Now I Know: WordPress page template customization and more

I learned a lot about customizing WordPress Page templates over the past week while making some changes requested by our advertising team to their dedicated contact form.

We use a self-hosted WordPress site, with lots of help from the aptly named Formidable plugin, to give us flexible and powerful responsive contact forms, for everything from news tips to letters to the editor and more. (In the past, we’ve even used this to collect votes for the annual Best of Pueblo ballots, but our promotions team is using a third-party partner’s tool for that now. It’s OK … really.)

Back to the project at hand: Our business development manager wanted a more dynamic, and eye-pleasing, alternative to the functional but boxy form page they had before. A particular challenge was not only rotating between multiple photos, something I had to learn how to do (but has taught me a lot more about PHP, and storing and using variables, than I’ve managed to learn on my own impetus so far; can some programming progress be far behind?), but then using CSS to impose the form itself, generated by a Formidable shortcode, on top of the image.

The result (click for live example):

reach-more-customers

The only actual content in the WordPress “Page” is the Formidable shortcode; everything else, from the headings and randomized background images to the promotional copy and “FAQ” links below, is hard-coded onto the custom Page template file. I may alter that eventually, but for now I was looking for maximum control to meet the “client’s” desired specifications — and I needed it fast. The content of the Page isn’t expected to change much, if at all, ever.

Fortunately, I’ve become quite familiar with child themes over the last year with my work on Nerdvana, so I know my new Page template customizations are safe from future parent theme updates. (I wish “child plugins” were a thing — I haven’t figured out the best way to update-proof plugin customizations, but that’s another matter entirely.)

Shout-out to my digital media/graphic design intern Severino Martinez from Pueblo Community College (soon to be Colorado State University-Pueblo) for help optimizing these beautiful background images in PhotoShop for this project.