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  • You probably saw this coming, but the answer to all your questions is “It depends”.

    I have been using ACF for so long that I do not remember a site I’ve built without it. Every site I build for a client is custom based on their needs.

    1. Is there anything like too many ACF fields? Or you always recommend to use ACF.

    The answer to this one is Yes. But mostly this has to do with repeaters and flexible content and saving the post. The number of ACF fields will rarely impact the performance of the front end of the site.

    When you have a lot of repeaters and flex fields, and depending on what types of fields you are using, the number of fields can impact the performance of the admin in 2 ways.

    The first is that the loading of the post editor could be slow when there are a lot of fields that depend on JavaScript, like any of the jQuery fields, this also includes WYSIWYG fields that depend on tinyMCE. When building complex field groups it is important to take advantage of the “Delayed Initialization” provided by some of the ACF fields.

    The second way that it effect the performance of the admin is when saving a post. There is a point where the save process can time out.

    I’ll give you an example of this. I once built a site for a client that had a repeater. Each row of the repeater had 7 WYSIWYG fields. The content of the page required specific formatting for layout out these content fields in a very structured way to meed the client’s requirements. All went well until the client decided to add 30… let’s call them “Panels” to one page of the site. This meant that ACF needed to save 210 WYSIWYG fields and related fields for determining other options. What happened was that the save took longer that 30 seconds, which meant the the browser timed out and it appeared that it crashed the site. (In reality, it was just the browser timing out. The update went merrily on it’s way in the background and completed successfully. When this happens you can wait a minute or 3, use the browser back button and then refresh the editor and all of the changes would appear.) It was because of this that I built this

    When building something for a client using ACF it is important to think about how the client can abuse your masterpiece. I did not know that this problem existed when I built this site, but knowing it now I would not build another one the same way. I would likely use a post type using a parent page/post and child pages/posts in order to break things up and therefore avoiding the issue.

    2. When certain layout becomes too complex with tiny fields for everything, do you still use ACF or you look for page builder options in such scenarios?

    I have never used a page builder. I’ve found that they are too generic. They also rarely meet the specific requirements of my clients. Like I said, I build custom sites to exactly match the client’s needs. ACF allows me to do this without trying to shoehorn them into something that may not be exactly what they wanted. I also find that most page builders are bloated and also give the client too many options that allow them to break things easily. When using ACF I can give them only the options that they need. It makes my life easier because it’s harder for them to break things. And it makes their life easier because there is less for them to learn in order to manage their own site. My goal, when building a site is to turn it over to the client and for them to be able to do everything they need. The last thing I ever want to do is manage the content of a client’s site or need to make changes because they cannot understand how to do it themselves.

    3. Finally, lets say you are working on a blog. And at some point you want some custom structures in the middle of article, maybe a table or some other layout. How do you approach it? Do you create ACF templates and split up content area with repeater field so you can use these custom structures in the middle of articles? Or again do you take some other approach?

    The answer to this one is the biggest “It Depends” answer.

    For a blog… meaning “Blog Posts”. for this they usually get just the standard WP editor. Blogs are free form and all content and formatting inside of “The Content” area is up to the client. I may provide other options on the blog, for example a way to allow them to specify a banner image for the page, or some special feature. However, I will never build a way that requires special formatting and layout within this area.

    For the rest of the site. For example, page layouts and custom post types. These are almost always formatted specifically. Meaning that every page must look the same as every other page with set features. These features may be optional on each page, but when they appear they will always be shown in the same place and always appear the same when shown. These pages, templates and post types will have fields for everything that the client should be able to control. Outside of the blog, almost all of my clients require that the structure of specific pages be the same and meets there companies style guide. I may need to build them many specific templates for different page layouts. On occasion I also have included a generic page where the content is just a basic content field where they can control the layout, but this is rare and the client that wants this is usually familiar with WP and the use of things like shortcodes and editing HTML directly.

    In the case you mentioned about a “blog” with custom structures in the middle of the content. If this was a requirement given to me by the client I would likely give them 2 content editors, one for the beginning of the blog and one for the end and the other fields in the middle and it would be up to them do decide where this special feature would be inserted. The other option would be to build a custom shortcode so that they can insert the special features into their page. But like I keep saying, that would depend on the client’s specific needs.