Mastering WordPress Shortcodes Development: A Comprehensive Guide

WordPress Shortcodes are like those mystical incantations that you see wizards speaking in movies and shows and building houses and other stuff. Just like that, every WordPress development company uses shortcodes to add dynamic content to the blogs and pages on a website. 

WordPress shortcodes serve as shortcuts to execute complex functions and add dynamic elements to your website without requiring extensive coding knowledge. With just a simple code, you can create interactive forms, embed multimedia, display dynamic content, and much more. Shortcodes empower website owners and developers by providing an intuitive and flexible way to extend the capabilities of their WordPress sites. Still confused?

Well, that’s why we have made this blog on what WordPress Shortcodes are, their pros and cons, and why to use them. Plus, you’ll learn how to best add them to the website posts and pages, widgets, classic editor, and theme files. We’ll also discuss some of the more common default WordPress shortcodes and how you can create your own custom ones.

What are WordPress Shortcodes?

Sticking with the theme of simplicity and efficiency, shortcodes are a better and faster way to add dynamic content to the posts and pages on a WordPress website. These special code snippets serve as shortcuts and enable you to execute complex functions without extensive programming knowledge.

Simply put, these shortcodes are the placeholders you can replace with actual content or functionalities when the webpage is rendered. They ensure you can conveniently customize your website by adding features such as multimedia elements, forms, buttons, sliders, galleries, and much more.

There is a vast library of pre-built shortcodes in themes and plugins. Plus, if you can create custom ones, you can freely enhance the visual appeal, functionality, and user experience of your website. That too, without the need for any complex coding.

By utilizing WordPress shortcodes, you can effortlessly incorporate complex features into your website with minimal effort. This streamlined approach to web page development helps create a more engaging presence to captivate the target audience. 

Let’s discuss more on why you should use shortcodes in your WordPress website.

Why Use Shortcodes for WordPress Websites?

Now that you know what the shortcodes are, let’s see what kind of benefits they offer to a WordPress website. Here’s why you should consider leveraging shortcodes:

  • Simplicity and User-Friendliness: Shortcodes offer a user-friendly way to add complex functionality to your website without extensive coding. You only have to enter a simple shortcode within your content to incorporate advanced features. That saves time and effort quite effectively.
  • Enhanced Functionality: WordPress shortcodes help create interactive forms, integrate social media feeds, embed multimedia content, display dynamic data, showcase portfolios, and much more. That means you can expand the capabilities of your WordPress website. 
  • Consistency: Shortcodes promote consistency in the design and functionality of your website. After defining a shortcode, you can reuse it on multiple pages and posts. That ensures a uniform appearance and behavior throughout the website. It also saves you the effort of repetitive coding tasks and simplifies future updates or modifications.
  • Seamless Integration with Themes and Plugins: Several themes and plugins in the WordPress ecosystem come with built-in shortcodes. So thanks to seamless integration, these pre-designed shortcodes ensure compatibility and reduce the need for manual coding. These ready-made shortcodes can enhance your website’s appearance and functionality with ease.
  • Customization and Flexibility: Shortcodes offer unparalleled customization options. You can modify their attributes and parameters to achieve the desired look and behavior (but the changes will be site-wide). Moreover, you can create your own custom shortcodes to meet specific requirements, giving you complete control over your website’s design and functionality.
  • Future-Proofing: WordPress shortcodes are built into the core of the platform, ensuring long-term compatibility and support. Even if you switch themes or plugins, the shortcodes you’ve implemented will continue to work as long as they are still valid. So there won’t be a risk of compatibility issues, future-proofing your website.

In summary, utilizing WordPress shortcodes streamlines the process of incorporating advanced features into the website. It also enhances the functionality, promotes consistency, and provides customization options. Through shortcodes, you can create a visually appealing, interactive, and user-friendly website that stands out from the crowd.

Default WordPress ShortCodes

In a gist, the shortcodes are meant to simplify the way you add complex features to the design of your WordPress website. WordPress developers use them to embed audio files, wrap captions around the content, expand the embed feature, insert an image gallery, embed a video, and much more. So let’s check out some of the default WordPress shortcode examples:

default wordpress shortcodes

These shortcodes and more help add common yet complex functionalities to the website quite effortlessly. But if you want more than the default WordPress shortcodes, try out the process shown below to create custom ones for the website.

Creating Custom Shortcode for a WordPress Website

The shortcodes help promote the customization of WordPress websites through simplicity and user-friendliness. But it’s understandable if you aren’t satisfied with the default options. You can create your own custom shortcodes. However, you’ll need some coding experience to follow this process.

So let’s start. But first, take a backup of your website in case something goes wrong during the following process. 

