One of the only criticisms against Photonic is that it is hard to use, with users being required to look at multiple places to construct a shortcode. The criticism is justified, because building a “flow” for inserting a shortcode wasn’t on my agenda when I started out with the plugin.
But Photonic is now going to finish the eighth year of its existence and the plugin has evolved from its humble beginnings to something truly complex and extremely versatile. The thorough but wordy “Media Insertion Screen” does have its limitations both in terms of development as well as usage, and in spite of having a set of “Helpers” the UX is not particularly optimal. I have received direct requests / feedback via the support forum to at least support some sort of a “default user” feature if nothing else, and while I have always been saying that something is in the works, there was no way for me to demonstrate this.
And now, unless some higher priority ad hoc development comes up I am happy to announce that the next release of Photonic will feature a much more friendly way to generate the shortcodes.
To start off, you are presented with a popup that asks you to select the source of your gallery:
The first screen is pretty much like the
type='...' attribute of the shortcode, i.e. it is the main switch. The fun begins after this. Once you select your source you are presented a context-sensitive set of options:
Above you see the options for SmugMug, but the list changes based on the source. E.g. for Flickr you can pick a collection, for Zenfolio you can show a group hierarchy etc. The cool thing now is that rather than describing via words what combinations of
view='...' can be used with what, you now have a predefined list from a dropdown.
Once you make your choice you are presented with a graphical interface showing the result of your selections:
As you can see, there is no more hunting around for an album in the Helpers section. Everything is presented to you here directly and visually. Again, the output is contextual. Let’s say in the previous screen you had picked “Multiple Albums”. Then, in this screen you would be able to select multiple albums instead of a single one.
After this screen you are taken to the options for layout, specifying counts etc. and the shortcode is generated accordingly.
A Good News / Bad News Situation
Obviously the changes I am making will greatly enhance usability, which is good news. Also, for people happy with the older interface I will be keeping that around; I have no desire for Photonic to end up like Gutenberg 🙂
The bad news is that though I have already written 3700+ lines of code for this, I still have considerable ground to cover. The key remaining pieces are:
- The entire Instagram module
- Most of the native WordPress module
- Populating each field individually from a shortcode already in the post (i.e. deconstructing the shortcode)
- Most of the integration with TinyMCE
If I were to assign a percentage of completion I would say I am 60% there, but the amount of testing this sort of a feature demands is insane. Hopefully the final product will be worth the wait!
What makes things tougher is that as I keep developing this, I keep realizing some missing functionality that can be added to the plugin. E.g. in Step 3 above I let you search for photos on SmugMug—this is a brand new feature as are several others such as filters for Zenfolio.
And with Gutenberg hanging upon my head like the sword of Damocles I am approaching the crossroads where I have to decide whether to bundle Gutenberg support in this iteration of the plugin or the next.
Do let me know what you think! I would love to get your inputs.