Multiple Content Areas

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I’m closing the comments on this as it’s a very old technique that I no longer use or recommend. A much better option is to use Column Classes in your CSS file, then use the Div Shortcode Plugin to make it easy to create columns in your pages.

WordPress works great if you want to display a title and then a block of content, but if you’re using it as a CMS you’ll often be faced with the problem of multiple content areas. You might need multiple boxes on a homepage, or 3 columns of text on an inner page.

There’s many ways to go about this. Some of them include:

  • Including <div>‘s in your post content. This will work well for a developer who understands code, but for clients it is not usually a good option. They will typically work in the Visual mode, and can easily delete or break the<div>‘s, then not know how to add them back in HTML mode.
  • Using sidebars and widgets to display content. This is good for one-off things like sidebars (same across the site) or boxes on a homepage (only used once), but it doesn’t scale well – you don’t want 20 different sidebars for different areas of your site. It also disconnects the content from the page. It’s nice to have all the content that will appear on a page editable in the same place. (This goes back to my principle of making client’s sites easy to use and hard to break).
  • Using a shortcode to break content up into multiple columns. Ex: [column id=”1″] text in column 1 [/column] [column id=”2″] text in column 2[/column]. I think this is a great solution, but the solution outlined below is a little easier for  non-technical people to use.
  • Adding an additional WYSIWYG meta box to the page editor for the second column. Again, this is a good solution but I believe the one outlined below is easier. The solution below also allows you to determine the number of columns on a per-page basis rather than a per-site basis like a meta box.

For a project I’m working on now we needed two or three columns of content on every page (here’s an example on the client’s site). All the blocks of content are unique to that page. This solution was inspired by a post at kriesi.at, but I’ve modified it with the help of Chris Bratlien to make as many content areas as you like (the code from that post only creates a left column and a right column).

The Content

When you’re writing your content in WordPress, simply break up the content sections using an <h4> heading. I chose <h4> because it’s easily accessible from the menu bar. Select the text you want as your heading, click on the last icon in the menu( )  then click where it says Paragraph and go down to Heading 4. You could change this to whatever heading you’d like; I chose Heading 4 because for this project we only used <h1>, <h2> and <h3>.

The Code

In your functions.php file (custom_functions.php file for Thesis), paste the following code:

add_filter('the_content', 'multi_content');
 function multi_content($content){
 $columns = explode('<h4>', $content);
 $i = 0;
 foreach ($columns as $column){
 $return .= "<div class=\"column\" id=\"content-$i\">" . "\n";
 if ($i > 1) $return .= "<h4>";
 $return .= $column;
 $return .= '</div>';
 $i++;
 }
 if(isset($columns[1]))
 $content = wpautop($return);
 else
 $content = wpautop($content);
 return $content;
}

Here’s what that is doing:

  • $columns = explode('<h4>', $content); Break up the content into separate blocks every time you find an <h4>.
  • $i = 0; Make a counter (called i) and start at 0.
  • foreach ($columns as $column){ For every block of content…
  • $return .= "<div class=\"column\" id=\"content-$i\">" . "\n"; Add a div with the class of “column” and the id of “content-[i]”, so content-0, content-1…
  • if ($i > 1){$return .= "<h4>";} If this is any block of content except the first, add back the <h4> (our first block of content was everything before the first <h4>, so we don’t want to add an additional one)
  • $return .= $column; $return .= '</div>'; $i++;} Add the block of content and close the div at the end. Then move the counter up one and start again.
  • if(isset($columns[1])) $content = wpautop($return); If there’s only one block of content (no <h4>‘s were used), ignore everything we did and just show the content.
  • else $content = wpautop($content);  return $content; } If there was more than one block of content, replace the default WordPress content with the div’s and content we just did.
  • add_filter('the_content', 'multi_content'); Run this filter every time WordPress wants to see the content of a post or page.

You’ll then need to add the appropriate css to make it behave as you like. If you want to apply css to all the columns, use the class “column.” If you want to add css to individual columns, use their id’s. Here’s an example:


.column {float: left;}
#content-0 {width: 400px;}
#content-1 {width: 300px;}

I hope that helps some of you. I know I will be using it a lot for client websites.

Bill Erickson

Bill Erickson is a freelance WordPress developer and a contributing developer to the Genesis framework. For the past 14 years he has worked with attorneys, publishers, corporations, and non-profits, building custom websites tailored to their needs and goals.

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Comments

  1. Jason says

    Bill, I am VERY new to WordPress and Thesis and I can't seem to get this to work. Can you help? I have a page within my site called "Brokerage". I edited the page and in the content section I have this (from the HTML view so you can see it):

    <p style="text-align: left;">Column 1
    <p style="text-align: left;">Test column 1.

    <h4 style="text-align: left;">Column 2</h4>
    <p style="text-align: left;">Test Column 2

    I pasted your above code in the customfunctions.php file. I also pasted the following into the custom.css file:

    .column {float: left;}
    #content-0 {width: 400px;}
    #content-1 {width: 300px;}

    I had hoped that this would break up my test columns and put column 1 on the left and column 2 on the right. What do I have wrong? Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Sonal khunt says

    Hello Sir

    I already develop one theme in wordpress. and i try to make content area using your above code and tips. so i make one file called custom-functions.php and put above code in it and i have style.css file in that i write that css code
    and add one post with but it not working what mistake i made can u please give me the solution..

    thank you…
    in advance.

    • Bill Erickson says

      If you’re not using the Thesis theme, you’ll need to create a file named functions.php and put it in there. Make sure you begin the file with .

  3. relax tone says

    Yes, this will allow you to do that. The code simply wraps your content in divs, so if you’re content looked like this:

  4. nadia says

    I have paste the code in custom_function. then I edit post and change adding h4 tag. but still not work. you can see on my site. can you tell me why it not work in my site?

    thank you

    • Bill Erickson says

      It’s working just fine, you now need to write CSS to display it the way you want. For three columns you’ll want something like:

      .column {width: 30%; float: left; padding-right: 10px;}

      View the source of your page to see what you have and work from there.

  5. Neil says

    Hi,
    Do you know how to tell Thesis to have teasers on the homepage, but have one column dedicated to one category and a second column dedicated to another category?
    What I would like to do is post MANY news articles per day, but not let this drown out my other types of posts on the homepage (posted only twice a week).
    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • Bill Erickson says

      You’ll need to build a custom page template for the homepage that simulates the look and feel of the teasers but does what you want. The problem is teasers are in rows, not columns (one on left, one on right, then one below on left…). You’ll need to rebuild it as columns if you want each column to show posts from a separate category. Alternatively, you could make each row of the teasers show two posts from a specific category.

      This tutorial should help: http://www.berchman.com/thesis-tutorial-multiple-custom-page-templates/