Plugins are one of WordPress’s great features! You can add so much functionality with a quick click and the installation of a plugin. The challenge is that there are so many out there. Which ones do you choose? Well I’ve been working with WordPress to design other people’s sites over the past year and there are certain plugins that I have found useful and essential. I’ve also learned about some plugin’s from Steve Scott’s book which I mentioned in the last post. Then today I did a little more research into plugins used by other bloggers. If you are curious to find out which plugins a site uses, you can view the source code for the site and look for stylesheets that are listed in a subdirectory under wp-content/plugins. It is usually in the top portion of the source code. Each browser has it’s own path to view the source code. I used Chrome and it is found under VIEW->DEVELOPER->VIEW SOURCE. Here is a snapshot of the source code for Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income site.
You can see from this Source Code that he uses the following plugins:
- Better WordPress Minify
- Optin Skin
- Smart Passive Income Optin Skin Package (spi ois package)
- WordPress tlk.io plugin (to enable chat on your website)
- Click to Tweet
- Contact Form 7
- What I think is a proprietary plugin (spi plugin)
- WP-Syntax plugin
So I also took a look at some other website, food blogs in particular, to see which plugins they used. I saw some additional ones specific to my niche which I decided to research.
Evaluating Recipe Plugins
I was looking for a great plugin to use to display and organize recipes that I plan to post on my blog. I noticed on another food blog that they used a plugin called EasyRecipe. But when I began researching I found a comparison of this plugin to others. In particular I found this post at profoodblogger.com to be helpful. They ultimately recommended Ziplist Recipe Plugin and I liked the features they listed too. A reader can save the recipe to a file, add the ingredients to a shopping list, and easily print the recipe. It even allows them to print the recipe without the photo so that they don’t waste space and ink. Unlike some other recipe plugins it also allows you to save the recipe on your blog instead of a central repository which is preferable to me. So I’ve installed the Ziplist Recipe plugin and will try it out.
Don’t Delay List Building
One thing I’ve learned from reading the work of other bloggers… don’t wait to start your email list. Now granted i don’t have a single reader yet! (Ha!) But I’m trying to lay a solid foundation and setting up my email list will be a cornerstone. I’ve used Mailchimp in the past and am also familiar with Aweber. The latter seems to be used by many of the bloggers and podcasters that I read or listen to, but it seems that Mailchimp does many of the same things and since I am already familiar with Mailchimp, I’m starting with them. The next question was how to customize my signup forms. I knew that Mailchimp had its own integration plugin but I thought it was limited to use in the sidebar as a widget. I wanted the flexibility to also use it in the general Page content. So I tried “Easy Mailchimp Forms.” I liked the fact that it produces a shortcode that you can quickly insert into a Page. However, I didn’t find it easy to customize. I don’t mind writing a little CSS but I didn’t want to get into changing functions. So ultimately I gave up on this one. Then I went to the Mailchimp plugin by Danny van Kooten. There is a free version and a premium version. I started with the free one. (duh!) It was easy to install and I found it easier to customize. In no time I had the form created for my “Start Here” page. I haven’t made the one for my sidebar yet and I think adding a second form requires the premium version… so stay tuned.
I proceeded to work on adding plugins based on all of this research and past experience. Here are my plugins:
- Duplicator (great for backing up the site and moving it from one URL to another)
- TinyMCE Advanced (if you are looking for this make sure you do not enter a space between Tiny and MCE. I use this plugin to add formatting menus to the visual editor of my posts and pages.)
- Google Analytics by Yoast (critical to track your promotion efforts – read about this in Steve’s book)
- Google Publisher Plugin (I plan to use this to add the Adsense ads to my site for monetization. Stay tuned on this!)
- Pretty Link Lite (read about this in Steve’s book – shortens URL to facilitate sharing)
- Click to Tweet (can’t wait to try this!)
- Mailchimp for WordPress Lite (read more below)
- Ziplist Recipe Plugin (read more below)
I decided to wait on Better WordPress Minify because when I installed it, it created some havoc. I read on their site that this happens with certain files and you have to go in and figure out which ones and tell the plugin to exclude them. This is all kind of technical and I’m sure I’ll do it in the future but not right now. I also should note that you may want to consider adding one plugin at a time and then tool around on your site to make sure it doesn’t cause any problems. Plugins can be incompatible with other things on the site and not all may work for you or may require modifications to work as desired.
I also decided to wait on the Optin Skin plugin that Pat uses. I’m very interested in this plugin, but since I’m trying to keep my initial expenses low, I’ll save that for a later date. After all, I want to make sure that I stay committed to this blog and consistently write content before I invest too much. Have you ever started a hobby and bought all the equipment only to use it once and then leave it in your closet? I have. I’m taking that lesson and applying it here!