WordPress Blogs: Endless Possibilities
With WordPress blogs, the sky’s the limit when it comes to special features and functionality. However, if you don’t have an existing blog or are not familiar with the software, you may not know enough about the possibilities available to you to even know what to ask for.
Hopefully, having a list of some of the possibilities available to you might help you decide what features you’d like to incorporate on your new WordPress blog, as these are things that can greatly affect the scope and cost of the project. By providing a complete and thorough site outline up front, we’ll know exactly what you need, and how much it will cost, from the very beginning.
The header is the first thing people will see when they come to your site; you want it to be as memorable as it is functional. The header appears on every page of your website; it’s what gives your site it’s “identity.” A header typically includes your logo/identity and main navigation elements. Other elements you may want in the header include a tagline/description, social media links, images, search box, and/or an advertisement.
Logo vs. Header
We offer full logo development in addition to our blog design services; but a logo isn’t always a necessity for all blogs. Sometimes a simple typographic or image header can work just fine. What’s the difference? A header gives the blog an identity without going through the process of developing a full logo. A header is developed at the same time and as a complement to the rest of the blog design, whereas a logo is designed first and separately, then the site is designed around that. Many of the blogs we do don’t require a full logo design. But if your want your blog to act more as a business then it may be something you consider. (Examples of headers: Love & Olive Oil, Two Peas & Their Pod, What Megan’s Making, For the Love of Cooking; examples of logos: Cheeky Kitchen, Annie Bakes, Steamy Kitchen, Kitchen Confidante).
The navigation or menu of a blog is essentially what allows your readers to navigate from one section of the site to another. Most blogs require one menu with links to the main pages or sections (examples: Love & Olive Oil, The Novice Chef, Kitchen Confidante, Cheeky Kitchen). If your blog has more content, you may need further organization. Hierarchical navigation can divide your content into two or more menus, formatted to highlight their importance. For example, listing major blog sections in one area, and less-important, informational links smaller in the upper corner (examples: Steamy Kitchen, Live Pretty). You may also choose to utilize some sort of dropdown menus in your navigation, to allow your visitors to navigate top level and subpages easily without excess clicks (examples: Macheesmo, AnnieBakes, Italian Food Forever).
The first thing your readers will see when they come to your site is your homepage. So deciding what exactly you want there is a big part of your overall design, both in terms of aesthetics as well as scope and price.
The standard blog style is very simple: full posts running down the page. Nothing fancy, it allows your readers to enjoy the content chronologically just by scrolling down the page. You can choose to utilize the “more” tag if you’d like to “break” the content, requiring readers to click a “read more” link to see the full content of the post, but this is optional and can be done on a post-by-post basis. You can also easily change the number of posts that appear on each page. But overall, the standard blog style is the most simple and straightforward option you have when organizing your homepage. (Examples: Love & Olive Oil, Annie Bakes, Macheesmo)
Teaser posts are just that: teasers of the full post that require a click to read the full content. Teaser posts often contain a thumbnail image and an excerpt from the post itself. Teaser posts can be displayed below the most recent full post, below a featured slideshow, or as part of a magazine style layout.
The advantage to teaser posts is they allow more content to be featured higher up on the page, and they encourage users to click more (more clicks = more pageviews). However, more clicks can often be an inconvenience for readers; having to click through to read each post can discourage readers from doing so. (Examples: The Little Kitchen, The Novice Chef, Cara’s Cravings)
If your site has very distinct, magazine-like sections or categories, or you have a great deal of content, then maybe a magazine-style homepage is the best solution for you. Magazine-style pages can be organized in a myriad of different ways, but they all tend to feature content more by category than chronologically. For example, we could have 4 category blocks, each showing the most recent posts from those categories. (Examples: Dear Crissy, Live Pretty, Bunky Cooks)
Sometimes the best way to feature multiple posts in a compact space is with a featured slider or slideshow. These animated features allow you to select a handful of posts to display front and center on your homepage. Useful for displaying recent posts, seasonal posts, or other featured content, and often in combination with a teaser or magazine style layout. (Examples: Cheeky Kitchen, Kitchen Confidante, Italian Food Forever)
WordPress gives you immense flexibility to use sidebar widgets, and all of the sites we create are set up to handle this functionality in one or more widget areas. But maybe you want something special, not included by default. Maybe you want to highlight featured content, or display your popular posts?
There are a few common layouts for sidebars: single column (examples: Merry Gourmet, Cheeky Kitchen), double column, split column (examples: Dinners & Dreams, A Dash of Sass), or, the most common for our clients, a combination (examples: Love & Olive Oil, Kitchen Confidante, Two Peas & Their Pod) . The sizes/layout of the columns are typically determined by the required ad sizes.
