Interconnect/it launches the Spots plugin to content manage everything (else)

13 Comments

Earlier this month in an effort to truly “content manage everything,” the interconnect/it team released the alpha of a new plugin they’re calling Spots. Spots allows for the creation of special locations within a theme, or via widgets in a sidebar, that will call in content from a specially saved “spots” custom post type within your Dashboard.

David Coveney, the Director at interconnect/it, described in his post how to add a Spot to the footer by editing the template, or to the sidebar of a theme using widgets. The widget method is shown in the image above.

Coveney also contrasted their Spots method with using the text widget or theme options to manage fringe content like copyright notices and credit lines. He argues that Spots is a better way of handling these types of content:

In the past, coding for this was a pain – you either needed to add an options page on your theme leaving your users with an HTML content area or deal with the weight of adding WYSIWYG support, or you’d just hard code these elements.

interconnect/it Spots solves this.  By adding a new content type to WordPress and using the familiar WP interface, you can now quickly and easily make these Spots into content managed elements.

The alpha version of Spots is available to download from interconnect/it right now (see the bottom of that post), though the team will be adding it to the WordPress.org plugin directory when it’s ready.

What do you think of Spots, particularly compared to other options? Would you use Spots in your own projects, or work that you do for your clients?

13 thoughts on “Interconnect/it launches the Spots plugin to content manage everything (else)

  1. I am not sure about the value of this. To me the first thing I think of is that it introduces more database work so will slow down page loads – in particular on shared hosting. With caching it’s reduced but not everyone uses this.

    In terms of theme support – my guess is that theme developers will be unlikely to use this. It will mostly be useful for people who design themes for clients.

    • It will mostly be useful for people who design themes for clients.

      That’s quite a few of us, no? Looks pretty handy to me. Especially so that I can trust clients to edit some of this where before it would’ve been a bit more technical.

    • Hi Ben – we don’t like slow code here at interconnect/it so you can be sure that when using the plugin the load isn’t that heavy anyway, and that we have a plan in future releases to increase the amount of internal caching used in order to avoid hitting the DB too much.
      It’s worth noting that a lot of theme options also run a lot of DB queries to get all the values out. But the number of queries isn’t the problem – its how quickly they run.
      The main reason for it being useful is that our clients need quick and easy workflows, and keeping everything familiar reduces both the time it takes to complete tasks and the training overhead. Each theme framework has its own ways of doing things, which means another bout of training. Consequently if we can offer this to folk who develop themes then it can really help.

      • Hey David – when I create my own theme options I store everything in a single field, so it’s one query for all options. In fact since the site options are loaded by WordPress in a single query, I suspect it’s no additional overhead besides slightly more returned data. My theme options screen is created from a hard coded array of data, so adding new fields is generally a 30 second copy and paste job. My guess is that many theme authors do something similar (if they use the options plugin for instance) and that’s why I think this would be much more useful to people building custom sites for clients as opposed to theme developers.

        • Custom sites is our business, really, so that’s probably where our desire comes from.

          But the DB queries and rows thing isn’t as critical in most cases as many seem to think it is. Ultimately WP and many WP developers (us included) store data in single rows as serialized arrays. That’s really dumb from a database theory perspective – it’s not good practice. But I can also see why the approach happened when in the past you were dealing with slow links to shared MySQL databases on cheap shared hosting.

          Thing is, had WP not worked so well on cheap shared hosting it would never have succeeded the way it has. It’s a limitation for ‘big’ WordPress, as opposed to ‘many’ WordPress as seen on wp.com – and it’s one reason why switching to a DB platform like Mongo could be a good idea in the future – it has native array handling and an indexing system that works beautifully with it.

          There are, of course, ways of dealing with laggy SQL DB connections, but that’s way beyond the scope of this chat 🙂 In fact, half of what I said is probably too much. I’m a bit of a DB geek 🙂

  2. While the integration with the WP editor is nice, adding spots outside widget areas still requires editing the template which is not such a practical solution.

    • There’s a simple to use editor button that lets you add the Spots into general content. But otherwise there’s not a lot we can do to deal with hardcoded content in themes – that’s not something that a plugin could do because of the way WP themes are coded and stored.

  3. Very useful for dealing with clients who freak out when they see the backend of WordPress. Many non-technical clients visit the backend of WordPress once and then give up on editing their site because its “too complicated”.

    This is very similar to the Widget Contents that is built into iTheme’s Builder theme. So its great to see other developers developing tools that assist people who build sites for technophobe clients. I’ve always enjoyed watching what David and his crew develop. Their Spectacu.la page widget was a great tool a while back.

    • Yep – you got it. The idea is to keep the learning curve as gentle as possible. By using the standard WP UI for managing spots a user has very little extra to learn. With roles you can also set it up so that access is very specific.

    • Howdy Coen – we didn’t know about your plugin until now but yes, the principles and reasoning are similar albeit with a different approach taken.

      We had something that used pages in the past (and which Benjamin refers to), and worked in a similar way to yours. However, the inline editor, easy shortcode button, use of a custom post type (like your plugin does), templates, and the template tags are key to this plugin.

      Give Spots a whirl – although similar to yours they are quite different in implementation – though maybe wait for the Beta which will iron out UI and functional issues found in the Alpha 🙂 I’d love to get your feedback.

  4. For those following this thread – Spots is now in Beta! We’ve made some quite big changes to the UI of the widget to help make it far more user friendly, and we’ve fixed the couple of bugs that folk found.

    Feedback always welcome 🙂

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