Web Stories en WordPress

A few days ago I was talking about the future of WordPress and the need to involve young people in the entire process of both development and use of the platform. By doing this, we may ensure that the new generations will continue to use our beloved WordPress.

If there is something that we have seen that is successful among young people, it is stories. These micro-contents that were born on Snapchat and made the leap to Instagram in 2016 now appear almost anywhere we can create content on. Facebook, WhatsApp, and even LinkedIn have joined the bandwagon of this fashion.

Stories come to WordPress thanks to Google

A few days ago Google officially launched a WordPress plugin that allows you to add web stories to your content. Its name is Web Stories and you can find it here, inside the WordPress.org plugin directory.

Once you install and activate it in your WordPress, a banner like the one you can see in the following screenshot will appear within the list of WordPress plugins:

Installing the Google Web Stories plugin in WordPress.
Installing the Google Web Stories plugin in WordPress.

In addition, a new section appears in the WordPress Dashboard menu, Stories, which is where you will create all the stories you want. The stories you create with this plugin are hosted in your own WordPress installation as instances of a custom post type (web-story in the wp_posts table of your database).

When you go to the Dashboard of the plugin, which you find in the new Stories menu, you have the possibility to see the settings of the story editor. Specifically, this first final version of the Google plugin allows us to add a Google Analytics tracking code so that we can have analytics in the stories.

Google web stories editor settings.
Google web stories editor settings.

In addition to this, it allows us to add logos that will later be available in the stories that we create. We also have the possibility of activating the sharing of the plugin usage data with Google.

In the Explore Templates section we can see a set of predesigned templates to create stories that help us getting started with the story editor. We can use them as a basis for our new stories, modifying them to our liking.

The Google Web Stories plugin allows us to use predefined templates to create our stories in WordPress.
The Web Stories plugin by Google allows us to use predefined templates to create our stories in WordPress.

Each predefined template to create stories includes a set of single stories inside, forming a complete story. These stories advance one after the other, similarly as we can find on Instagram and other networks.

To use a specific template we just have to select it and click on the button in the upper right part of the window with the text Use Template, as you can see in the following screenshot:

Detail of the stories contained in a predefined template.
Detail of the stories contained in a predefined template.

But we also have the possibility to start from scratch by creating a new story ourselves. This will open a special editor included in the Web Stories plugin. And the truth is that the story editor of this plugin is very powerful, and very similar to the visual editors that we may find in page builders like Divi or Elementor.

In the section on the left of the editor you have the possibility to search for images in your media library, but also in the libraries from Unsplash and Coverr. By dragging and dropping an image or video you can add it to the story editor.

You can also add layers in the story to organize the different elements, as you would do in a regular image editor. With all this, the level of complexity you may reach creating your WordPress stories is up to you. The possibilities are endless with Google Web Stories.

The story editor included in the Google Web Stories plugin is very similar to the editors that include page builders in WordPress.
The story editor included in the Google Web Stories plugin is very similar to the editors that page builders introduce in WordPress.

The editor is not complicated to use, but it’s not as simple as Instagram’s. Being able to create stories quickly with a touch screen is, in my opinion, still much more practical than doing it with Google’s.

As a positive point, in Google Web Stories you can add links in the elements and thus create buttons. Something that you cannot do with Instagram, since you only have the swipe up function in the event that your account reaches a minimum of 10,000 followers.

First simple tests with the Google story editor in WordPress.
First simple tests with the Google stories editor in WordPress.

In addition to what has already been commented, the editor includes the possibility of previewing the stories in order to see how they look while you edit them. You can even decide if you want the stories to advance automatically (you can also select the time it takes to go to the next one) or force the visitor to click to go to the next one.

Once you have your stories ready in the editor you can publish them. This generates a URL within your WordPress that you can use later in your content. To add a story to a post or a page, you just have to open the block editor and add a new block of type Web Story. In this block you paste the URL of the story that you generated before and it will appear embedded in your content:

Google web stories are added in WordPress with a special block for Gutenberg.
Google web stories are added in WordPress with a special block for Gutenberg. Here you can see how they look within the content.

As a curiosity, web stories do not work in the same way as the usual stories that we can find everywhere. In this case the content is not ephemeral: they work as if they were a slider or carousel of content and do not disappear after 24 hours.

It is clear that this way of working may not fully catch on with users, but the plugin has already exceeded 10 thousand active installations! Also, the source code is available on GitHub, so you can easily contribute if you want to suggest modifications or report bugs.

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Is it worth creating stories in WordPress?

Honestly, I can’t answer this question. From a technical point of view, Google tells us that web stories are a dynamic and daring way of telling stories within your website (the famous storytelling that everyone talks about today).

In addition, Google also mentions that, by adding stories in your posts and pages, it is possible they end up appearing in the search results if you include them in your WordPress sitemap. Does this mean that having web stories can increase the SEO of your page in Google? Although apparently they are not a relevant factor yet, who knows if Google will treat your website better if you include stories…

In my opinion, web stories are an effort to try to modernize the current web and the way of creating content. However, not being able to use the story editor with touch devices is a pity. We will have to see how all this evolves and, perhaps, in the future we will all go crazy with the stories on our websites.

Featured image from Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

2 responses to “Even WordPress Has Stories Now”

  1. Dave Mackey Avatar
    Dave Mackey

    The first thought that popped into my head as I was reading the article was, “Yeah, but can we trust Google to maintain Web Stories?” I was happy to see that the plugin is open source on GitHub, so it isn’t fully reliant on Google. These days I’m pretty wary about trying out new Google products.

    1. Antonio Villegas Avatar

      Sure thing. It is open source and the stories are stored in your own WordPress installation.

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