pods in the equation you can get a very powerful combination.

  6. I’ve been reading the pods site off and on for over a year now, and I have to admit that it looks like one incredibly powerful system. I have probably read every single thread in the forums by now, some many times.

    The inherent problem I see with pods is the sheer lack of ‘newbie’ documentation. To date I have never seen ‘how to’ articles such as how to build a basic movie-actor type of basic website where the movies and actors are related.

    I would have loved to have seen a sub-site dedicated to showing video and code examples of all the features that pods can do. Basically a site that would have taken basic capabilities and expanded it step by step to the full extent of what pods is capable of. Basically documenting and describing in detail every ‘concept’ that could be done with pods. So far, I have not seen even the most basic of examples.

    To me it seems that the developers and users have such a great understanding of the pods system, that the ‘normal’ wp user is forgotten. It’s like everyone using pods forgets what it was like to be a newbie who wants to learn.

    IMO, until that happens, I believe pods will remain one of ‘those’ plugins, only suited to advanced users.

    Like many others, I have been playing with 3.0 since it’s alpha stage. There have been hundreds of great articles around the web that if combined together, really paint a complete picture of what can be done with custom post-types. It takes a lot of digging around, and a lot of time to learn post-types, but once I put the effort into it, I can now say that I have a complete understanding of what is currently possible and not possible with post-types.

    I’m not a programmer, but I have been trying VERY hard over the past year to learn my new trade. It’s only because of the fantastic articles around the net that I was able to become totally self-sufficient using post-types.

    Believe it or not, I’ve managed to hack together the needed code to relate posts to posts on my example post-types sandbox site, ‘thanks to Scribu and others’. Pretty much this system does everything I could have ever asked it to. The only weakness is the backend UI for multi-relational post types, and not being able to do a ‘post-type + taxonomy’ permalink sort. But even that is being worked out.

    I show my sandbox site as an example of what I was able to accomplish simply because of all the ‘how-to’ resources on the web.

    Would pods have been a better tool for the job? Absolutely! However, as I have pointed out, after months of trying, and with a lack of documentation and examples of pods, I became so frustrated that I ended up giving up and simply waiting for 3.0 post-types.

    I hope my post reply here becomes encouragement for the pods staff to take my ideas of doing a lot of articles and how to video’s to heart. I would personally love to be using pods instead, but honestly until pod’s is thoroughly explained to me, it’s just not worth my time, which is really sad.

    I will say though, that if/when this documentation is made available, that I will be switching to pods. Post-types are great, but they are very limiting at the moment. Pods IS the answer to everything I ever needed in my sites, and I pray that someday I actually understand how to use it.

  7. I should have mentioned that this is the first time I have been to this site. Only after posting my reply did I click on the wordpress tag on this blog. Now I see there are actually a fair amount of articles on pods here.

    Wow!, this blog link should be all over the pods website! I’m actually going to spend quite some time going through all the articles on pods here to see if just maybe I can’t finally get a handle on pods.

    Thank you for the resources here. I simply don’t know how I missed this site.

  8. Hey Shawn I’m glad you’ve found my Pods series — they are actually linked on the Pods site since I believe the morning they were published in the User Guide under Getting Started: http://podscms.org/codex/

    You very well may have checked out the site before I had written the series but I’m really glad you’ve found it now!

  9. I’ve been hooked on Pods since your first introduction. I must admit I’m feeling slightly let down by WordPress for not doing something more similar with their custom post types.

    I guess the WordPress team don’t want to include too many developer-only features in the software, but in all honesty I didn’t find the learning curve to Pods to be any steeper than that of custom post types… or maybe that’s just thanks to your guides?

    I agree, I was expecting custom post types to be the end of Pods, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!

  10. Just an idea, but I think it could be useful to start as a community project a demo site that uses Pods. The demo site should evolve according to the community needs, applying code or functionality requests made in the forum, documenting the whole process. Also, when a new Pods update is about to come, this would be the place to test it before going public. It happened to me twice, an update to break a site.

  11. Hey Nikos the forums are a great place to hang out if you’re looking for help or to help others. It’s also a great place to suggest upcoming changes! I’m surprised to hear that upgrading Pods has given you an issue to the extent of a broken site. I’d actually be interested in hearing more detail about what technically broke and if there were no mentions in the release notes.

  12. Yes, I confirm. I had to recode twice a client’s site (www.fidusa.gr). The first time was when the update 1.8.5 came out and the second with the 1.8.7 update and the picks column troubles.

