Name Spacing in ACF

Let’s say I’m building a theme for my client “Joey’s Frog Arena.” When I start development, I would namespace all of the theme functions with jfa_, or something similar, and be on my merry way. This is completely normal. Everybody namespaces themes as to avoid conflicts and create a sense of coherence throughout the code.

Something that didn’t occur to me until this specific project was the idea of using a namespace for fields within ACF. So let’s say Joey has 3 different wrestling shows, all of them with 6 participants in each show, totaling 18 different participants. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call them actors (everyone knows wrestling is fake anyway). So each show is listed as a custom post type, morning, afternoon, & evening shows, and the actors in each show change from week to week. Joey wants his customers to be able to visit the website and see a list of upcoming shows and who is participating in each one.

So I would need to attach a field to each show type that allows Joey to list out the actors for each show. Normally I would call this actors and move on. In the code, I would call this in the template with the_field('actors'); and everything would be handy dandy. Joey would be happy, I would be happy, all is good with the world.

Three months later though, Joey comes back to me and says he wants to add a widget to the homepage that spits out all the actors who are performing that day. So I would make a widget that uses some custom queries to pull of that information in and put it on the page.

Pretty standard stuff right? Just do that 3 times for each post type with some extra stuff added as needed. I finish the feature, Joey pays his bill and I go back to working on other projects. Now let’s jump 1 year into the future.

Joey is back, and he wants some modifications done to the widget I made for him last time. Well, it’s been a year. I don’t remember any of this stuff. Now I have to sift through this code and find where these specific parts are coming from and alter the output of the functions.

ENTER NAME SPACING

Name spacing is a normal part of modern software development. It helps us to stay organized and provides a easy to recognize reference if we have to come back to something later and our documentation just isn’t cutting it. Recently I’ve found myself name spacing all my fields with the name of the field group. This obviously means that choosing the right field group name can be very important! For Joey, I would have had 3 field groups, Morning Show, Afternoon Show, and Evening Show, since those were the 3 post types I was adding fields to. So for the actors field, I would set the label as “Actors” as normal, but the field name would be “morning_show_actors” instead of just actors. Let’s say I had another field called “Location.” That field name would be “morning_show_location.” I hope you can see where this is going.

If I was utilizing a large template to display data from custom queries, I don’t want to have to scroll up and down my document to see what post type I was referencing for a specific field. By including the field group as a namespace, I know exactly what information I’m working with no matter where in the theme I’m using it. This also means I can use a “Find All” in my IDE and search for “morning_show_actors” and only get the one result I want, rather than 3 results for the search term “actors.”

Hopefully you can see the benefit to name spacing and will start to utilize it on your projects. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to manually alter each field name instead of using the generated name from ACF, but a year or two down the line, you’ll be happy you did when you can’t remember the specifics from a given project.

P.S. After reading this blog post, I’m very disappointed in myself, but I’m putting it out there anyway, despite it’s sloppiness. Oh well. 😉

Author: Daron

Professional WordPress enthusiast and developer. When not doing WordPress, he enjoys Netflix and playing Nintendo. He is also available for freelance opportunities. Get in touch to hash out the details.

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