Tweaking Your Site

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Tips and Tweaks for WordPress Sites

Image:Optometry3.JPG 

Okay, you’ve created your site, and things are looking good.  People are giving you the nod, but you’re wondering – did I get it all right?  Did I miss some opportunities to connect up with my audience?  How can I catapult my good site to a great site?

The following list of suggestions, compiled on the Wiki by members of the Commons, might help sharpen your site’s focus.   

And Please! Contribute. It’s a Wiki...

We need your suggestions.  Share tips, techniques, themes and plugins that you find effective. Expand sections already included, and (of course) start new ones.

Join WordPress Help!

WordPress Help! is a public group on the Commons where you can post issues and find help from the Commons community.

Random Ideas To Improve Your Site

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, ...

  • Set up social media accounts for your site. Configure so that your new content is automatically posted to them.  (See Twitter Tools plugin, Facebook)
  • Add a "Follow us" section (maybe in the sidebar or footer)  to display your site's social presence. Each icon links to your home page on the respective social media site. Check out Subscription Options plugin for this or practice some HTML skills using the "Text" widget.
  • Be active on the social media sites you select.  Re-direct interest back to your site by linking to cool content - events, posts, comments, etc.
  • Consider using the Twitter Mentions as Comments plugin to harvest tweets that mention your content, and post them as comments on your site.
  • Synchronize your brand - have a consistent logo on your site and your social media home pages.

RSS (outgoing)

  • If appropriate, ensure that you have a "Subscribe To RSS" icon or hyperlink.  This lets users quickly add your RSS feed to their reader list.
  • Use Feedburner to "burn" your RSS feeds, get statistics, and track activity.
  • Check out Subscription Options or Subscribe2 plugins to manage your subscriptions.
  • Use Feedburner's code snippet in your sidebar to give your readers a "Notify by Email" link, which they can use to receive new content when it is posted.

RSS (incoming)

Is there any dynamic content from other sites you would like to incorporate into your site? You can place RSS feeds in your sidebar, your pages, or into your blog stream.

  • Check out how you can add RSS feeds to your sidebars and pages.
  • Syndication - check out how the FeedWordPress plugin lets you add external RSS content directly into your blog post stream.

Be Sociable

Use plugins like “Sociable” or "Share This" to add social media icons to the bottom of your posts and/or pages. These plugins are highly configurable, and make it convenient for your readers to share your content to a wider audience.

Create Dynamic Headers

Most themes provide a fairly easy way to personalize their header image.  But you might want your header image to be dynamic?  

There are (at least) three approaches: (1) the header image changes each time you refresh the page (order may be random or preset); (2) the header image is specific to a certain page or post (a default image is displayed if no specific image is assigned); and (3), your home page has a "slider" that displays a rotating set of images that advertize and link to your content.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Dynamic Header images - check out themes like Twenty-Eleven that can be configured to display a different image in the header each time you refresh the screen (usually can be set to ordered or random).
  2. Install the EasyRotator for Wordpress plugin, and add any number of distinct sliders in your pages and posts.
  3. Specific Images for Pages and Posts - themes that do this will often use the "Featured Image" option in the dashboard - if this is not entered, a default image will be used. Read about this in the Codex documentation for the Twenty Ten theme or this about Twenty-Eleven headers and showcases.
  4. Sliders - some themes let you create and design slides.  Other themes select posts that are specifically categorized to appear in the slider, and provide a way to attach an image.  Most provide settings for size, duration, image fade or slide, etc.   Here is a list of some of the themes on the Commons that provide slider functionality: Arras, Modularity Lite, most Woo Themes (Canvas, Simplicity, Fresh News, Spectrum, etc.); many Elegant Themes (eNews, eVid, ePhoto, Glow,eBusiness, Professional); and of course the ultra-configurable Altahualpa.  
Other Ideas for Dynamic Images
  • Looking to display rotating images in a page or a post (slideshows, galleries, etc.)? Check out the plugin called "Post video players slideshow and photo galleries" that uses a service called Cincopa. Check out information on this and other image plugins and options here
  • The Tagline rotator plugin is available on the Commons to let you vary your header tagline each time a user refreshes the screen.   
  • You might want to display rotating images in your sidebar –There are some plugins for that.