Step 1: Create a New Theme File

Go for an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client to access the website’s theme files. Then, navigate to wp-content, open themes, and find the current theme’s folder (let’s say the theme is ABC).

Now, right-click on the theme folder and Create a new file. Name this file custom-shortcodes.php and click Ok. Then, you can right-click on it, press View/Edit, and open it in a text editor. 

In the editor, enter the following piece of code to ensure the system interprets the file as PHP.


Then, save the changes and tick the checkbox showing Finish editing and delete the local file. In the same folder, open functions.php and add this code snippet.

include (‘custom-shortcodes.php’);

That will ensure the system includes the changes made to the custom-shortcodes.php file in the functions.php while keeping them separate. 

Save the changes and close the file when ready. 

Step 2: Create the Shortcode Function

Now, to create the shortcode’s function, right-click on the custom-shortcodes.php file and select View/Edit. Then, add the following code snippet. It will add an action that your function will hook to. 

function subscribe_link(){
return 'Follow us on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Twitter</a>';

The next code snippet will help add a callback function. This function will run when the hook action is activated. Add this after the one mentioned above to ensure WordPress CMS understands your function is a shortcode.

add_shortcode('subscribe', 'subscribe_link');

While creating a shortcode through the add_shortcode function, you’ll need to assign a shortcode tag “($tag)” and a corresponding “($func)” hook. This function will be executed whenever you use the shortcode. 

So suppose your shortcode is [subscribe]; it makes the function “subscribe_link” help the visitor directed to the upload post.


function subscribe_link_att($atts) {
    $default = array(
        'link' => '#',
    $a = shortcode_atts($default, $atts);
    return 'Follow us on '.$a['link'];
add_shortcode('subscribe', 'subscribe_link_att');


Make sure the tags are in lowercase. You can also use underscores. But avoid using hyphens at all costs, as they may interfere with the functioning of other shortcodes. 

Step 3: Add the Self-closing Shortcode to the WordPress Website

Now, your initial code is ready to be tested as a self-closing WordPress shortcode on your website. So, for example, insert the [subscribe] tag directly into the post through the WordPress block editor.

adding shortcode in wordpress website

This shortcode will provide you with the following content.

shortcode result

At this point, your shortcode is ready for use. But you can do further customizations if you wish to. Let’s see how.

Step 4: Add WordPress Shortcode Parameters

Now, you can customize the [subscribe] shortcode to, let’s say, display social media platform links. To do that, you can change the URL by adding a parameter. 

Add the handling attributes by opening the custom-shortcodes.php file. Then you can add the following code:


function subscribe_link_att($atts) {
    $default = array(
        'link' => '#',
    $a = shortcode_atts($default, $atts);
    return 'Follow us on '.$a['link'];
add_shortcode('subscribe', 'subscribe_link_att');

You can customize the link within your shortcode and add them to the block editor. Paste this above-mentioned code over the previous one already in the custom-shortcodes.php file.

custom shortcode file

Now, you can add shortcode_atts() function to combine the user attributes with any other known attributes. That will help change any missing data to their default values. Then, save the changes and close the file when ready. 

Step 5: Test the Parameters

Now, it’s time to test the shortcode in the block editor of WordPress. Here, we’ll be testing the Instagram and Facebook links with the shortcode.

[subscribe link='']
[subscribe link='']

This code will provide you with the following result.

result of shortcode

You can provide your users with direct URLs through this self-closing shortcode. But it’s understandable if you want to make it look a little better. For that, you may create an enclosed version of the shortcode. That will ensure you can comprehensively customize the anchor text visible to the users. 

Step 6: Create an Enclosing Shortcode

You’ll need to format the enclosing shortcode similar to the self-closing one. But there will be one additional parameter. Add $content = null to ensure it identifies the function as an enclosing shortcode. Then to search the content for shortcodes, you can add WordPress do_shortcode. 

After that, add the new enclosing shortcode within the custom-shortcodes.php file. 

Now, the custom-shortcode.php file will look like the following.

php file

There’s also an additional “style” attribute in the previous code. That will help change the anchor text to blue color. But make sure you save the changes. 

Step 7: Add an Enclosing Shortcode to the WordPress Website

In this last step of the process, you will need to enter the enclosing shortcode in the WordPress block editor.

That concludes the process of creating custom WordPress shortcodes for the website. Now, although we have taken subscription links as an example, you can alter the code mentioned above to add your desired functionalities to the website.

Alternatively, you may check out a WordPress Shortcode generator like GenerateWP. With this program, you only have to fill out a few minor details. Then, this program will generate the shortcode automatically.

Beginners in the WordPress space may find this process a little complicated. If you are one of them, hire a WordPress development company like WPWeb Infotech. Our experts have years of experience with shortcode development and customization for WordPress websites.

