Posts Tagged ‘Blogs’

How to add Related Posts with (or without) Thumbnails to your WP Blog

Adding related posts to your blog is a great way to help your readers find other posts on your site that interest them. And if you have ads, increasing the number of pageviews on your blog can turn out to be quite lucrative. I recently had a request from a client to use a certain widget that she had seen on many other blogs that adds a list of recent posts along with a thumbnail image from that post. But after looking at the widget and researching the many other plugins that are available to add this functionality, I decided I wanted to find a way to code it directly into the template.

One reason for this is that the more plugins installed on a blog, the more that can slow down the loading time of that blog. If you can hard-code a function into the template, it’s almost always preferable to using a plugin. Plus many of the plugins or widgets I looked at gave very little control over things like styling or where the list appears in the template or even how they even figured out what was “related”. What if you want them to be related by tag instead of category or vice versa? What if you just want other posts by the same author?

After doing some more googling and modifying some of the code I found I figured out how to do everything I wanted to and more. My client was extremely pleased with the results and was amazed that I’d even been able to implement it without using a plugin or the widget she had originally wanted:

“It IS cool! A zillion people are going to see it now and want it on their WP blogs! Thanks!”

Which leads us to this post. I thought I would share my findings so that you can implement the same feature on your own WordPress blog. Below I will show you how to add related posts by category, tag or author. I will preface this by saying you should probably have some very basic knowledge about how to edit a template in WordPress, but for the most part, you can copy the code directly and paste it into your template. That’s it. For people with more advanced knowledge I’ll point out things that you can edit further and customize to your liking.

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Adding ShareThis plugin to Advanced Typepad Templates

After looking for some answers and being very unsatisfied with the amount of information out there, I decided to share this.

What you need

1. You’ll need advanced template access in Typepad.
2. A Share This script for your registered blog.
3. Some HTML knowledge.

Basics

The Typepad foundation uses Moveable Type tags. You’ll see a tag called < MT Entries > that surrounds your posts. These tags are what list the posts on the page. There is an tag to close the post area. You’ll need to use these tags to place the ShareThis script in each post.

If you look in your Main Index Advanced Template, you will see a tag < $MTWeblogIncludeModule module=”entry-list-sticky”$ >. This is where your < MT Entries > ……. < /MT Entries > tag actually lives on the front page. In other pages (Individual, Date Archive, etc) we’ll be modifying a similar, but slightly different, entry list module. So it’s not going to be as obvious about where to place the script. We’ll need to do a teeny tiny hack to get it to display at each post.

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Web 101: Full vs Partial Feeds

Over at the Blog Herald, there’s a great article on why people shouldn’t be using partial feeds. The author makes a lot of good points, essentially boiling it down to the fact that there are no benefits to using a partial feed. It doesn’t deter sploggers from stealing your content and it doesn’t bring extra traffic to your site; you are basically just frustrating your regular readers and alienating new ones. Read the full article for more.

What I find funny is his rationalizing of why it’s okay for some blogs (*ahem* the one he’s writing on) to use partial feeds. The only instance in which I think it’s okay to offer a partial feed is if you offer a full feed as well. I have seen several blogs that offered a full feed with ads and a partial feed without ads. I have no problem with that, it even kind of makes sense. Although, I can’t imagine there are an overwhelming number of people that hate ads so much they would put up with the frustration of a partial feed. But different strokes, right?

You should respect your readers enough to let them choose how they want to view your site. Offering just a partial feed takes that choice away and more often than not, they won’t bother reading at all.

Beginners Guide to WordPress Plugins

One of the biggest advantages of using WordPress is the ability to use plugins to expand the capabilities of your blog or website. Since WordPress has such a large community of plugin developers, it means that you can make your WordPress website do pretty much anything you want it to. If you’ve ever thought about a feature that you wanted in WordPress, chances are that if you look around, you’ll find someone who has created a plugin to integrate that feature.

The problem is that many people don’t know how to go about installing plugin or think they are not technologically inclined enough to be able to. But these days most of the plugins available for WordPress only require one or two steps to get working so anyone can do it.

If you read my other tutorial about Upgrading WordPress then you will be familiar with the basics. You will need an FTP client to connect to your web space. If your host used cPanel, you can also use the file manager and upload plugins from there. Most plugins are installed in the same place, a folder called ‘plugins’ inside the wp-content directory.

To activate or deactivate a plugin, you just need to log into your WP admin and find Plugins in the top menu. This page lists all installed plugins.

The really great thing about the newest version of WordPress is that it will keep track of most of your plugins and let you know if they need to be updated.

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Web 101: Why links shouldn’t be opened in new windows

I get this request a lot: “Can you make all my links open in a new window?” This is a widely done practice, I used to do it, too. Unfortunately, what I didn’t know before, and what most people still don’t know is that it’s a really bad practice to have.

The whole point of putting an external link on your site is to guide your audience to someone else’s site. It’s usually an act of kindness, not only toward the person you are linking to, but to the people reading your site, who you are sharing this link with. So isn’t it pretty hypocritical to make your links open in a new window? You’re saying “Here, go to this site, it’s awesome, but you’re not allowed to leave my site, because I’m more awesome.” If you don’t want people to leave your site, then you shouldn’t have external links at all. And if people want to stay on your site, then they will, they’re not going to stay just because you force them to leave the window open.

Not only that, but there are major usability issues with having your links open in new windows. I think a lot of people assume that everyone is on the same technological level as they are or maybe that most people know more than they do. “If I know how to do this, then everyone else does, too.” But that’s just not true. I’ve met people who think Internet Explorer is the internet (and it runs on a series of tubes…). No matter how simple a concept you think it is, there’s always someone that just can’t wrap their mind around it.

There are some things that most people understand, though. They understand what a link is and how it should work. When they click on a link they are expecting it to go to the new site. This is what they want to do, so by making the link open in a new window, you are actively ignoring their needs. People understand how the back button works, too. The back button is fundamental in any browser and most people use it liberally. What happens when you open a link in a new browser? Well, it resets the back button. You can’t go back. When someone clicks on a link they are expecting it to go to the new page and if they want to come back to your page they will just click the back button. This is how the internet is supposed to work. Instead a new window is going to pop up (which they are not expecting) and they are probably going to close the original window because who wants the clutter of having so many windows open? Then they’ll try to go back and realize they can’t because the back button doesn’t work anymore. So not only have you confused and frustrated someone, you’ve just lost a reader.

But, you say, “What about all the people who are technologically savy? They won’t be confused.” No, they won’t but I can bet that a lot will still be frustrated. If you are technologically savy then you already know how to make a link open up in a window, it’s very easy. So if people want to do that, then they will, they don’t need you to do it for them.

If you absolutely must have something open in a new window (there are a few instances where it may be necessary), then warn your readers about it so they’ll know what to expect. Make sure “opens in new window” is included in the actual link text (this is better for accessibility and usability). Add a little icon by the link to show that it will open in a new window. Give people a choice about it. Maybe the link works like normal, but the little icon opens in a new window. There are a lot of different options, just make sure your readers know what’s what.

In the end it’s always a bad idea to try to control how your readers view your site. People expect browsers to work a certain way and you shouldn’t try to change that. People will come back to your site if they want to, don’t make things more complicated for them.