Although many people don't use them, extensions are a great way to amp up your WordPress blog.

If you’re like most people, you don’t like tinkering with things. You buy a router, plug it in, and start using it. No configuration, no third party firmware: you just want it to work. However, because you’re reading a blog on life hacking/productivity, you’re not like most people! You’re willing to put the work and effort in to become a better person. Therefore, when you install WordPress, you’re going to want to optimize the crap out of it. With thousands upon thousands of extensions, WordPress allows you to do that. There are picture gallery extensions, spam protection extensions, and database backup extensions. In essence, there’s an extension for everything. In fact, running a WordPress blog without extensions is like buying a TV, just plugging it in, and watching, completely negating the opportunity to look through the menus for little things that could improve the picture. Here, then, are a few extensions to make WordPress run better, faster, and stronger.

SexyBookmarks creates an opportunity for your followers to share your posts on social networking sites. As you may have noticed, at the end of all my posts there are AJAX style pop-up buttons you can mouse over. Some of those icons may be recognizable; others may not. Regardless, they all serve one purpose: to easily pass my posts along to friends and social networking sites. This sexy sharing is powered by the SexyBookmarks, a configurable social networking extension. In the options panel for SexyBookmarks, you’re able to choose from nearly 100 different social networking websites to list above or below your post body. Additionally, the plugin has options to configure the Twitter re-tweet options that are useful (including selecting the URL shortener; personally I use su.pr because of its great analytic ability).

SexyBookmarks

The social networks configurable in SexyBookmarks.

pageMash lets you move page order around. See those links at the top of my blog post? The ones that say “Resume,” “About,” etc.? Well, I placed them in the order that they’re in using pageMash. Using a slick web 2.0 AJAX interface, pageMash lets you re-arrange and re-order your pages with the quick drag of a mouse. Additionally, you can do child and parent pages in pageMash (although not active on my website). It’s a pretty simple plugin, but very effective at making a task easier.

WPtouch iPhone Theme (beautifully) formats your website for cell phones and portable devices. With the dramatic increase in cell phone and portable Internet usage, it’s incredibly important to have an active and interesting splash page for mobile users. Therefore, I actively use the WPtouch iPhone Theme plugin to welcome my mobile users. The options are plentiful, and the interface matches that which you’d find on an Apple device. The only difficulties I’ve noticed are that when I’m using AdBlock Plus (with the EasyList and EasyPrivacy filters), I’m shown the mobile interface on desktop computers and laptops every once in a while. However, that shouldn’t stop you from using this great plugin. If you have mobile users, which you probably do, you need to find a plugin that makes it easy for them to navigate your site with. And WPtouch does this very, very well.

What a website (scherrtech.com) looks like normally on the iPhone, then with WPtouch installed.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin creates a related posts entries area–with links–at the end of your post. There have been dozens of times where I’ve started reading Tim Ferriss’s blog only to find myself still focused on his lifestyle hacking ideas hours later. The primary reason is because Tim is an excellent writer; able to completely reinvent old, rigid beliefs (similar to Malcolm Gladwell, in my opinion). However, the secondary reason is because Tim has links to similar posts at the bottom of all his entries (an effect which I adopted as well). The YARP extension lets you set parameters on how picky the requirement for a related post is, as well as a maximum number of similar posts (I use 5), and disallowed tags and/or categories.

NextGEN Gallery is a customizable web 2.0 photo gallery. See the photo gallery to the right of this post? Go on and click a picture. The engine behind the system is the NextGEN Gallery plugin; a plugin that allows you to upload pictures, select a number of pictures to display and the order to display them in. I prefer NGG because of its smooth integration into WordPress (configurable from the Widgets menu) and its Facebook-style albums and galleries. While many other websites (Facebook, for example), I like that NGG doesn’t crop my photos and keeps the resolution in tact. Surprisingly, not even that much bandwidth has been used to date because of the large images! Now why can’t Facebook increase picture resolution?

The NextGEN gallery extension on my website.

What are some extensions you use?

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2 Responses to “5 WordPress Plugins That Will Improve Your Blog’s Readership, Accesibility, and Ease of Use”

  1. libor says:

    Nice tips and also nice Tim Ferriss ad on g search :). I got a question, what is the WP plugin to display most popular posts. Tim uses it and you seem to have one too. thanks

  2. David says:

    Hi libor,

    Thanks for the comment! :) For popular posts, I use the plugin “WordPress Popular Posts.” http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-popular-posts/. It’s pretty simple, and I configured it to display the all-time most popular posts (by pageviews) and the current popular posts (over the past 30 days). You can then configure its settings in the Widgets area of your WordPress dashboard. Let me know if you have any questions, I might be able to help!

    Good luck!

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