Comment Management

  • Know how to recognize (and get rid of) spam.
  • Install and configure Askimet.  CUNY has a license.  Read more here.
  • Handle your comments with WP-Comment-Remix plugin.

Groups

Start a group on the Commons and attach your blog to it.  Gives you an added dimension of group forums, Docs, etc. Create content in both pages and posts. The Commons has built in functionality that notifies members when someone posts to the group blog (or to the group forum or creates a Doc or an announcement).  Members can configure how they want to be notified. For more on this see: Staying in Touch with your Group.

Pages & Posts

  • Put static content in pages, timely content in posts.
  • Figure out your site: is it a blog, a website, or a website with a blog?  If it serves a dual purpose, think about ways to both separate and integrate "Site" and "Blog" content.   
  • Use categories and tags to organize content and make it easily retrievable.
  • Use category or tag cloud widgets in your sidebar to guide readers to content.  Check out the WP-Cumulus plugin for 3D cloud affect.
  • Use WordPress' built in Menu to organize your site's navigation.  You can find this in the dashboard under Appearance>>Menu.

Users

  • Add users to your blog.  Manage their permission levels.  Invite guest bloggers to post interviews, thoughts, reviews…

Book Jackets and Metadata Links

  • Use the OpenBook plugin to embed book jackets from Open Library, and their metadata. Good if you're reviewing a book, including it in a syllabus, or just want to talk about its author.

Analyze Your Audience

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Are you doing enough to ensure your content is found by search engines?  See a great post recently published in the Emerging Tech in Libraries site on the Commons called Gentle SEO Reminders that covers some of the basics.  Install the WordPress SEO by Yoast  plugin.

Popular Themes on the Commons

These are some of the themes we're enjoying.

Consider using Responsive Themes

We now have responsive themes on the Commons. (To find our responsive themes, go to
Appearances >> Themes on your blog dashboard and search our installed
themes for “responsive.”)

Responsive themes make your content look great on different size devices.  Here are some options:

  • Twenty Twelve is the default theme released with WordPress 3.5. Minimalistic, easy to use, this theme is a great basis for a child theme. Few bells and whistles, but a solid, attractive theme. Check out demo.
  • Oxygen is also written by Automattic, provides a sleek, magazine look to your site. Check out its live demo.
  • Clean is a premium theme by Theme Trust. As advertised, it is “extremely stylish theme that looks amazing across multiple devices and screen resolutions. This versatile theme can be used as a blog or a portfolio to show off your work. It features infinite scrolling and a touch swipe slideshow.” Check out its live demo.
  • Luna is a premium theme by ThemeForest and lets provides two homepage types – blog or portfolio. It’s a neat theme with lots of configurations. Check out its live demo.
  • Presswork is a free WordPress theme and has an array of features, including some drag and drop admin design functionality. It’s a beautiful theme (it’s actually a framework), but sadly the authors have decided not to support it any more, which could prove problematic.
  • Simplex is a minimalistic WordPress theme that provides great responsive design.