WordPress’ widget functionality makes your sidebar extremely flexible. Your new site will be set up with at least one “widget area”, which is a space where you can easily drag and drop, edit, add, and remove widgets as needed. Each “item” or block of something in the sidebar is one widget. By default wordpress includes some basic widgets, such as recent posts, archives, search, and text widgets (basically a flexible space for text, yes, but also code such as advertisements, banners, forms, etc), but there are a vast variety of plugins available as well as custom options so, if you have something you’d like to see in your sidebar, chances are we can make it happen. Here are some common elements you may want in your sidebar:
More than likely you will have ads in your sidebar, which often times define the overall structure of the sidebar spaces (so having a good idea of the size and quantity of ads you’d like to have up front is always helpful). You can easily insert ads into your sidebar by simply pasting the ad implementation code (provided to you by your ad network) into a text widget.
You may want to include a sort of “introduction” in your sidebar, a brief bio or welcome note. Maybe you want to include your photo, or a link to your full about page. We can setup a custom text block, formatted nicely to include your information and give your readers a friendly welcome to your site.
You’ll likely want to call out your various social media networks somewhere fairly obvious on your site. Sometimes these fit into the header or navigation, but more often than not they end up in the sidebar. Decide which networks you’d like to display, and how big/bold/graphic you may want them. We often include a feed/rss subscription icon in the same space as well.
Related to your feed/social media, you may also want to give your readers the option to subscribe to a newsletter or to subscribe to receive feed updates via email (as opposed to in an RSS reader like Google Reader). Keep in mind these are two different things: a newsletter allows you to send messages directly to your subscribers; what you include in those messages is completely up to you (looking for a newsletter service? we love MailChimp!) An RSS email subscription will simply email the subscribers whenever a new post has been added (a service like FeedBurner will do this for you automatically for free; MailChimp does have an RSS to email option as well if you want more control over the look/feel of your emails).
Either way, we can encourage subscriptions through a subscription form or link to a form prominently in your sidebar.
Having a search bar somewhere on your site is a necessity – and sometimes the sidebar turns out to be the best place for it. Generally you want the search box to be above the fold, or fairly high up on the page. You don’t want to make your readers search for the search box. :)
One of WordPress’ default widgets is a simple bulleted list of recent posts and/or comments. Oftentimes we find that a more customized display of these items is more functional, and we can set these sections up to display additional information and even thumbnail images.
Another way to feature more content in your sidebar is with a list of popular posts. We have a few plugins we use regularly that will track posts based on total or average pageviews and even comments, and then display the most popular accordingly. Much like recent posts, we can also customize the display to show thumbnail images or other information.
Maybe you want more control over which content displays in your sidebar, in which case, a featured posts section may be your best bet. A featured posts area will allow you to select posts individually or by category and have them show up in the sidebar. You can use this functionality to feature your favorite recipes, seasonal posts, or maybe even older content you want to highlight. Featured posts can be displayed as a list, a list with images, or even as a rotating slideshow.
Finally, it’s usually practical to have archive widgets present in the sidebar, both archives by category as well as archives by date. You want to make your content easily browseable, and some readers may prefer to browse your archives topically or chronologically. Archives can be displayed as a bulleted list or as a dropdown (useful for more lengthy lists of dates/categories).
The post pages are the bread and butter of your site; in addition to the homepage, they will be the pages that will be viewed the most often. If you’ve got a teaser or magazine style site, the post pages will show the posts in full whenever a ‘read more’ link is clicked.
Comments are built in to every wordpress blog, allowing your readers to comment and converse about each and every post. We typically include gravatars to visually enhance the comment display (you can get your own gravatar—or globally recognized avatar—at gravatar.com; it will show up on any site that supports them based on your personal email address). Users without a gravatar will get a default image, which we can customize to match your site.
Another popular comment feature is threaded comments, which will allow you or your readers to ‘reply’ to any other comment; the reply comment will appear directly below and offset from the parent comment. You can set it so that only you (as the site admin) can reply to comments; you can also allow your users to reply to each other if you’d like. Additionally, we can also setup a plugin that will send out an email whenever you reply to a comment. This notification is often helpful if your commenter has asked a question, since they may not remember to come back to your site to see if there is a response. Instead, they’ll receive an email with your response.
If you have posts with a large number of comments (such as giveaways), it can often slow down the site’s loading time. Sometimes it’s best to split the comments into pages, so only, say, 50 comments display on one page.
We typically include basic social media sharing options on all sites, giving your readers the option to share your posts across a variety of networks and mediums. These buttons often include a Tweet, Facebook Share, Google Plus +1, and Pinterest buttons; we can also display buttons to Email a Friend, Favorite, StumbleUpon, and more, depending on exactly which services you want to utilize. We use AddThis.com to manage these buttons, which will allow you to log in and view sharing statistics (how many people tweeted about a particular post, for example).
