Once I decided that I will not change anything in the template I use for my blog, I worked on the plugins and widgets to integrate my blog with social media interactions. One thing I have learned is that a good blog will need proper interaction between its readers and authors. Also, there should be means for the readers to share articles which they like. In this post I will attempt to write about the plugins and widgets I use and how they are useful to me and the reader.
First things first – I selected the Xioletter wordpress theme for a couple of things:
- Has a flexible width and looks good on a wide screen laptop or computer screen. If it does not look good or if the posts are skewed in a non-widescreen laptop / computer screen, please say your say in the comments.
- Even though, black and dark are my favorite colors for any wordpress theme, I still selected this because there were no good (for me) dark themes with flexible width. But Xioletter seems to have decent colors and has put the content of the blog back into the foreground without too many distractions.
I am dividing the plugins and widgets into two categories (although they could be interchangeable) – Functional and Social Media.
Functional plugins / widgets (in alphabetic order):
- Akismet – this is a default plugin that comes with every WordPress installation. I have been using this widget from day 1 and have never looked back. One of the best anti-spam plugins for WordPress blogs. The best part about this plugin is that it has a learning curve supported by millions of WordPress blogs around the world. Every time someone terms a comment as spam Akismet learns more.
- Tag cloud – this is a default widget that comes bundled with wordpress. I have two widgets in the blog sidebar one configured to show tags and the other to show categories – both in an easily readable cloud format.
- flickr-slideshow-wrapper – a great plugin to showcase your flickr pics and sets in an embedded slideshow format. You can see it in action here.
- Google XML Sitemaps – a plugin that generates an XML sitemap to help your blog to be searched better through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, etc.
- Subscribe Remind – this plugin has not been updated for a long time. However, it has its uses. I use it to put a small reminder at the end of a post to encourage readers to subscribe to my blog.
- Thank Me Later – a nice way to thank your blog commentators by sending them an email. Also helps in getting the reader to check back on your blog for follow up comments. You can set your own time when the thank you email should be sent. I have set it to send an email after 1 day of the original comment.
- Where did they go from here – this plugin keeps track of other blog posts visited by the reader from the original blog post. Helps in promoting other posts from your blog post.
- WordPress popular posts – another great plugin where you can showcase the most popular posts on your blog. This can be configured as a widget as seen in this blog in the sidebar.
- WordPress.com Stats – an alternative to Google Analytics, this plugin is an admin related plugin with the same functionality as seen in WordPress.com. This plugin is lightweight and shows statistics about your visitors, the popular posts, incoming links and more.
- WordPress related posts – another plugin that shows related posts from your blog and encourages visitor to visit them.
- WP Grins – a simple plugin to add clickable smilies to the comments form and admin post form.
- WP Likes – a plugin to add a ‘Like’ button to your blog posts where readers can either promote or show dislike for a particular post. Can also be put in as a widget as in this blog visible in the sidebar.
- WP Super Cache – a great plugin to load your blog faster on browsers. Basically, your visitors will see cached static html pages which are faster to load compared to php pages. It does not reduce your functionality since recurring readers and logged in users will not be server with the static html pages.
Social Media plugins /widgets (in alphabetic order):
- Add to Facebook – adds a ‘Share on Facebook’ button at the end of your post which helps blog readers to promote and share your posts on Facebook.
- Gaboinked! Facebook Badge Plugin for WordPress – Puts a Facebook badge as a widget on your blog sidebar as seen in this blog. You can select the Facebook badge you want from the available badges at Facebook.
- Google Buzz Button For WordPress – Blog readers can share your blog post on Google buzz from your blog. The button can be added to the end of the post.
- Gravatar Signup Encouragement – a simple plugin that encourages blog readers and visitors who do not have a Gravatar associated with their email used in the comments form. Gravatars give a great look for your blog comments and hence the small encouragement.
- TweetMeme Button – a great button that can be shown at the beginning or end of a post or a combination of both. Blog readers and visitors can use it to retweet your blog post on twitter. Great twitter promotion!
- WP-TwitterBadge – Adds a fixed Twitter button on the side of your blog. It is stylish, sexy and unobtrusive at the same moment. I have configured it to show a Twitter button on the left side of my blog which stays fixed even if you scroll.
- WP Greet Box – a plugin that analyzes how your blog visitor came to be on your blog – through Google search or Digg, etc, and greets the visitor with an option to subscribe or follow your blog.
- WP Wall – a comments wall that can be put on your sidebar as a widget. This allows blog readers and visitors to comment on your blog as a whole rather than commenting on individual posts. Can be seen on this blog too.
- Xhanch – My Twitter – a great way to show your tweets on your blog sidebar. Easily configurable and helps you keep in touch in twitter also.
Getting all of the plugins and widgets to work is a lot and lot of work. To give you an idea, I have 65 plugins currently installed in my blog out of which only 26 are active .
I am also interested in knowing what works for others.