After creating a shortcode, you can now move forward to adding it to your website.

Adding Shortcodes to WordPress Websites

One of the main reasons behind the customization prowess of WordPress is the versatility of the shortcodes. These little code snippets can help easily integrate a variety of design and functional features into the pages or posts of a WordPress website. 

WordPress Shortcodes also promote simplicity and user-friendliness when it comes to improving SEO. They can help make your content and posts more engaging, so it improves user traffic. 

So let’s see how you can add these little web development marvels to your website.

Adding the WordPress Shortcodes in Website Pages & Posts

Let’s see how you can add shortcodes to WordPress posts or pages of a website.

Step 1: First, open your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Pages / Posts → All Pages or Posts → All Posts. Then, find the particular post or page where you want to insert the shortcode, and then click on the Edit link. That will open the editor.

Step 2: Position your cursor on the particular point of that page or post where you want to insert the shortcode. After that, click on Add Block and then add a shortcode block. 

Step 3: Then, enter your desired shortcode in the field and click on Save Draft and then Preview on the top. 

Step 4: If you’re satisfied with the shortcode and its effect on the page or post, click on Publish, and you’re done.  

Adding the WordPress Shortcodes in Widgets

After pages & posts, let’s see the process of adding the shortcodes in WordPress widgets.

Step 1: Open the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance, and open Widgets.

Step 2: Select where you want the shortcode to appear. For example, we’ll take the Header.

Step 3: Then click on the “+” and search for the Shortcode widget. 

Step 4: Select the Shortcode Widget and enter your desired shortcode. For example, we’ll take the WP Forms shortcode. 

After entering the shortcode for WP Forms, Update the widget section. 

Step 5: Now, click on Preview at the top. That will preview the page or post where you can see if the shortcode is looking and working as intended. 

Now, you can publish the page if you are satisfied with everything else. 

Adding WordPress Shortcodes in the Classic Editor

Although nowadays, Gutenberg is the default editor for all WordPress websites. But if you are using the old classic editor, here is the process of adding WordPress shortcodes to your website. 

Step 1: Open Classic Editor from the editing options. 

Step 2: Then, either create a New Post/Page or edit an existing one. 

Step 3: Now, in the post or page, locate where you want the shortcode, and type it in.

But make sure the shortcode is entered in its separate line. 

Step 4: After that, Save the changes and click Preview. That will preview the page or post where you can see if the shortcode is looking and working as intended.

At this point, you can publish the page if you are satisfied with everything else.

Adding WordPress Shortcodes in the Theme Files

Although shortcodes are usually used in pages, posts, and widgets, you may also include them in the WordPress theme files. First, make sure you back up the files or maybe create and use a WordPress staging site. That would ensure there is no risk of damage to your live website. 

So let’s check out the process.

Step 1: Open the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance, and open Theme File Editor.

Step 2: Select the theme’s file section that you want to add the shortcode to. Let’s say you want to add the shortcode to the header.php theme file. Then select it, and you’ll see the file open in a text editor. 

Step 3: Then, add the shortcode in a separate line within the file through the following code. (Let’s still assume the shortcode is for WP Forms)

<?php echo do_shortcode("[wpforms id="8"]"); ?>

Step 4: Save the changes and preview the results. 

If everything looks and works as intended, your theme will be ready. Now the shortcode function or action will be visible in the header of your website. 

Adding a shortcode anywhere on a WordPress website is quite a straightforward task. But if you worry about any potential risk to the website, hire WordPress developer. Not only can they customize, but they also add shortcodes (default or otherwise) to the website. 

You can also weigh the advantages and drawbacks of shortcodes to determine if they are right for your website. 

Pros & Cons of WordPress Shortcodes

Like any other technique or technology, there are both advantages and drawbacks. First, let’s check out the pros of WordPress Shortcodes:

  • Time-saving: With just a single line of code, you can incorporate advanced features and elements through the WordPress shortcode, saving valuable development time.
  • Customizable: You can modify the attributes, parameters, and styling of the shortcodes to match your website’s design and specific requirements. That lets you create a personalized user experience.
  • User-friendly: WordPress shortcodes are an excellent tool for non-technical users. It offers a better way to enhance your website’s functionality without delving into intricate coding concepts. You can simply insert the shortcode into the content editor and implement complex features.
  • Compatibility: Shortcodes are built into the core of WordPress and ensure compatibility with various versions, along with the themes and plugins. So you can seamlessly integrate shortcodes into your website with little to no risk of conflicts or compatibility issues.
  • Reusability and Consistency: Once defined, WordPress shortcodes can be reused throughout your website. That ensures consistency in design and functionality. It also eliminates the need to recreate complex elements or functionalities repeatedly.
  • Extensibility: Shortcodes help extend the capabilities of a WordPress website. You can leverage existing shortcodes from themes and plugins or create custom ones to add new functionalities and features. That helps grow your website according to your changing needs more effectively.