If you’ve got a food blog, we can install a customized recipe setup to allow you to insert recipes into your posts without worrying about special formatting. Simply insert your recipe information into the appropriate fields, and place the shortcode into the post where you want the post to appear. The recipe will be formatted automatically (to match your site) and output to fit Google’s hrecipe specifications (so your recipes can be indexed within Google’s recipe search). Do note that, at this time, the recipe setup can only accommodate one recipe box per post.
Your recipe format will, by default, include a print recipe button that will allow your readers to print out just the recipe (and not the entire post). We can also include a thumbnail image in the recipe and/or on the print page if you’d like, as well as a (non-printing) advertisement on the print page.
Recently we’ve been working quite a bit with ZipList, a recipe management tool that allows users to create virtual ‘recipe boxes’ and ‘shopping lists’ and save recipes across many different recipe sites. If you’d like to incorporate a recipe box into your site, we recommend getting in touch with ZipList about becoming a partner. Just tell them you’re working with us—they’ll know exactly what we need to integrate the service into your site.
One of the ways to increase clicks and user engagement is to offer up some ‘suggested’ or ‘related’ posts; these typically display at the end of the post, before the comments section. The related posts will display based on the categories or tags set on the current post (for example, if you’ve tagged a post ‘chocolate’, the related posts will pull other posts with the same tag).
If your blog has multiple authors or regular contributors, you might want to feature them with more than just their name. It is possible to add a ‘bio box’ to the end of each post, with the author’s image and bio, plus a link to view all posts by that author (example: Live Pretty).
Your posts will be included in WordPress’ built-in RSS feed, allowing your readers to receive updates of content in their RSS reader of choice (or via email, see Subscriptions above). Some of our clients like to truncate their feeds, or cut them off so a reader has to click through to the site to get the full post. While this can increase pageviews and help fend off content scrapers, many people do not like truncated feeds and will not subscribe to them. If you do choose to have a truncated feed, we can install a plugin that will allow you more control than WordPress’ default ‘summary’ option (which we never recommend using). These plugins will cut off the feed at the ‘more’ tag, so you can place that tag at a specific point in your post, giving your readers a substantial preview of the post, including at least one image, will help them decide if they want to click through for the rest.
Most blogs have a few static or informational pages, meaning the content on those pages doesn’t change like the blog pages do. An example of an informational page would be the About page or Contact page.
You want your readers to be able to easily get in touch with you, which is why a contact page is pretty much a given on every website. You can choose to simply list your contact information, or you may decide you want a basic email form to allow your readers to easily send you a message. Or, even better, include both. That way your readers have a choice in how they’d like to contact you. (Examples: Love & Olive Oil, Cheeky Kitchen).
Another page that some bloggers want is a press page, listing their features and profiles from various websites and news outlets. While adding a page is easy enough, sometimes a press page can use a bit more attention. We can spend some extra time formatting your press page to include thumbnails, links, and even popup previews of print features (examples: MaleneB, Steamy Kitchen).
For food bloggers, being able to include recipes in your posts is essential. Sure, you can type in a recipe in any old post, but what if you want your users to be able to print the recipe (and not all the other photos/text from the post)? We’ve created a customized recipe setup that will allow you to easily input recipes into your post without having to worry about formatting or code. The recipe setup will output a beautifully formatted recipe complete with a print button.
One of the most important features of a food blog is a recipe index, allowing your readers to easily find exactly what they’re looking for. There are different ways we can organize this, but the most common is a simple list of categories, dates, and/or tags.
These pages will update automatically (no more tediously updating your index!), so if you add a new category, it will appear in the index automatically. The individual category pages are basically a customized version of wordpress’ standard archive pages, which will display your posts visually with thumbnail images and titles (examples: Love & Olive Oil, Steamy Kitchen). Categories with subcategories can display, giving readers the option of “refining” their search (examples: Recipe Girl, Italian Food Forever).
Recipe indexes by category will pull in all your blog categories or just the recipe-specific ones. These can be displayed as a simple list (examples: Love & Olive Oil, Cheeky Kitchen), or if you have a limited number of top-level categories a visual index might be more appealing (examples: Muy Bueno Cookbook, Steamy Kitchen, My Cooking Hut). You may also have multiple forms of categorization (such as recipes by season, region, etc–basically a series of categories and subcategories), which we can break out into separate sections (examples: My Cooking Hut, Steamy Kitchen). We can also utilize wordpress’ tagging feature to create an ingredient index (examples: Love & Olive Oil, Macheesmo, Eclectic Recipes).
