WordPress custom fields – tips and tricks

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WordPress custom fields - tips and tricks

What are WordPress custom fields?

Custom fields can add extra information to a post, in the form of text or other data.
Custom fields are a kind of meta-data, that is data about data. Each post can have any number of custom fields. they are stored in the WordPress database as key/value pairs. The key is the name of the item while the value represents the content that will be displayed in the post, this can be text or a URL. The value is saved for each specific post .You can use the same key multiple times, for example a key of “fruit” can have the values of “apple” and “orange” stored via the post’s back end form.


WordPress dashboard admin section for custom fields (part)

Custom fields are a quick way to add extra functionality to a WordPress site with the minimal amount of code.

Next we look at three examples of using custom fields to add content to your posts in a more efficient and fun way!

Location of files

The files for that are modified in this tutorial are located in the theme that is live for the site you are working on,as shown below. Single.php may be named content-single.php in some themes.

location of single.php

Location of single .php and functions.php

Simple example

Add a list of items to a post with the same custom field name, in this case a list of favourite fruits.
To add the content of a custom field to a post use this code in the WordPress loop.

<?php the_meta(); ?>

This will add all the custom fields at once.
To add a specific key use the “get-post-meta” function. replace the “key” with your actual key for example fruit.

<?php echo get_post_meta($post->ID, 'key', true); ?>


To display multiple items with the same key you can use a for each loop.

  1. <ul>
  2. <?php foreach($fruits as $fruit) {
  3. echo '<li>'.$fruit.'</li>';
  4. } ?>
  5. </ul>

The list items are looped within the unordered list

Fruits display

Front end display of custom fields

The front end display is shown above.

Add the code to the WordPress loop in the single.php file in the location you want to display the list.

  1. <?php the_content(); ?>
  2. <?php
  3. wp_link_pages( array(
  4. 'before' => '<div class="page-links">' . __( 'Pages:', 'precious-lite' ),
  5. 'after' => '</div>',
  6. ) );
  7. ?>
  8. <?php /** custom field for type of fruit */ ?>
  9. <?php $fruits = get_post_meta($post->ID, 'fruits', false);?>
  10. <h3>Today's fruits are:</h3>
  11. <ul>
  12. <?php foreach($fruits as $fruit) {
  13. echo '<li>'.$fruit.'</li>';
  14. } ?>
  15. </ul>


Display content depending on the key value.

Add a link to a detail page depending on the subject of a post.

Custom field for post subject

Condtional statements can be used to test for a particular value and dsiplay diiferent content. In the code shown below an “elseif” loop checks for the stored custom field value and displays a link dependant on the value of the custom field. If no value is found a link to the home page is shown.
The key in this case is “tech” and has the values of PHP, JavaScript and WordPress.

 back end custom field entry

  2. <?php $value = get_post_meta($post->ID, 'tech', true);
  3. echo 'Find out more about...';
  4. if($value == 'php') {
  5. echo '<a http://php.net/">PHP.net</a>';
  6. } elseif($value == 'javascript') {
  7. echo '<a href="https://www.javascript.com/">Javascript docs</a>';
  8. } elseif($value == 'wordpress') {
  9. echo '<a href="https://en-gb.wordpress.org/">WordPress</a>';
  10. } else {
  11. echo '<a http://www.smallbusinesswebdesignnorthwest.co.uk/">Home Page</a>';
  12. }
  13. ?>

Use a short code with custom fields

Easily add widgets, iframes and social media apps to a post using custom fields and short codes. The weather widget shown below was added using a short code.

Weather app

If you have ever worked with HTML blocks in WordPress you will find that the text editor does not save HTML in the case of switching between text mode and visual mode. To obviate this problem you can add a block of code such as a widget or iframe to a custom field. A short code can then be used to place it in the post.
Add the code below to your functions.php file.

  1. function field_func($atts){
  2. global $post;
  3. $name = $atts ['name'];
  4. if (empty($name)) return;
  5. return get_post_meta($post->ID, $name, true);
  6. };
  7. add_shortcode('field', 'field_func')

Then go to the location in the post where you want to place the content and add the shortcode in the format:

Short code

The key should be the name of the custom field. The saved content will then be displayed.

How it works- the Add_shortcode() function has two parameters, the first is the name to use as a “tag” (in this case “field”) ,this is used to reference the added content in the post. the second is the function to run when the shotcode is called. The format of the shortcode is
The function is passed an array of key/value pairs, this is placed into the variable $name by getting the value of the “name” attribute, which is in this case “weather”.
The get_post_meta() function is then called to get the value of the key and display it in the post.

As an example a weather widget was added to a post, any number of widgets or iframes can be added by changing the “name” attrbute to match a custom field.

where next?

Hopefully these techniques will help you to get a feel for using custom fields. looping is a useful way of handling multiple key values.
Using conditional expressions to find a particular custom field’s value and do something specific with it is a powerful technique for customising your content.
The abilty of custom fields to store code as well as text can be used as a quick way to add weather and other widgest to a post with the minimum of hasstle. There is more to explore with custom fields so have a go!


WordPress beginner article custom fields
Perishable Press custom fields- the basics
Custom fields tutorial video

Today's fruits are: