How to Use WordPress do_shortcode: Complete Guide

User-friendly customizations is one of the main reasons that WordPress is the best CMS, or is often regarded as one. And one of the big aspects of this customization is the shortcodes. These handy little snippets let you insert functionalities or content elements with a simple tag.

For example, you can embed a call-to-action button, a social media feed, or even a custom form, with just a few keystrokes. But how do you use the shortcodes? Well, that’s where the do_shortcode function comes in.

In this blog, I’ll tell you how the WordPress experts use the do_shortcode function for customizing the website. Let’s begin with what it is.

What is WordPress do_shortcode?

In WordPress, do_shortcode is a built-in function that specifically interprets and executes shortcode tags within your website’s content. These shortcode tags are essentially mini-codes created by plugins or themes that represent specific functionalities.

When you use do_shortcode, it essentially translates the shortcode tag into its corresponding output. It could be anything from a button to a complex form or even a dynamic content feed. So you can easily integrate these functionalities into your web pages without writing extensive code yourself.

For instance, a plugin might define a shortcode contact-form to display a contact form. You use do_shortcode with the following tag:

<?php echo do_shortcode('[contact-form]'); ?>

That activates the plugin’s code associated with the contact-form shortcode, ultimately displaying the contact form on your webpage.

How Does WordPress do_shortcode Work?

WordPress’s do_shortcode function works in a series of steps to process and display the content associated with a shortcode tag:

  1. Search and Identify: When do_shortcode is called with a string containing a shortcode tag, it first scans the string for the presence of square brackets []. These brackets typically enclose the actual shortcode name (e.g., [your-shortcode]).
  2. Hook into Registered Functionality: WordPress maintains a registry of functions associated with each shortcode. Once do_shortcode identifies a valid shortcode tag, it checks this registry to find the corresponding function linked to that specific tag.
  3. Function Execution: The registered function has been retrieved. So now, do_shortcode passes the entire shortcode tag to that function for execution. That includes any attributes within the brackets.
  4. Function’s Responsibility: The registered function associated with the shortcode takes center stage here. This function is responsible for handling the shortcode’s logic and generating the desired output. This output can be anything from HTML to text or even dynamic content based on user input.
  5. Return Value: After processing the shortcode, the registered function returns the generated content (HTML, text, etc.) back to do_shortcode.
  6. Displaying the Output: The final step relies on how you’ve implemented do_shortcode in your theme. Typically, you’ll use the echo statement (<?php echo do_shortcode(‘[your-shortcode]’); ?>) to display the returned content on your webpage.

Some shortcodes allow for additional customization through attributes specified within the square brackets (e.g., contact-form id=”123″). These attributes are typically passed as arguments to the registered function for further processing.

And WordPress developers use hooks to filter the shortcode outputs. That ensures the generated content can be customized before it’s displayed.

Benefits of WordPress Shortcodes

WordPress shortcodes offer a multitude of benefits for both developers and content creators. They are a valuable tool for building and maintaining websites. Here’s a breakdown of some key advantages:

  • Simplified Functionality: Shortcodes empower users to add complex features to their website without diving into intricate code. They can insert elements like buttons, forms, sliders, or social media feeds using simple tags, saving them significant time and effort.
  • Enhanced User-Friendliness: The visual nature of shortcodes makes them user-friendly, especially for those without extensive coding knowledge.  They can easily manage content and add functionalities without needing to touch the website’s core code.
  • Improved Maintainability: By separating content and functionality through shortcodes, your site’s codebase remains cleaner, more organized. So it’s easier to maintain and update the site in the future, even for developers unfamiliar with the original code.
  • Flexibility and Reusability: Shortcodes offer a high degree of flexibility. You can use the same shortcode with different attributes to achieve varied results. Additionally, once a shortcode is defined, it can be reused throughout your website. That ensures consistency and saves time.
  • Plugin and Theme Integration: Many plugins and themes come bundled with pre-defined shortcodes for specific functionalities. So you can leverage the power of these plugins without writing custom code. That extends your website’s capabilities effortlessly.
  • Theme Independence: In most cases, shortcodes are not tied to a specific theme. As long as the plugin defining the shortcode remains active, it will continue to function even if you switch themes. That ensures a smoother workflow.

