Why Aren’t Post Formats In WordPress More Popular?

No, Post Formats haven’t gone anywhere but theme support and their use appear to be waning. Joyce Grace over at ManageWP.com has published a great article that explores some possibilities as to why the feature is not being used, why we might see the feature make a comeback, and the SEO issues surrounding them. Outside of  Collections by The Theme Foundry I’ve not seen many themes where Post Formats is a selling point.

CollectionsTheme 2

It didn’t help that the UI components for Post Formats were delayed and then dropped out of core during the development cycle of WordPress 3.6. The main purpose of Post Formats UI was to expose the feature to thousands of users who otherwise, may not have known about it. I like what Joyce said about their implementation:

Whether Post Formats stay part of core or part of a plugin doesn’t really matter. The content producers, their primary users, won’t notice a huge difference either way. The main objective should be that more people are aware of, and start using them. They will make blogging more effective, more fun, less strenuous and less intimidating.

Post Formats Are Unpredictable

Instead of the typical blog post that contains a title, category, tags, and additional meta data, formatted posts can be styled to display only the content specific to its type. For example, a post that uses the Quote format can be styled to only show the quote with an attribution link.

This is part of the reason why I’m not comfortable using them. There is no consistency between themes where I can predict what a post will look like when assigned a format. I either have to browse my archive that has a post with the format already applied or look at the theme demo page.

One of my gripes is that you can’t preview a post with a format assigned to it because the post preview shows you the single post view. This view is different from what visitors will see when browsing the front page. What usually ends up happening is I publish a post with a format assigned, load the front page and make any necessary edits. I like Post Formats but this unique problem is a huge turn off for me.

Tumblr Post Formats
Post Formats On Tumblr

When I used Tumblr a few years ago, it was the easiest way to publish content I’ve ever encountered. It was a relief to not use tags, categories, or other forms of content organization. I would add a title, specify the type of post and hit publish. Most of my content was short with the occasional long form post. This is the hidden beauty of Post Formats. As Joyce rightfully points out, “they make blogging more effective, more fun, less strenuous and less intimidating.

Do You Use Post Formats?

Once it’s discovered that not every post needs to be 1,000 words in length and that short pieces of content can look great, Post Formats become an addicting way to keep a blog alive. It was for me when I used them on the Tavern. It’s worth noting that instead of tweeting or publishing a video on Facebook, a Post Format supported theme on a WordPress powered site would make an excellent alternative for publishing short form content. Not only do you retain ownership of your content, you can fully customize how it looks.

Do you use Post Formats on your site? Do you know of any other WordPress themes that are built around Post Formats? If so, share them in the comments. Last but not least, what will it take to get more people to use this unique feature of WordPress?


25 responses to “Why Aren’t Post Formats In WordPress More Popular?”

  1. Some really good points there Jeff, and will have to read Grace’s post as well. I think before anyone, especially the casual user or blogger even tries them, we will need to educate them more and more on it. Even then, I’m not sure how many will get very excited :).

    I remember at a local WordPress meetup when myself and someone else was doing a presentation on what we might expect to see in 3.7, and asked how people were more casual users and bloggers, not designers and devs, to raise their hands, then asked for any of them that understood post formats to keep their hands up, every single one went down. Even an overall poll with everyone showed very few people who would use them.

    Myself, well, I never use them at all. What can I say?

  2. It looked like a knee jerk reaction to the popularity of Tumblr which was built around this concept of these types of formats. But WordPress isn’t Tumblr so i’m not surprised it’s not a very popular feature. Supply and demand. Theme development is driven by demand and IF there was a large demand for themes that used Post Formats then we’d see a lot of themes that use them. But we don’t.

  3. Sorry, my dyslexia prevents me from reading the original article in full. However I have thought about this topic and experimented with Post Formats at length and I have my own theories as to why they are not used much and why they are not a wise thing to pursue. It all boils down to one basic point: The use case scenario is not one that people are asking for.

    Let’s take the Image and Video post formats as an example. The use case scenario here is clear: You create a post that only contains an image or a video. Nothing else. This is not a common thing to do nor is it recommended. I’m sure some will say this is not a correct interpretation. I beg to differ and I can show you why:

    Create a couple of video posts containing a videos and content and apply the Video post format. Then activate the Twenty Fourteen theme, add the Post Formats widget to your sidebar, and point it to the Video post format. Finally visit a single post in your site and look at your sidebar. What you’ll see is the entire post displayed including video and text and whatever else you put in there.

