September 7, 2009

Getting Started with Wordpress Customization

Categories: personal

So you have a brand new Wordpress installation and would like to start blogging. There are several tutorials available on that topic. However it’s important to customize your blog as it reflects your style / personality. Wordpress official documentation is extensive, very nicely organized and provide great tips on how to customize your blogs. But it can take a while to go through the docs and customize look-and-feel of your blog.

This blog entry explains how this blog was customized from a fresh Wordpress installation.

  • Pick a theme that you like and customize it. This blog started with "Classic" theme and added pages as relevant. This is totally a personal preference as I like the header + right navigation bar + body format.
  • Add your picture and edit the "About" page so that readers know you.
  • Customize sidebar

    • Prefer static toolbar by editing "sidebar.php" instead of dynamic toolbar created using the "Appearance" -> "Widgets".
    • Add "search" dialog box
    • Add Twitter widget (choose "Yes" for "Loop old results", explained here). May not be relevant if you don’t tweet, but seems like everybody is these days ;-)
    • Add a ClustrMap widget to monitor geographical spread of readership.
    • Total Page hits / page views on sidebar + on each post (How ?)
  • Installed the following Wordpress plugins to begin with:

    • Google XML Sitemaps – Creates a Google Sitemaps compliant XML file and submits the blog content to Google, Bing and It took 1.64 seconds for the first creation and used 12.75 MB.
    • Sociable – Adds social media button to your posts
    • Google Analyticator plugin – Adds Google Analytics script to monitor traffic. Even though Google Analytics capture geographical distribution as well but I like the ClustrMap widget that can be displayed on the nav bar. Do Google Analytics provide that kind of widget ?
    • Search Plugin for Firefox and IE – Creates a Firefox and IE search plug-in. Install the plugin, go to "Settings", "Search Browser" to generate the code and insert in "header.php". Add a customized search page by copying "search.php" from the "default" theme. Show the summarized result with clickable links to the content.
    • Smart 404 plugin – Creates a clean and simple page with a friendly error message to a reader who might have somehow reached a broken link or mistyped the URL. Add/Edit a 404.php as explained here. It’s important to not loose your reader and instead gracefully guide them to the next steps.
    • YARPP – Shows a list of related entries based on a unique algorithm for display on your blog and RSS feeds. A templating feature allows customization of the display.
    • WP Greet Box – Show a different greeting message to your new visitors
      depending on their referrer URL.
  • Some more customizations

    • Add pre/code styles to "styles.css" for code formatting. Now simple <pre> and <code> will format the code nicely.
    • Create hierarchical categories so that readers can read the topic of their choice
    • Add Next and Previous links to each page (<?php posts_nav_link(); ?>) and each blog post (<?php previous_post(); ?>    <?php next_post(); ?>) as described here.
    • Personalize the page using a favicon as described here.
    • Change the default permalink format from "" to "" as described here. This makes your blog entry URLs search-engine friendly.
  • Editing

    • If you prefer editing online, disable the "Visual rich editor" as it strips all the paragraph formatting from a nicely-formatted HTML page. It’s primarily meant for newbies and I like better control over the HTML formatting so prefer editing it manually.
    • Choose a blog editor client. It seems Wordpress adds line breaks (<br>) if the text in a line is not wrapped. Qumana was chosen as the blog editor after trying nvu, Kompozer, Ecto, MarsEdit, Smultron, and HTML Tidy. Loving it’s WYSIWYG capabilities, transition between WYSIWYG and source view is seamless, ease of cross-posting to multiple blogs and intuitive interface.
  • Join Technorati (if not already) and Claim your blog.

The beauty of Wordpress is that a myriad of customizations is possible but the tips above provide a common set of configuration.

Any other obvious tips that are missing ?

Technorati: wordpress blog milestogo

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1 Comment »

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    Pingback by Getting Started with Wordpress Customization - Technology — September 10, 2009 @ 7:01 am

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