Now, let’s see a few reasons why you may avoid shortcodes:

  • Dependency: Some WordPress shortcodes are tied to specific themes or plugins. So if you switch to a different theme or plugin, you may lose the functionality of those shortcodes. This kind of dependency limits your options and flexibility.
  • Learning curve: Although shortcodes tend to be user-friendly, there may still be a learning curve involved. It may take you some time to understand the WordPress shortcode syntax and implementation.
  • Security: WordPress itself is generally secure. But the use of poor-quality or unreliable third-party shortcodes may leave your website vulnerable to security threats. So make sure you use trusted sources and regularly update your themes, plugins, and shortcodes. That will help mitigate these risks.
  • Arguments: WordPress shortcodes rely on parameters and arguments to define their behavior. Understanding the available options and how to correctly configure them may require additional knowledge or reference to documentation. Improper usage of arguments can lead to unexpected results or errors.
  • Limited Flexibility: Although shortcodes provide customization options, they may have certain limitations due to their predefined functionality. Customizing their behavior beyond the provided attributes may require more advanced coding knowledge or the development of custom WordPress shortcodes.

It’s important to weigh these pros and cons when considering the use of WordPress shortcodes in your website development to ensure they align with your specific needs and goals.

Shortcodes Vs. Gutenberg

Now, there is a chance you are confused between shortcodes and Gutenberg block editor because both help customizes a WordPress website with relative ease. So let’s see a comprehensive comparison between the shortcodes and Gutenberg. 

WordPress Shortcodes is a feature that lets you add dynamic content to your website’s pages and posts. They are created using square brackets, enclosing a keyword or function. Shortcodes require basic coding knowledge. You need to understand how to write shortcodes and their associated functionality. 

You can add shortcodes to any page or post in the WordPress editor by simply pasting the shortcode. That enables you to insert dynamic elements like contact forms, image galleries, sliders, and more. WordPress shortcodes can also be reused on multiple pages or posts. That also ensures content placement consistency throughout your site.

Gutenberg block editor, on the other hand, is the default editor for WordPress websites. Its drag-and-drop interface makes it easier and more user-friendly to add dynamic content compared to shortcodes. 

With the Gutenberg editor, you can build complex layouts by adding and arranging different types of blocks. That helps include text, images, videos, buttons, and more, offering a variety of options for content creation. The block editor offers more flexibility and customization than shortcodes, allowing you to create visually-captivating, interactive designs. 

Moreover, unlike WordPress shortcodes, Gutenberg Blocks require less technical knowledge, making it accessible to users without coding experience.

The choice between the two depends on your coding skills and the complexity of the content on your website. One’s a coding-based approach, while the other is visual-based. So choose accordingly.

FAQs Related to WordPress Shortcodes Development

Is there a Shortcode template in WordPress?
Yes, sort of. The do_shortcode function can help include any shortcode directly in your WordPress theme’s template files. Just add the shortcode inside of the do_shortcode function, and then add it in the template where you want the shortcode action to appear.
Can I nest shortcodes within each other?
Yes, WordPress allows you to nest shortcodes within each other. When the content is parsed, the inner shortcode will be evaluated first, and then the outer shortcode will be processed.
How can I add additional functionality to existing shortcodes?
If you want to extend the functionality of existing shortcodes, you can use WordPress hooks and filters. Shortcodes often provide hooks that allow you to modify their behavior or add extra functionality. You can use functions like add_filter() or add_action() to hook into the shortcode's processing and modify its output or behavior as needed.


WordPress is synonymous with customized websites, and one of the propellants in this aspect of the CMS is the WordPress shortcodes. These code snippets can help create interactive forms, embed multimedia, display dynamic content, and much more. There are some default examples, and you can do WordPress shortcode customization according to your specific requirements. Plus, we have discussed how you can add shortcodes to the pages and posts, widgets, themes, and more. 

Another customization approach for WordPress websites is the Gutenberg block editor. It can be an excellent option, especially when you take a look at the drawbacks of WordPress shortcodes. But we believe the advantages of shortcodes far outweigh their drawbacks. So choose between the two strategies after careful consideration. Plus, you can use shortcodes with the Gutenberg editor. 

In case of any other doubts regarding the WordPress shortcodes or using them to take your website to the top, get in touch with our experts now!

Jigar Shah is the Founder of WPWeb Infotech - a leading Web Development Company in India, USA. Being the founder of the company, he takes care of business development activities and handles the execution of the projects. He is Enthusiastic about producing quality content on challenging technical subjects.

Leave a comment