How NOT to use Post meta fields in WordPress Themes

August 25, 2009

Topics: Web Development, WordPress.

A little while ago, while working on a site built by another developer, I came across this rather interesting example of how to use custom fields badly in a WordPress theme (abbreviated for, well, brevity):

(The original also did this for meta keywords and meta descriptions — but the demonstration of this “logic” only requires one field.)

	Handwritten title

	<?= get_post_meta(334, 'meta_title', TRUE); ?> | <? bloginfo('name'); ?>

	<?= get_post_meta(383, 'meta_title', TRUE); ?> | <? bloginfo('name'); ?>

	<?= get_post_meta(381, 'meta_title', TRUE); ?> | <? bloginfo('name'); ?>

	<?= get_post_meta(383, 'meta_title', TRUE); ?> | <? bloginfo('name'); ?>

	<?= get_post_meta(387, 'meta_title', TRUE); ?> | <? bloginfo('name'); ?>

And so on. For approximately 40 separate pages. It made my brain hurt. For reference, the exact same thing — for all pages on the site — could have been accomplished (with better fallback conditions, in fact) with this code:

post->ID, 'meta_title', true)=="" && is_page() ) { ?>
	<? wp_title('|', true, 'right'); ?> <? bloginfo('name'); ?>

	<?php echo stripslashes(get_post_meta($wp_query->post->ID, 'meta_title', true)); ?> | <? bloginfo('name'); ?>

Now, the original code may actually look cleaner — it does, after all, have fewer functions and fewer variables. However, the second example is a hell of a lot more maintainable.

If you add a new page to the site in the first example, you have to:

  1. Create the new page.
  2. Add a custom field with the title.
  3. Check the new page’s ID.
  4. Find the theme file which contains the meta data references.
  5. Add a new line in the elseif loops which references your new page first by slug and then by ID

With the second example, you simply:

  1. Create the new page.
  2. Add a custom field with the title.

No coding, no PHP (Hypertext PreProcessing), no editing themes — it just works. Well, isn’t that handy? This is just basic good coding practice: make your code reusable. There’s absolutely no reason to code something into your WordPress Themes which is not readily transportable unless you’re doing yourself a favor by avoiding an unnecessary server call by hard-coding the site name or other known elements.

The basic difference between these two examples is simple: the first requires you to hard code the ID and page slug for each example; the second grabs the post ID from the existing post object. The second example also has a fall-back if no information has been entered in a given custom field — which is lacking in the original code.

Word to the wise: save yourself some work!

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5 Comments on “How NOT to use Post meta fields in WordPress Themes”

  1. LOL I have seen that done before when i outsourced a job… it was for a joomla template and they were using the exact same method to output different templates, on a per page basis. god dam i thought it was bad :p

  2. 40 pages is not that bad 🙂

  3. Seriously? You think that 40 pages is an exaggeration?

  4. “And so on. For approximately 40 separate pages. ”

    Ah, the coder’s exaggeration. I love it. Every time. “OMG I had to change about three hundred meta tags!” or “I can’t believed they used NINETY nested loops.”

    Its always only three or four.

  5. Thanks for giving the suggession to us. The meta fields has to be posted correctly in the wordpress themes. Till now I don’t know how to add the meta fields to the wordpress theme. From the information you had given i come to know that how to post the meta fields in it.