One of my greatest frustrations with WordPress is its lack of intuitive subtitle functionality. As both a WordPress theme maker and a great fan of good writing, I’ve lately been struck by how much I appreciate landing on a story and receiving better context around what I’m about to read. Where titles tell me what I’ve found, subtitles often tell me why I should care. A published post titled “Life in Hanoi” might give you a good idea about what I’ve written, but an immediately following “On why I’ll stay forever…” will pull you in, engage you, and prime you for what’s ahead.
Professional Themes, a relatively new company that’s singularly focused on helping businesses create beautiful websites with WordPress, recently asked me to help with the building of Creative Portfolio, a new premium portfolio-styled theme for creative professionals. It has it all: a stunning home page template, featured content and Jetpack portfolio custom post type support, Post Format support, and brilliant looking post subtitles (sign up to receive a launch announcement). The subtitles were a nonnegotiable design element of the theme, and Professional Themes felt that there were no intuitive or easy ways to add them into posts out of the box. I agreed.
In an age where attention spans are low and competition for them is high, Subtitles aims to provide creative professionals with an even sharper tool for crafting online stories. Post excerpts as faux-subtitles won’t do. Those belong in search results, archived views, truncated feeds, or other locations where post summaries shine. And using them for literal subtitles is confusing from both a development standpoint and also a usability standpoint. I want my subtitles to be called subtitles, and I want them to go where I think they belong, just after a title.
This line of thinking extends to both the front end and back end. Within the WordPress Dashboard on a New Post page I want subtitles to visually go where they belong, not in an obscure meta box that feels like it’s in the wrong place. They deserve placement under the post title in a way that feels native to WordPress, with prompt text that says Enter subtitle here. Clear, simple instructions for users and nothing else to do. No theme tweaks. No custom template tags. No manually entering in meta via custom fields. No coding. Just writing.
By default Subtitles is designed to show in most views: singular, post archives, search results, and the like. All of this is completely customizable for developers. Want to add subtitles into any custom post type? Done. Want to turn them off in pages or search results? Done. Want to filter the output of all subtitles on your site? No problem. Want to modify the markup output of subtitles or reposition them entirely via custom template tags? Or how about showing them everywhere on your site, like in your widgets?
You get the idea.
This is a plugin that does one thing and one thing only. It should just work for users, but it’s also completely within your control as a theme or plugin developer. It’s well-documented, follows sensible coding practices, takes security of data input and output seriously, and aims to push online publishing forward by giving writers more power over their words.
Head over to the WordPress.org plugin repository (download) or GitHub (download) to grab your copy of Subtitles today. If you like it, thank me with coffee. If you find it buggy, tell me on GitHub. And if you have a cool example of how you’re using Subtitles on your website, let me know on Twitter.