How A Rails Developer Uses WordPress

Sep 04 2017

I’ve recently been helping out some family and friends with rebuilding their websites and, for the sake of consistency, I chose to use WordPress for them. Here’s what happens when a Rails developer encounters a markup problem with a WordPress site.

I decided to use Genesis themes for these sites as per a recommendation from my good buddy Lee, since they seem to be more “developer” focused without all of the drag and drop visual builder nonsense that is so popular these days.

The Task At Hand

In building a website for my mom’s real estate business, I needed to display headshots of about 50 real estate agents along with their contact information. Also, there will be more agents added on a somewhat regular basis.

While there are a million gallery plugins for WordPress, both free and paid, the ones I tried just seemed way overkill for what I needed and the markup generated tended to be pretty nasty. The Genesis Framework already has a pretty nice grid system baked into its styles, so I knew what I wanted write in the markup, I just didn’t want to have to do it manually 50 times, now or in the future.

I basically just wanted this markup:

<div class="row">
  <div class="agent one-fourth first">
    [caption width="150"]
    <span class="agent-photo">
      <img src="/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/john-doe.jpg"
        width="150" height="150" class="size-thumbnail" />
    <div class="agent-name">John Doe</div>
    <div class="agent-phone">(111) 222-3333</div>
    <a class="agent-email" href="">Email Me</a>

  <div class="agent one-fourth">

The [caption] part is a shortcode used in WordPress used to style the caption information below the image.

The other thing I was given was a typical spreadsheet with the name, phone number and email addresses for all of the agents.

The Options

So at this point I basically had 2 options:

  1. Write some PHP code in WordPress to build a shortcode to do this all in PHP/WordPress
    • This doesn’t sound fun at all, but it probably would be a more “permanent” solution
  2. Whip up a quick Rails app to generate the markup I need in a repeatable fashion
    • This sounds much more fun inducing and would probably be a quicker win for now

Now, while I actually am pretty proficient with PHP coding in general, I’m a bit less experienced with doing it in the context of WordPress. So I decided to spin up a quick Rails app to tackle this for now. One of the things I love about Rails is that I’ve found it to be a great tool both for building massive e-commerce platforms and for just spinning up little hack solutions like this quickly. So, rails new my-quick-hack to the rescue.

The Solution

After exporting the spreadsheet into a CSV file, it was easy to load up in a Rails controller.

require "csv"

class HomeController < ApplicationController
  layout false

  def index
    @csv = CSV.parse("#{Rails.root}/config/agents.csv"))    

Yes, the view code below is quite nasty, no doubt about that. But for my purposes right now, it worked great and is really all I needed. Of course I could do some major refactoring on it from a TDD standpoint, break out some models to abstract away the CSV parsing, etc.

But, you know…

<% @csv.in_groups_of(4) do |group| %>
  <div class="row">
    <% group.each_with_index do |row, index| %>
      <% next if row.nil? %>
      <% id = [row[0], row[1]].join(" ").parameterize %>
      <div class="one-fourth <%= 'first' if index == 0 %>">
        [caption width="150"]
        <img src="/wp-content/uploads/<%= id %>-150x150.jpg"
          width="150" height="150" class="size-thumbnail" />
        <div class="agent-name"><%= row[1] %> <%= row[0] %></div>
        <div class="agent-phone"><%= row[2] %></div>
        <a class="agent-email" href="mailto:<%= row[3] %>">Email Me</a>
    <% end %>
    <div class="clearfix"></div>
<% end %>

That’s it. Just rails s, pop open the browser to localhost:3000, copy the markup and paste it into the WordPress page I created for the team page.

The end result


Well, at least as much as you can get while still using WordPress. I’m sure I’m going to get folks balking at solutions like this, but honestly, until I need something more involved, this is going to be just fine.