Overall, shortcodes offer a win-win situation for both the WordPress experts and content creators. They streamline website development, enhance user-friendliness, and promote clean, maintainable codebases.

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How to Use WordPress do_shortcode?

Here’s a scenario for you. You want to set up a custom contact form in WordPress. Then you may install a plugin like Contact Form 7 and create a custom form. After that, you will need to embed it into your website with the help of a shortcode.

The shortcode will need to be embedded into the theme file in the WordPress directory structure. That means altering the core structure of the website. So before starting the process, you will need to back up your WordPress website.

After that, you can begin the process of using shortcodes in your website.

Step 1: Identify the Shortcode

The first step involves knowing the exact shortcode tag you want to use. Shortcodes are typically documented within the plugin or theme that defines them. Look for the specific tag enclosed in square brackets (e.g., [my-shortcode]).

Step 2: Place the Shortcode

Once you have the shortcode tag, you need to decide where you want to display the corresponding content. Shortcodes can be placed in various locations within your WordPress site, including:

  • Posts and Pages: Directly insert the shortcode tag within the content editor of your posts or pages.
  • Theme Templates: For more granular control, you can add the shortcode tag directly into your theme’s template files (like header.php or footer.php). Use the echo statement with do_shortcode to display the processed content (e.g., <?php echo do_shortcode(‘[your-shortcode]’); ?>).

Step 3: Use do_shortcode

The core functionality lies in the do_shortcode function itself. Here’s how to use it:

  • Basic Usage: The simplest way is to wrap the shortcode tag within do_shortcode and use echo to display the output:
<?php echo do_shortcode('[your-shortcode]'); ?>
  • Handling Attributes: Some shortcodes allow for customization through attributes within the square brackets (e.g., contact-form id=”123″). You can pass these attributes along with the shortcode tag to do_shortcode:
<?php echo do_shortcode('[contact-form id="123"]'); ?>

Some WordPress theme frameworks might offer built-in functionality for handling shortcodes within templates. Consult your theme’s documentation for specific instructions if applicable.

Shortcodes themselves are generally safe. But it’s crucial to ensure you’re using trusted plugins or themes that define secure shortcodes.

Overall, this process will help you add dynamic content and functionalities to your website easily and effectively.

If you need help with implementing functionalities with shortcodes, consult with our WordPress development company.

FAQs on Using WordPress do_shortcode

Can I create my own custom shortcodes?
Yes, you can! However, this requires some knowledge of PHP. There are resources available online that explain how to create custom shortcodes, but it's generally recommended for developers with some coding experience.
What are some alternatives to using shortcodes?
There are a few alternatives to using shortcodes:
  • Theme Template Functions: Some themes offer built-in template functions that achieve similar functionality to shortcodes. These functions might be a better option if you're comfortable with code.
  • Gutenberg Blocks: The Gutenberg block editor in WordPress allows you to add various content elements using pre-built blocks. This can be a good option for simpler layouts and functionalities.
What if do_shortcode isn't working?
There could be a few reasons:
  • Incorrect Shortcode: Double-check that you're using the exact shortcode tag as defined by the plugin or theme.
  • Missing Plugin/Theme: Ensure the plugin or theme that defines the shortcode is active.
  • Theme Integration Issues: If using shortcodes within templates, consult your theme's documentation for specific instructions on shortcode handling.


WordPress do_shortcode is a function that allows you to insert shortcodes into your website’s content or templates. Shortcodes are essentially shortcuts that let you add complex features or functionality without having to write a lot of code.

To use do_shortcode, simply wrap the shortcode you want to use with the function, like this: do_shortcode(‘[shortcode]’);

So, if you want help customizing your website with shortcode, consult with our dedicated WordPress developers today!

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Chinmay Pandya is an accomplished tech enthusiast specializing in PHP, WordPress, and Laravel. With a solid background in web development, he brings expertise in crafting innovative solutions and optimizing performance for various projects.

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