A while ago we released Furnace, our first free WordPress theme specially designed for Forge. Furnace is a very special release because it is the perfect companion to our front-end page builder, bringing many options so you can have full control over your page layouts.
But it is also special because it implements a new feature we wanted to launch for a long time: presets.
With presets, we are hoping to solve a big usability problem in WordPress themes. More specifically, a problem that has plagued page builder themes for a long time.
Loading Demo Content From Themes
WordPress is powerful and very flexible, but one thing that has remained the same for a long time is the Import process. In my honest opinion, it is cumbersome and hard to use, especially for beginner-level users.
The native WordPress was probably meant for migrating your content from one website to another. But nowadays, it is used for importing demo content from a new WordPress theme. Quite a lot.
If you’re not familiar with this process, it’s rather simple:
- Most themes come packaged with an XML file with lots of pre-designed layouts.
- You can import them all at a time using the native WordPress importer.
- You open the layouts and pages you want, and start modifying them to your liking.
By now, almost every premium theme that works with a page builder has a demo content file.
The concept of demo content is quite good– if you didn’t have those files, your website would be empty and there would be a lot more work to do. Having demo content on your website is a good way of getting started and setting up a website faster.
But I think the execution is flawed.
The Native WordPress Importer Is Cumbersome
The main problem with the WordPress importer is that it is very oriented towards migrations, instead of importing content from themes again and again.
The tool itself works fine when you want to move an entire site. But when it comes to demo content, it has a lot of shortcomings:
You are forced to import everything on the XML file. Whenever you upload your XML file, the importer will try to add everything– posts, users, and even metadata. This means you cannot choose to add a single post or page with your preferred layout. What if you only wanted to load the homepage layout from the theme?
Importing for a second time can omit duplicate posts. This means you won’t be able to easily add all those cool layouts as new pages twice. If you mess up your layout and want to restore it to its demo state, you’re screwed. And this is a big problem, because you might need to create multiple pages with the same base layout.
The importing process fails when custom post types are missing. In other words, if you forget to install WooCommerce and try to import your demo products, the importer will add everything except those products. This is a big problem, because beginner users can easily mess this one up. Heck, even I have accidentally done this, after years of working with WordPress.
Even though it can import entire websites, it does not configure other settings. When it comes to page builder themes, a lot of your content is dependent on more than just the content of the post. For example, you might need to set a specific page as the homepage.
And you also need to find that XML file. Perhaps the silliest part of the entire process is that you need to open up your theme files, copy the XML file, then reupload it. Wouldn’t it be better if the theme itself already had this data on your website?
Presets, A Better Way Of Creating Demo Content
As you can see, the native WordPress importer is not exactly the best tool for loading a theme from scratch.
To remedy this problem, we wanted to develop a new functionality for Forge. One that made the entire process a breeze, was easy to use and also as fast as possible.
And the result of that is the Presets API.
It’s located in the core Forge plugin, and any WordPress theme can use it to provide an interface to load demo content. When you install and activate a WordPress theme that includes support for presets, you will be immediately notified in the admin area:
To include support for presets, the theme simply needs to declare all of its demo content via the Presets API. It is the equivalent of telling Forge ‘Hey, I got this demo content. Can you show it to the user and import that for me?’. That way, Forge handles all the importing in a simple, straightforward way.
And in my opinion, it’s a completely different experience.
The Advantages Of Presets
Unlike the native WordPress importer, presets are designed to be as efficient as possible when loading content (as opposed to migrating sites). When developing this feature, we wanted to focus around a few key areas:
- Users might need to load individual pages
- Content needs to be easily loaded, as many times as needed
- It has to be really fast and efficient, even for beginners
This is the kind of behavior we have seen in most websites from our years of selling premium themes at CPOThemes. It is also where the importer is at its weakest, so there is a lot of room for improvement.
To summarize, with presets you can:
Presets can be loaded individually. This is one of the biggest changes with regards to the WordPress importer. Since you can load single layouts, it’s a very comfortable way of keeping your website clean. You don’t have to deal with an excess of pages, nor with an overcrowded media library.
Presets can be loaded any number of times. In addition to individual imports, you can also load them again and again. If you mess up a page, you can easily restore it to its demo state. Or if you want to create a new landing page, you can create a copy in a matter of seconds.
You can load a preset onto an existing page. What if you wanted to remake your entire about page? Presets can apply their content to an existing post, replacing all the content without creating a new page. This helps a lot when loading multiple layout variations and trying them out.
There is no need to download, then reupload an XML file. All the information is stored directly within the current WordPress theme, so you can access presets at any given time from the admin menu. This makes the process of adding all the content much faster and streamlined, because you don’t have to locate a file in your theme download, only to reupload it all over again.
Try Presets With Furnace
The whole goal of presets is to be able to load and entire site in just a moment, reducing the time it takes to configure WordPress. This is especially important for page builder themes, which are dependent on a lot of content to provide value.
If you want to see how the entire process works, take a look at Furnace. It’s free, and I’m sure you will like it.
¿Have you tried presets already?