I’m not one of those people who rearranges their furniture just for the sake of change. I used to live with someone who did that, and it drove me absolutely up the wall. It took weeks for it to stop feeling awkward and weird every time I walked into the room. Yes, I’ll make changes, but only when necessary. Like to accommodate something new, or fill the empty space from pitching something. Maybe it’s because I’m a Taurus, and supposedly we’re all stubborn and resistant to change. (Although I refuse to believe that *wink and nudge*).
That being said, I feel like I’m doing the Internet version of constantly rearranging my furniture over the last few weeks. Once I’m happy with everything I’ll probably go for quite awhile before I start mucking with it again, but for now I just can’t resist it.
I built my site with WordPress, using one of their themes. It kind of feels like moving into a new house. Your essentials are already there. You have a bedroom, and a bathroom, and doors and windows. Maybe you even have some wallpaper and a little landscaping in the front yard. But everything is generally plain, and although it may be functional it lacks personality. Maybe you hate the switchplate covers. Maybe the light fixtures in the kitchen have to go. That’s where you come in.
Having just gone though my second major wave of revisions this year, and installing, testing, and uninstalling of a LOT of different plug-ins, I thought I’d share the ones I’ve come to love and rely on the most:
Oddly enough, when you have a hosted WordPress.com site, this option is already available to you. When you move over to a self hosted WordPress.org site, you have to install it. Of course, you always have the option of inserting HTML into the text widget to accomplish the same thing, but if you aren’t comfortable messing with all that this is MUCH easier.
You won’t notice any visual changes after installing this plugin, but it makes your site load MUST faster. Once note though…sometimes when you make changes to your site they are slow to show up, even after refreshing the page and emptying the cache in your browser. Although I’m no 100% sure, but I think the plugin has something to do with this. When this happens, I usually close the browser and walk away or work on something else for a while, and when I come back and reopen the site, my change is usually there.
Do you want customized contact fields? Do you want more control over your form’s color palette to better match your overall look? Do you wants people to be able to select from several drop down menu options? Then this is a great plugin for you. After going though several other contract forms I found this one, and I’ve found it to be a LOT more intuitive and flexible than many of the others.
Again, I want though several image galleries before I found this one. WordPress comes with an image gallery, but this one offers Flash slideshow capabilities, There are several galleries to choose from, all of which are highly customizable, so you can make it blend into the overall look of your site. If you have a Flick account you can link to those images, or you can use ones you upload to your image library. Another great thing is that if your site viewed from a device without Flash capabilities (like a mobile phone or ipad) the Flash gallery gets replaced with static images.
Just like with the Image Widget, this is another tool that automatically comes with WordPress.com, but not self-hosted WordPress.org sites. It lets you branch out from plain vanilla fonts to some that are a lot more fun, and are guaranteed to show up for your readers no matter what fonts they have saved onto their home computers. There is a free option which allows you the use of two fonts, and paid options that allow more fonts and use on multiple sites.
I don’t know how, but Askimet catches almost 100% of spam from getting through to your comments area. I shudder to think how clogged with junk my comments section would be without it. This is a MUST have.
Have you seen sites where after each blog post there’s an area at the bottom with says “You may also like” with four or five images linking to different posts? (If not, look down an inch or two) That’s Link Within, and it suggests other posts your readers may like, based on similar tags or category listings. A great way to get people to further explore your content.