Written by Hirsch Fishman on March 27th, 2009
Back in February I put together a list of essential plugins for your WordPress website or blog. Since then I’ve come across some additional plugins that I think would be useful to install and which I thought would be worth sharing.
I’m working on a few WordPress websites for clients at the moment, so I’ve discovered these plugins as I’ve been searching for solutions to some of their design requirements. Finding these plugins just reinforces for me one of the best things about working with WordPress – that for almost anything that you’re trying to do, chances are that there’s a plugin that already exists to meet that need.
(I also wrote last year about some of the other reasons why I want to build your website in WordPress – the availability of plugins being only one of those reasons.)
Without further ado, here are 6 more plugins that you should be using on your WordPress website or blog…
Easy Contact is a good plugin to use if you’re looking to incorporate a basic contact form into your website or blog. What I like most about it is that unlike the previous contact form plugin that I had been using (the Secure and Accessible PHP Contact Form plugin), the additional CAPTCHA security question is an optional choice on the form.
Why is that important to me? I used the other form for one of my past projects, and they kept telling me they were having problems with the contact form – specifically that people said they had sent a message through the form, but the client never received it. Turns out what was happening was that people weren’t answering the required CAPTCHA question, so the form results didn’t go through, even though the form page refreshed – giving people the impression that the message had gone through.
In any case, the Easy Contact plugin should help avoid that confusion (the security question is optional to display), while still enabling the basic functions that you would expect from a contact form. You can style it however you want to as well, although that’s pretty standard for most plugins of this nature.
Thank Met Later is a great plugin to incorporate into the functionality of your comments area. Once you install this plugin, it will send a thank you message to people who leave a comment on your blog or website. There are a lot of ways to customize your message, from the content to when the thank you note is sent out, making it really versatile.
Why would you want to send out a thank you note to people who leave a comment? I think doing so is useful as another way for you to reach out to, and interact with, people who are coming into contact with your website in some way. Sending a little note can put a more personal face on your website, encourage them to subscribe to your RSS feed or email newsletter, start fostering relationships with your commenters, etc. – all things you want to do to help build your brand and reputation.
The name may be difficult to read, but this plugin is definitely getting added to my must-install list. WP-UnitPNGFix fixes the problem that occurs in Internet Explorer 6.0, where PNG images that are supposed to have a transparent background instead have a grey block behind them.
Firefox, Safari, and newer versions of Internet Explorer don’t have a problem rendering transparent PNGs, but since so many people are still using Internet Explorer 6.0, us web designers still have to account for it in our design. (Yet another reason why I hate Internet Explorer 6.0 so much and why I wish people would upgrade already.)
On some blogs, you’ll see photos used next to the post excerpts as a way to attract people’s attention to particular posts. A great example of a blog that uses this technique is PSD Tuts – visit their website and you’ll immediately see what I mean.
I think that this effect works nicely for when you’re using WordPress as a content management system for clients, rather than just a blog post. The current projects I’m working on fall into that category, so posts are really being used as news updates about particular events. When that’s the case, having a small thumbnail photo is a nice touch that can help accentuate the posts page.
What Thumbnails for Excerpts does in particular is look for the first image within the post, and that becomes the thumbnail that’s displayed next to the excerpt. You can easily specify the size of your thumbnail, and then it’s just a matter of styling the image for how you want it to appear.
Drop-down menus are always a contentious topic in the web design world, but I think they do have their uses and can be an important way to help your users dig deeper into your site’s content.
The Multi-Level Navigation plugin lets you have drop-down menus in WordPress, which otherwise would involve some complicated coding in order to have. This plugin lets you customize everything through an easy-to-use interface. You can add up to two levels to your drop-down menus (which in most cases is probably the most that you should have anyways), style it however you want to, determine the contents for the menus, and more.
The reason for using the Embed Iframe plugin is somewhat obscure, and truthfully most people probably won’t have use for it on their websites. Simply put, an <iframe> is a means of embedding one HTML page in another. The projects I’m working are regional websites for a national organization, and they want to be able to include content from the national website without having to duplicate it on the regional websites – so that’s why this is coming in handy.
But there’s also another more common use for an <iframe>, and that’s if you want to include a Google calendar on your website. Calendars are certainly a useful feature to have on your website, especially if they’re used to highlight programming and events. Google calendars are certainly popular and easy to use for your users.
In order to display your Google calendar on your website, after installing this plugin all you would do is reference the URL of your Google calendar within the iframe code on your page, and you’re all set!
Do any of these plugins sound like something you would use on your WordPress website or blog? If so, let me know what you think of them. Or, if you have any other WordPress plugins that you think might be useful for everyone to know about, share them by leaving a comment below!
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