Daniel Cuttridge

A Practical Guide to Creating WordPress Shortcodes

Let's explore the inner workings of WordPress functionality together in this guide on crafting custom shortcodes. Shortcodes, neatly enclosed in square brackets, offer a straightforward means to personalize various aspects of your website. Whether you're a coding enthusiast or just starting out, join me on this journey as I walk you through the step-by-step process of creating shortcodes to enhance your WordPress site. Together, we'll navigate the technical aspects, empowering you to efficiently integrate custom functionalities without unnecessary complexity.

Understanding Shortcodes

Before we dive into the art of crafting custom shortcodes, let's grasp the essence of what these little snippets are. Shortcodes serve as dynamic placeholders within your WordPress content, allowing you to inject complex functionalities with minimal effort. From embedding multimedia elements to executing specific actions, shortcodes are the tools that make your website an interactive experience.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Custom Shortcodes

Now, let's get our hands dirty and create custom shortcodes step by step. We'll start by defining the shortcode, choosing a name, and structuring it within your functions.php file. Then, we'll implement functionality, adding a touch of personalization to your website. Testing is a crucial step, ensuring your creation works seamlessly, so we'll look at that too.

Install Code Snippets

The Code Snippets plugin is an alternative approach to adding custom code to your WordPress site without directly editing the theme's functions.php file. It provides a user-friendly interface for managing and organizing custom snippets of code, making it easier to enable, disable, and organize your code snippets.

Add a New Snippet

Enter Your Shortcode Function

function my_custom_shortcode_function() {
    // Your shortcode logic goes here
    return 'This is my custom shortcode output.';
add_shortcode('my_shortcode', 'my_custom_shortcode_function');

Use the Shortcode In Your Content

With the snippet activated, you can now use your custom shortcode in any post, page, or widget using the shortcode tag you defined: [my_shortcode] WordPress will replace [my_shortcode] with the output of your my_custom_shortcode_function.

Testing Shortcodes In WordPress

Testing a new shortcode in WordPress is crucial to ensure that it works as expected and doesn't interfere with the overall functionality of your site.

Create a Test Page or Post

Create a new page or post specifically for testing your shortcode. This will allow you to isolate the shortcode and observe its behavior in a controlled environment.

Insert the Shortcode

Insert your new shortcode into the content of the test page or post. Use the shortcode tag you defined in your function.

Preview or Publish

Use the "Preview" option to see how the shortcode renders on the page without making it live. Alternatively, you can publish the page if you're comfortable with it being visible on your site.

Inspect the Output

Check the page or post to see if the shortcode produces the expected output. Verify that any dynamic content or functionality associated with the shortcode is working correctly.

Use Different Browsers and Devices

Test the shortcode in different web browsers to ensure cross-browser compatibility. Sometimes, certain browser or device-specific issues may arise.

What If There's An Issue?

If the shortcode involves complex logic or if unexpected issues occur, use debugging tools. You can add error_log statements within your shortcode function or use tools like the Query Monitor plugin to identify any errors or conflicts.

You may also need to ensure that the new shortcode doesn't conflict with other plugins or themes on your site. Deactivate other plugins one by one and switch to a default WordPress theme (like Twenty Twenty-One) to see if the issue persists.


In this guide, we delved into creating your first custom shortcode in WordPress. Shortcodes, enclosed in square brackets, provide a simple way to personalize your site. Whether you're a coder or a beginner, the step-by-step process covers defining shortcodes in functions.php, implementing functionality, and testing.