    Now the site is working fine but just to be sure, I asked the site owner not to install any further updates. Please don’t take this wrong. I love Pods and I’m grateful to the coders for these exceptional plugins. I also am pretty active in the Pods forums. For some reason I though this was the proper place to post my idea.

  13. I applaud you for writing so much about Pods, and for showing the connections to the core WordPress functions. I researched Pods for a project about a year ago and went with Magic Fields, instead. I needed to make sure the content I was inputting into the fields was searchable by the built-in WP search… a feature I could figure out how to do in Pods. In addition, I utilized the Custom Field Search plugin to target specific custom fields for a more refined search.

    Do you know if this has changed much with Pods? I know Scott is working on a Search plugin, but does the built-in (or plugin) search work sitewide with Pods? I’m building another site right now where I’ll need the functions Pods has to offer, plus search features, so I’d like to know I’m not going to hit a wall halfway through.

    I know this may not be the best place to ask, but it seems you have quite a bit experience with WP+Pods.

  14. Hey Eric I’m really thrilled you’ve found the resources useful. Pods is a great system that I feel all WordPress devs would benefit from knowing if for nothing more than determining if WordPress is a fit for a project.

    Search is a big deal for me too. I fell head over heels for Pods until a client site came up that wanted a sitewide search. I can confirm that the default WP search functionality does not include content included in your Pods data, that’s actually a big reason Scott has put so much time into his Search plugin.

    The WordPress search function is less than ideal, at a super low level it’s a rudimentary search of the posts table and that’s basically what we have to work with. Technically you could hook the function to include Pods tables, but the trouble with that comes with generating results. Determining where to actually link would be quite a bit of work.

    The great thing about Scott’s plugin is that it’s an on-page search, meaning it’ll get spidered just like a traditional search engine would operate, including your dynamic content where applicable. Scott’s a super busy guy but I imagine he’ll pick back up on the Search plugin as soon as he can!

    I’ve been testing Scott’s plugin and I really like where it’s going, and some of the features he has lined up are really going to make it a fantastic resource for everyone. Right now, if it’s not an option, an alternative might also be a Google custom search, which can be integrated and customized to a certain extent. You could also try out a standalone install of Sphider. Hope that info helps!

  15. Hey everyone, glad to see a discussion going on with substance here!

    As one of the two developers on the Pods plugin, I will say with an open hand that I welcome any of you to contribute your thoughts and ideas for helping new users understand what Pods is and more importantly how to use it.

    That said,.. I just made a few purchases last week and will have some packages arriving in the next day or two. The packages contain my new recording equipment which will allow me to produce high quality sound without the use of my current proprietary equipment that I’ve had compatibility issues with Windows 7 with. I appreciate everyone’s patience thus far, but there WILL be a huge surge of Pods how-to shortly. Both Matt (logikal16) and I have so many cool stuff up our sleeves (not literally) and we’re excited to bring it to the masses!

  16. The plugin Jonathan is talking about is the Search Engine plugin found here — http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/search-engine/

    As you can guess, the plugin name speaks for itself. It’s not just a search, it’s an indexer as well. It’s nothing compared to what Google is as a whole (volume, technology, industry know-how), but it does do what Google does in the process of indexing, weighing, and searching your site. It’s modeled after search indexers like Sphider (coincidentally, I built a plugin that incorporates Sphider into WP but have since been ousted from maintaining and supporting it by my previous employer). I’m still working on the plugin as there is much to improve and especially make it be able to handle very very large sites. Currently, it can handle huge sites but the problem lies in the hosting restrictions and timeouts that must be accounted for.

  17. Reading up on Custom Post Types and Taxonomies this week, figuring out how I can use them for an upcoming project, I believe they don’t bring any ‘revolutionary’ stuff to WP.

    I’ll stick to Pods for creating real custom content, and since I’m getting better and better with the development and built my own PodsUI-plugins, I can see the true power of Pods..

  18. Great article, I arrived to the same conclusion when trying to link 2 different post types: you can’t. Or you can’t without using a custom field, which you can’t query directly, that mean you would have to get all your posts and check if each of them has the needed relationship in some custom field. I’ve also bumped into the CMS Press plugin. It makes the creation of custom post types more easy. I guess there are other plugins to attach custom data to custom posts types without coding but still, the relationship and performance problem will remain.

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