Popular Plugins Available on the Commons

  • Wiki Inc - add wiki content into your posts or pages
  • FeedWordPress - get syndicated content (RSS feeds) from external sources and integrate it into your blog stream
  • Sociable/Share This - add social media buttons at the bottom of your posts and pages to make it easy for your readers to share links to your content 
  • Page Links To - a convenient plugin to redirect pages and posts to different URL.
  • Twitter Tools - great tool to use for establishing a Twitter presence on your site, or simply embedding a specific Twitter feed.
  • OpenBook - Writing about a book or an author?  Creating an online syllabus?  Embed the book jacket and publishing metadata from Open Library.
  • Google Maps Embed - quick way to add a map to your post or page.  Great for showing your readers where an event or meeting will take place.
  • Leaflet Maps Marker – a neat mapping plugin that lets you easily pin, annotate, organize, and share locations using maps from Google, Bing, and OpenStreetMap. An alternative to Google Maps Embed.
  • Image Handling Plugins - check out plugins that connect to external image services and repositories
  • Subscription Options - Adds subscription option icons for RSS, Email, Twitter and Facebook page.
  • Subscribe2 - helps manage the way you communicate with your subscribers
  • WP-Cumulus - creates a 3D swirling tag cloud
  • Simpler IPaper - Neat plugin that lets you embed documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc. into your posts and pages
  • JetPack's Embed Shortcodes - an alternative to Simplier IPaper that makes Scribd documents readable on IPads - no Adobe Flash needed. Many other shortcodes available.
  • WP-RSS-Import - Want to include an RSS feed in the text of one of your posts or pages?  This highly configurable plugin lets you decide how much (if any) of the feed content to excerpt.  Shortcodes make it easy to use.
  • Super RSS Reader - a widget to display RSS and Twitter feeds.  Has an optional news ticker animation that can display several pages of feeds, with configurable refresh rates.
  • Configurable Tag Cloud - Got lots of tags?  Wonder why they are not all appearing in your cloud?  Install this plugin and set the max number of tags to display.
  • Category Posts - This plugin creates a useful sidebar widget that displays the posts in one category. Lots of configuration options, including excerpt length, thumbnail size, etc.
  • List Category Posts - If you like the Category Posts plugin (above), you'll love this one.  It allows you to add content from your categories into a page or post, as well as into a sidebar.  Easy to use shortcodes let you determine what you want to extract from your list of category posts.
  • Tabs and Accordions - Have a lot of content, and want to present it in one page or post? This plugin lets you gracefully organize and present your content using tabs or accordions.
  • Google Analytics - Find detailed statistics about who is accessing your site. This is a site-side plugin, running for all blogs on the Commons.  Follow instructions in the link to have your stats emailed to you.
  • JetPack Stats, StatPress Visitors - These plugins provide powerful ways to collect and display statistics
  • News Announcement Scroll - If appropriate, highlight news on your site with a vertical scroll, either in your sidebar, or in pages or posts,
  • Timelines - Does your site deal with historical data?  Learn how to use interactive Timelines via Google docs.
  • Google Calendar Events - Display events from various Google calendars as a list or in a calendar grid.  Easy to use and highly configurable way to display an event calendar on your site.
  • Google Docs Embed - If you have Google docs, presentations, spreadsheets or forms, you can embed them into pages and posts.  Your site's content will dynamically relect changes made in Google Docs.
  • Anthologize - This plugin lets you craft an anthology of your posts, complete with a title page, table of contents, and chapters.  You can even grab other posts via RSS feed.  The final product can be exported to your computer as a pdf, or four other digital formats.  Great for bundling up resources for classes.
  • Events Manager - This plugin lets you display and manage upcoming events (seminars, lectures, conferences, etc.).  Widgets and shortcodes let you create interactive calendars of events or bulletted event listings.  You can even let you readers make online reservations for events you are organizing.
  • Q&A - This plugin creates an easily manageable FAQ section for your site. If you need a Question and Answer dialog, this plugin is for you.
  • Regenerate Thumbnails - will save you a massive amount of time if you want to change the dimensions of your thumbnail images.
  • Pinterest Pinboard Widget – adds Pinterest content to your sidebars from any account you choose to pull from.
  • WP Google Fonts – add more fonts to your site.
  • Twitter Mentions As Comments - harvest tweets that mention your posts and display them as comments.
  • Constant Contact - integrates with your (proprietary) Constant Contact account to provide email marketing, online event management, social campaign management, etc. (Similar to Events Manager)
  • Edit Flow – if you’re using your site to publish a journal, newsletter, periodical or research results, this plugin provides a framework to collaborate with team members.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast - this plugin adds configurable meta tags to your content to optimize search engine hits.
  • EasyRotator for WordPress - this plugin lets you create any number of sliders and put them on individual posts, pages, or in a widgetized area.  Many templates let you customize appearance.  A stellar plugin!
  • NextPage Buttons - divide your content into pages so readers do not need to scroll down and lose site of your sidebar widgets
  • Page Excerpt - Create summaries for your pages.  Works great with List Pages Shortcode.
  • List Pages Shortcode - Got a lot of pages?  This plugin is great for managing content.  You can add customized lists of your pages and optionally, excerpts.
  • WP Post to PDF - creates an icon on your posts and pages which, we clicked, downloads your content to a pdf.
  • Column Shortcodes - provides an easy way to divide your content into columns and create interesting layouts.
  • ChartBoot for WordPress - provides an easy way to add charts to your site, using data from your spreadsheets.  Great way to supplement and quantify research.

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