As you learned in Chapter 5, your choice of theme determines the basic appearance
of every post on your site. Once you pick a theme, you can relax knowing that all
your posts get the same font, color scheme, and spacing. Consistency reigns.
But some themes offer an underused feature called post formats, which display different
types of posts in different ways. On paper, post formats sound pretty nifty.
The idea is that you pick a format for each type of post you write, and your theme
uses slightly different styling for each of those post types.
The problem is that WordPress limits themes to a small set of officially sanctioned
formats. They’re mainly useful if you want to create a casual blog (sometimes called
a microblog), where you throw together pictures, video clips, and post fragments,
without worrying too much about organizing your content. In this scenario, post
formats provide a structure that can help tame the chaos of your posts. But if you
want to create your own post format to distinguish a group of posts that are particularly
important to your site, you’re out of luck.
NOTE Ambitious WordPress developers often complain that post formats don’t let them do what they really
want to do: create their own post groupings and apply different formatting to each group. For example, you
might want to take posts in a certain category and alter their formatting to make them stand out. (Imagine, for
example, a news site that uses a bolder background to highlight violent crimes.) This technique is possible—and
useful—but it’s not easy. You need to do all the work yourself, by adding style rules and code to your theme.
(You can find an example starting on page 495.) And you need to have a self-hosted site to use this technique,
because WordPress.com doesn’t allow theme editing.
Microblogs focus on small bits of content: news headlines, interesting
links, personal status updates, random thoughts, and
stream-of-consciousness chatter. They tend to be less formal,
more personal, and more conversational than posts—almost
like a cross between traditional blogs and old-school messaging
systems like email and chat. Microblogs also mix different
types of content, like audio, video, and images. In fact, some
microblogs are built entirely out of pictures or video clips.
The kings of microblogging are Twitter and Tumblr, but
WordPress fans can join in, too. However, WordPress’s vaunted
flexibility might overcomplicate your efforts. Because Word-
Press allows short, microblog-style posts and longer, more
traditional entries, it’s easy to drown out the small stuff. You
may also find that WordPress’s other features—categories,
tags, the media library, and so on—overcomplicate your
Applying a Post Format
If your theme supports post formats, you’ll see a Format box in the Add New Post
and Edit Post pages. There, you’ll find a list of all the formats you can use with the
theme. You can pick any of them for a post, but if you don’t make a choice, your
post sticks with Standard.
You see these formats at work in the year themes (page 132), from Twenty Eleven
on. Each theme has its own way of styling the formats. Often, you’ll be hard-pressed
to spot the minor changes between an ordinary post and one with a format applied.
In many cases, the only difference you’ll notice is the lack of a title for many formats
(like asides and status updates) and the addition of a small icon. The Twenty Thirteen
theme applies the most dramatic post format styles, with background colors
To get a better sense of what your theme’s post formats look like, create some test
posts and look at them on the home page.
The Ephemera Widget
Some themes include a specialized widget to work with post formats. The most
common example is the ephemera widget. Twenty Eleven and Twenty Fourteen both
include one, named Twenty Eleven Ephemera and Twenty Fourteen Ephemera. The
other year themes don’t include the ephemera widget at all.
As the name suggests, the ephemera widget is all about fleeting scraps of content
that are useful for a short period of time, like asides, quotes, and status updates. The
ephemera widget gathers these bits of microblog content and displays them in a
small, self-contained strip that you can pop into a sidebar (Figure 6-23). The idea is
to call attention to smaller scraps of information that might otherwise be swallowed
up in the clutter of your blog.
TIP You can add more than one ephemera widget if you want to show different post formats. For example,
one widget could show a list of links, a second could list status updates, and a third could show your most recent
All in all, the ephemera widget offers an interesting way to extract bits of content
from a loosely structured blog. However, most serious bloggers are better served
by using Twitter for microblogging and integrating a Twitter feed into their sidebars,
as described on page 430.