/ alumni

Custom Post Types in Wordpress with Gravity Forms

We recently discovered the great premium plugin Gravity Forms at DTLT from the web group at UMW who purchased it to use with the redesigned UMW.edu site (running completely on Wordpress!). One amazing feature of gravity forms is that it allows you to create a form that, when a user submits it, creates a post in Wordpress. You can also link form fields to custom field data allowing for a lot of customization. Combine that with this plugin to allow the submission of a custom post type and you start to see the flexibility this tool can offer. As it so happens I was recently asked by the Chemistry department to look into the possibility of having a form on their site that would allow alumni to post information that would be added to a forward-facing "Alumni Directory" similar to what Union College is doing here. I couldn't have asked for a better excuse to put Gravity Forms to work! I've played with custom post types before but the best framework I've found yet to build off of was Kyle Jones' Library Custom Post Types which comes as a pack of three custom post types meant for libraries (Databases, Staff Directory, and Journals). It was relatively easy to modify the Staff Directory component to become an Alumni Directory with the particular information that the Chemistry department wanted to collect. What's great about this solution is that not only do we have a front facing directory (which I'm still working on the style of) and form for automatic submission to that directory, but we also have a beautiful backend interface for the directory that allows admins to search, add, and edit alumni directly from the Wordpress interface. It's one of those moments where Wordpress ceases to feel like "blogging software" and shines as a full-fledged flexible content management system (and a shining example of why it's so important that Wordpress is powering UMW.edu!). The final piece of the puzzle was adding sorting to the table of alumni data so you could sort by graduation year, alphabetical by name, and other columns. That turned out to be dead simple with this small piece of javascript that you simply link to and apply a class to your table. Once the new alumni directory is live I'll be sure to link to it here, but for now I'll leave you with these screenshots of the interface.