Related to your recipe index are your site archives. By default wordpress’ archives are setup like a standard homepage, with full posts running down the page. This leaves your readers with lots of scrolling and lots of clicking through pages to find what they are looking for. A better solution is to use thumbnails and/or teaser posts. More compact posts mean more posts per page which means fewer pages to click through.
If you have other, non-food categories, you may want them to display differently than your recipes. For example, your recipes pages may be thumbnails and titles (as seen here), and your non-food category posts may display with an excerpt as well (as seen here).
Similar to your archives page is your search results page. We usually set these pages up to include post teasers and thumbnail images, along with a friendly excerpt that displays the portion of the post that contains the search term (examples: MuyBueno Cookbook, Kitchen Confidante, The Novice Chef).
Your site’s footer can range from extremely simple to much more complex. The most comment footer elements are a secondary navigation (either repeating the main navigation or an alternate navigation), as well as a copyright notice. If you want an extended sidebar, we can usually fit 3 additional widget ‘areas’ into the space, allowing you to add additional content that may not have fit in the site’s sidebar. The footer also offers an additional opportunity for advertising space if you want it.
If you’ve already got a website you’ll want to include your content in the new site, right? Of course! If you’re already running wordpress this is easy (obviously). But if you’re running Blogger or another blogging platform/cms, importing existing content can be more tricky.
We have a system in place that works well 98% of the time, and will transfer all your content to blogger as well as forward your old links to the corresponding page on the new site. However, due to some software quirks that are out of our control, sometimes there are issues with this process. The issues tend to be magnified on larger sites (sites with over 200 posts and/or 5000 comments). We promise that we will do our darnedest to get all your content moved in once piece; but we cannot guarantee that every single one of your posts or (more likely) all of your comments will survive the move.
What if you happen to have another software system in place, other than wordpress or blogger? Once again, we’ll do our best. There are many resources out there for transferring content from other platforms like Drupal, Typepad, Moveable Type, etc. Even if we’ve never worked with it before, we are happy to look into it further.
Whether you are on WordPress or another platform, and especially if you have a food blog, you should expect to spend some time reformatting your existing posts within the new design. You’ll want to be sure you have featured images set for each post (featured images show up in the archives, search results, and related posts areas, for example), as well as moving your recipe information into the appropriate fields. For clients moving from Blogger, we also recommend cleaning up the cruft code that Blogger leaves behind. This can be time consuming, so prepare yourself; but you don’t necessarily have to redo all your posts before the site can be launched. Any older/unformatted posts will still be readable and accessible; they just won’t have the fancy features and bells and whistles that newer posts have.
SEO is not a specific service we offer. You can pay tens of thousands of dollars for SEO “optimization” with no guarantee of results, and we’re not ones to cash in on such shenanegans. However, do know that your new site will be built to current web standards and with SEO in mind; no part of the design will impede your SEO potential.
WordPress on it’s own is a very SEO-friendly platform. By simply producing quality content, establishing external links and credibility, with some time and patience you will get indexed. But if you want additional SEO considerations, we can install a plugin to give you additional meta fields (keywords, description, etc) for your posts.
Our recipe functionality by default is set to Google’s new hrecipe standards, and includes the basic code necessary to have your recipes indexed. We also provide you with a link to more in-depth code samples and declarations if you’d like to take it further, but this is not required.
With the growing prevalence of web-ready mobile devices, you want to be sure your site can be accessed and is functional on these devices. We build all our sites in such a way that they’ll be perfectly functional on mobile devices. We do not utilize Flash or any other technology that would cause problems. Your site will appear exactly as it does on any modern computer.
Some people, however, want a site further optimized for mobile devices. There are methods that make it is possible to create a ‘responsive’ site that will change depending on the device and the size of the screen on which it is viewed. For example, the sidebar will move so that the posts can be larger and fill up the screen, to reduce the need for a manual zoom.
Do note that this is a new area for us and we are just beginning to explore the possibilities. Mobile optimization can be very time consuming and costly to fully and completely optimize a site for mobile devices, so it’s probably not something that the majority of you will deem necessary, but it is something we are willing to explore.
The purpose of this (lengthy) article was to expand on and list out some of the many possibilities available to you. Use it as a menu of sorts; choosing which features you may want to incorporate into your own site. Not everything listed here is necessarily an “add-on” or extra cost. Some are basic, fundamental features we include in all our sites, whether you ask for them or not. It’s important for you to make a list of the features you absolutely have to have, and also the features you might want to have. We’ll take the entire scope of your project into consideration and determine the final cost based on the project as a whole.
Also, just because something isn’t listed here doesn’t mean it isn’t doable; with WordPress, chances are that if you can think of it, we can make it happen. Just ask!