    At first I thought this was a mistake, but when I look at the code for other post format themes it is the same. Clearly the idea here is that people want to just post an image or a video and nothing else. While this may be how some people do it (especially people who come from Tumblr or similar services), it is not the standard method of posting content in WordPress.

    To put it another way, the Post Formats feature is for a small subset of WordPress users.

    Personally I think Post Formats should be removed from core and added as an optional plugin. What’s needed in the core is support for post templates equivalent to page templates. Post formats is something else and imho something that will never catch on.

    • You may have a point regarding post formats being for a small subset of WordPress users. I’m a recent tumblr transplant and tried out dozens of WordPress themes until I finally settled on one that supports post formats (there are actually a few that I like that support post formats)… just because it made the most sense for my type of content – images, audio, quotes, etc. I have no interest in the traditional blog structure at this point. Not sure how many others are like me, but I do appreciate the development of themes with post formats.

  4. I think one of the biggest drawbacks of developing for them (and therefore using them) in the first place is that most themes don’t develop for them.

    The chicken and the egg…

    As long as that is the case and therefore theme switching is potentially destroying one’s site, I think nothing much will happen with Post Formats, I know I don’t develop for them and actually remove them from sites I develop for clients.

  5. I like the idea of post formats, because it somewhat meshes with my blogging pattern. While I also write longform posts, I also want to post just a link with commentary, or just an image, or just a gallery, or just a quote… The formats capability helps to “shape” the content appropriate to the selected format. Yes it’s a little more work in the templates, but I think it adds some…appeal to posts if nicely implemented.

    The obvious downside of course is that not all themes support them, or all of them, or consistently, even. I’ve been using the Crowd Favorite plugin (originally by Alex King) for some time because it adds in functionality that persists across themes. So that metadata can be theme-agnostic.

  6. For most cases where I’ve actually been bothered to use them I haven’t wanted them all. So nearly always need to unclutter the interface by disabling some. But for most of the time they just get in the way and are an annoyance.

    +1 having post templates is a far better option.

  7. I agree that it’s like Beta v VHS. (assuming you’re old enough to understand that reference). Until a standard is reached, given that people like to “change” on a whim, it falls into the same category as shortcodes – they should be a contemplated extra in order to avoid the “lock-in”.

    • Hardly ignorant Keith, but a sure sign of why they’ve gained no ground – few beyond the world of developers are really aware of them and few beside developers have bothered to promote them. They’re templates for the except view of your posts. Have a look at digwp.com for an example. They designed the format to using a chain for short posts that only need to show a link. Or at least that’s as close a description as I can give since I’m not one of those developer types :)

  8. The underlying problem in my opinion is that changes to WordPress are not very clear. Yes, you can lookup a changelog, but apart from a nice story about some jazz artist and a couple of screenshots of the new media manager, there isn’t much to be found about this snazzy new feature (post formats, that is). Also whenever a new feature is added to WP core, the lazy documentation team of WP is ALWAYS late with updating the documentation regarding new functions, etc. They drop an entire new theme every year, but they fail to properly document important changes well in time.

    If they would’ve promoted post formats better, maybe more developers would use it.

    • … the lazy documentation team of WP is ALWAYS late with updating the documentation regarding new functions, etc.

      Whoa whoa whoa.

      Funny that you have zero qualms labeling the entire docs team lazy while simultaneously not offering to help in any way. I think I’d be fairly accurate in guessing that you actually have no idea what you’re talking about.

      They drop an entire new theme every year, but they fail to properly document important changes well in time.

      Yeah. You’re either trolling or just a jerk.

    • @QOOLOS

      Thank you very much for your kind words to all of us that contribute to WordPress volunteer somehow. I’ll take your note and see to get involved more and to concentrate on the Post formats documentation.

      I’m just curious, what’s your real implication in the WordPress community, with the exception of your “kind words” to us?

  9. Hi Jeff! Just chiming in here to say thank you for the mention. I’m glad the article helped. I do really hope Post Formats can take off in the WordPress community, in one form or another. They’re obviously not going to be for everyone, but I think they are under utilized as a feature in general and lost their lime light a little too soon. I hope we can start giving them more of a chance. I think it’s mainly our clients, or content producers, that will notice their difference.

    The development debate is one thing, but I think we should think of how the users will be able to make use of them. The motive is more on the side of being able to spread content easier and faster, rather than to debate about how they should be developed (in my opinion anyway!). I think that’s what most of us here are saying too. I don’t care how they are made (plugin or not, as you identified), but I do see their potential to help bloggers, which is in line with what WordPress is all about anyway.


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