20 WordPress Tricks to Improve Your Blog

by Steven Snell

on February 11, 2009

in design

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One of the reasons WordPress is so popular is because of its flexibility. Designers, developers, and bloggers have plenty of options. In this post we’ll look at a combination of tutorials for improving a WordPress-based site, and plugins that can provide added functionality that will bring new possibilities.

UPDATE: We recently launched a gallery site that showcases the best blog designs for your inspiration – Blog Design Heroes.

Tutorials:

Build a Featured Posts Section for WordPress

Magazine themes are becoming increasingly popular. There are plenty of quality premium themes available, and also some decent free magazine themes, but you may want to build or customize your own. This tutorial covers the process of coding the index.php file to set up a magazine-style front page with a featured post section.

Featured Post Section

WordPress Sidebar Turned Apple-Flashy Using jQuery UI

Sidebars are often pretty boring. If you’re looking to improve yours, this tutorial goes through the process of using jQuery that expands and reacts to user actions, similar to the Apple sidebar.

Flashy Sidebar

How to Make a Featured Post Carousel for WordPress

This tutorial will show you a different approach to displaying featured content. The technique is fairly simple, and can easily be applied to any blog that wants to give more exposure to certain content. This only requires a few coding changes to get the featured content in the carousel.

Featured Post Carousel

Building a Better Blogroll: Dynamic Fun with SimplePie and jQuery

This tutorial from Chris Coyier is not exclusively for WordPress, but this could easily the sidebar for many WordPress users. Blogrolls are common sidebar features, but with this tutorial Chris shows how the traditional blogroll can be taken a step further by bringing in feeds from other sites and blogs using SimplePie and jQuery. This technique is especially useful for those who run multiple blogs or a network.

Build a Better Blogroll

Dynamic Highlight Menu

Nick La of Web Designer Wall has a post with a number of WordPress hacks, one of them being the dynamic highlight menu. Nick shows his approach for creating the navigation menu at Best Web Gallery that highlights the current location for visitors.

Dynamic Highlight Menu

Two-Tiered Conditional Navigation

In this tutorial Darren Hoyt provides the code for creating a WordPress navigation menu that shows both parent pages and the relevant child pages. For sites and blogs that have a lot of content and pages, this trick can help to improve user experience.

Two-Tiered Conditional Navigation

WordPress Custom Fields: Laying Text Over Your Lead Graphic

WordPress’s custom fields open up endless possibilities for theme developers and bloggers.  In this tutorial you’ll learn how to use custom fields to display an image for a post with text laying on top of it.

Laying Text Over Lead Graphic

“Magazine-Style” Horizontal Dropdown Menu

Jean-Baptiste Jung shows another technique for improving the navigation of a WordPress site. The horizontal dropdown menu uses categories and sub-categories to create a magazine-style nav menu.

Horizontal Dropdown Menu

Integrate a Slideshow into Your WordPress Theme

Smooth Gallery is a MooTools gallery that can add some sizzle to a website. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to integrate Smooth Gallery with WordPress.

Integrate a Slideshow

Adding Tabs to Your Blog Sidebar

If you’d like to improve your sidebar by adding some tabbed content/navigation areas, this tutorial covers the process of using Yahoo! TabView in your WordPress sidebar.

Adding Tabs to Your Sidebar

Create a “Send This to Twitter” Button

As Twitter continues to increase in popularity, integrating Twitter and WordPress will likely continue to become more common. This post isn’t really a tutorial, but it does give the code that you need to add a “send this to Twitter” link or button to your WordPress blog.

Send This to Twitter Button

Plugins:

J Post Slider Plugin

With the J Post Slider Plugin gives WordPress users an easy way to add an attractive image slide show that can be controlled from the admin panel.

J Post Slider Plugin

Lightview for WordPress

Lightview is similar to Lightbox. However, Lightview also works with videos and iframed web pages in addition to photos.

Lightview for WordPress

NextGEN Gallery

NextGEN Gallery is a full integrated Image Gallery plugin for WordPress with a Flash slideshow option.

NextGEN Gallery

Advanced Category Excluder

Advanced Category Excluder allows WordPress users to easily have CMS-like control over which content appears on the front page, in RSS feeds, archives and more.

Advanced Category Excluder

Event Calendar 3

With Events Calendar 3 you can manage future events as an online calendar. Display upcoming events in a dynamic calendar, on a listings page, or as a list in the sidebar.

Events Calendar 3

WP e-Commerce

WP e-Commerce is a highly useful plugin for bloggers or website owners who want to sell products from their site without a lot of work to set up an e-commerce site.

WP e-Commerce Plugin

TDO Mini Forms

With TDO Mini Forms you can allow users to submit posts by completing a form. The posts are held in moderation until you choose to publish them.

TDO Mini Forms

FV Community News Plugin

Community news sections are popular among design blogs. This plugin will make it easy to accept and publish user submissions. There are a lot of options and control for the site owner or administrator.

FV Community News Plugin

Yoast Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb navigation can be helpful for usability and SEO purposes. This plugin allows you to easily add plugins to your WordPress theme.

20 WordPress Tricks to Improve Your Blog

For more WordPress-related content, please see:

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design. Connect with Stephen on google+