What Is a WordPress Shortcode and Why Should You Use It?

Plugins…widgets…shortcodes. There are so many different terms out there for the various facets of WordPress that it can feel like you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options and choices. Fortunately, we’re here to clear up what a shortcode actually is and why you’ll want to use them on your blog or WordPress website.

What are Shortcodes?

Shortcodes are, as their name implies, short pieces of code that allow users add certain functionality on-demand to their content. Oftentimes, they can be inserted via the WordPress visual editor or copied and pasted directly into the text area.

Shortcodes generally appear in brackets, like this [shortcode] which differentiates them from other pieces of code that might be placed on the page. The difference is that when the page is loaded in the browser, WordPress knows to replace [shortcode] with whatever the shortcode actually does.

What is the Difference Between a Shortcode and a Plugin?

Plugins and shortcodes seem very similar on the surface. Both add certain functionality to your WordPress website. But while plugins are designed to add or extend a certain feature of WordPress, shortcodes can be added anywhere within the existing content of your page to show something in a certain way or carry over a certain effect or style.

What is the Difference Between a Shortcode and a Widget?

Shortcodes and widgets also have a lot in common in that they’re designed to “shortcut” the process of adding something ordinarily more complicated to your website. However, widgets can only go in areas that are designated as “widget-ready” such as the sidebar or footer of a website. Shortcodes can go anywhere, including within the text itself.

What Kinds of WordPress Shortcodes Can I Use?

There are a wide variety of shortcodes and even plugins which constitute an entire collection of shortcodes. Many themes also come with some shortcode abilities which they generally advertise as part of the theme package. Depending on your theme or plugin, you may find the following types of shortcodes:


Create custom post types to lay out a post or page exactly the way you want with areas you decide. Want to show news or events? Show a map or location? Add a label or content section? Make your content collapsible (great for tutorials or other how-to areas!) You can even create a timeline of events to show, for example, how your company or blog has evolved and changed over time!


There are hundreds of icons freely available to use, and some of the best shortcodes use them. Add flair to your posts, comments, images and much more with simple yet descriptive and vivid icons. Along with icons, you can also add buttons, badges, animated text, images and scrolling. Create an alert to let customers know when an item is low in stock or add a box that hovers into view when the user moves their mouse over a word – acting like a tooltip to define or elaborate without clogging up your post with definitions.


There are lots of shortcodes that let you do amazing things with images too. Insert charts, blur images, pricing tables, show progress of something (like the user’s completion of your form) and much more. One of the most popular options is creating a parallax scene on your site, where it appears that the front part of the site and the background appear to be separate and move in a way that makes the site appear more fluid and engaging. Ordinarily it would take a lot of programming and visual wizardry to make it happen, but with shortcodes, all it takes is putting a simple word in brackets and your shortcode displays!


You can even use shortcodes to format your blog in a certain way. Want to add some fancy text effects like drop caps or leads? You can absolutely do that. Format your content with a tabbed layout or an accordion view that allows content to stretch and change according to what the user is reading. You can even use shortcodes to insert a portfolio or gallery of your work!


Many shortcodes also work with third-party services like social media networks. Want to allow your users to share your post on Twitter or Facebook? Not a problem. Want to encourage them to follow you on social media? One simple snippet and it’s done. Shortcodes can also be used to insert video, testimonials, team photos, and even a Google docs preview, saving you time!

Recent Things

Although shortcode examples are often used to display recent posts anywhere on your site (and not just in widget areas), you can use shortcodes to display much more than recent posts. Recent movies? Recent music? Recent locations? Recent events? Recent coupons? Shortcodes can display them all.

Where Can I Get Shortcodes?

There are both paid and free shortcodes available, and they vary depending on the theme. One giant collection can be had at CodeCanyon, but if you don’t need that many, you can also download free versions, including Shortcodes Ultimate, CSS Igniter or if you just want to style tables that look good, TablePress.

These are just a few of the many shortcode plugins that are freely available to install right from the WordPress plugin repository. If you want something specific, search for something like “accordion shortcode” or “design shortcode”.

And although shortcodes are very easy to work with and install, if you run into problems using WordPress shortcodes in your layout or theme, be sure to reach out to us at WPDandy. Our proficient, professional and experienced programmers can help you install shortcodes and use them to achieve nearly any type of look or style you want. Work one on one with your chosen programmer through our easy to use admin area plugin and assign tasks easily. Get your WordPress to-do list done for one affordable monthly fee. Contact us today to learn more!