When You Should Use Custom Fields

You've heard about custom fields (ACF) and their benefits, but are they for you? How do you know if your website is a good candidate? When are they more trouble than they're worth?

We're going to clear the air on the best use cases for custom fields by outlining three scenarios where they ✨really shine✨:

  1. When repeating content that has the same format
  2. When the content editor is not-so-techie
  3. When design consistency is an issue

First, what are custom fields exactly and what's the alternative?

Before we get into it, let’s make sure we're on the same page. Our definitions:

Custom fields – Think of custom fields as a form that’s created specifically for editing your website. Usually, this also means helpful labels that are tailored to your content. And it provides just the right options you need to control the design. No more, no less. We should also say that we're mostly referring to the ACF Pro plugin when we talk about custom fields.

Page builders – Tools (like Divi or Elementor) that give content editors far-reaching design control alongside content entry. They allow them to create layouts, change styles, and insert any element into a page however they want, all through a drag-and-drop interface.

When custom fields make sense

1. When repeating content that has the same format

If your website uses a template for repeating content, then custom fields are for you! Let’s take a bio page as an example. Every bio has a name, body of content, a featured image, and contact information. The content editor only needs access to these specific fields when making changes–they don’t need access to font size, background color, adding sliders or videos, or anything else that will break consistency of design on the page.

2. When the content editor is not-so-techie

We work with companies large and small, and one thing is the same: marketers, interns, project managers, CEOs, and everyone in between touches the website at some point. The reality is that content editors that aren’t technical experts have the power to inadvertently slow down website speed, break design consistency, or negatively affect SEO with a few quick clicks of a mouse. If you have a lot of contributors, custom fields are a great way to oops-proof your pages!

3. When design consistency is an issue

If your company has several content editors, it’s hard to monitor and ensure the content matches all brand guidelines. A website can quickly feel disconnected if design elements are not cohesive. If there are sections of your site that are particularly prone to issues, these are great candidates for converting to custom fields!

Are custom fields ever a bad idea?

Custom fields may not be right for you if you don't have a developer to code them into your templates, or a theme with them built-in. (Shameless plug: we start every site build using our theme called Framework, which has built-in custom fields!)

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Use these three criteria to confidently make a decision about custom fields. If you choose to use custom fields, they will help give structure and consistency to your website—and also speed up the editing process. They’re helpful “guardrails” that encourage focused and consistent messaging and design.

Still not sure if custom fields are right for your website? Check out: 5 reasons why you may need to hire a technical website partner. Or get in touch! We’ll talk you through it.

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