Additional Widgets

Determining which widgets I used to further enhance the functionality of my site was relatively easy for this portion of the assignment.  Building the text widget was perhaps the easiest portion of this assignment as WordPress has a standard text widget that you can customize.  I chose to add a little bit of html code so that users would be able to click on my email at the end of my intro in order to contact me directly.  The RSS feeds from different blogs was also somewhat straightforward although I moved them around several times to determine where they would look best on my site.  I decided to put these in the footer so that when readers were exploring my site they would be able to find them after viewing the content on my main page or other pages.  I chose to display the five most recent posts so that the material was fresh and up to date to increase the likely hood of my viewers finding useful information.  I chose some of my favorite DIY blogs where I consistently am able to find inspiration!

For my additional widgets I chose to use Tag Cloud and Dave’s WordPress Live Search.  I chose to go with Tag Cloud at the footer of my page because I think it is a nice visual representation of the pulse of my blog at the moment.  Readers are able to quickly see what is “trending” and can click whatever they are interesting in viewing at the moment.  Being at the bottom of the page I think it increases the chances viewers might click through to another portion of my site when they are done scrolling through the most recent posts, therefore making them stay longer.  I installed Dave’s WordPress Live Search in my side margin because I believe it is a feature that many people come to expect these days.  They expect to start searching and have results start to come up right away for them to click on.  This increases the utility of my site even though it isn’t a very big and flashy widget.

I had previously eliminated the recent posts, archived posts, and categories widgets from my site because I thought they were part of the default “blog roll” widgets but have since added them back to the sidebar as they are essential widgets you see on almost every blog!  They help viewers by presenting information and posts on my site at a glance.

Finally I customized my theme’s page footer to display my name and copyright notice to give my blog that professional look!  None of these widgets were technically hard to install and the only real issue I ran across was to get the appearance of the live search results to match my theme’s look.

Plugin Selections, Continued

The first plugin I chose to install for this assignment was “Yet Another Related Posts Plugin”.  I chose this type of plugin as one of the ones I had to have on my site because I think it is essential.  With DIY sites it is important if a certain type of article catches a readers eye that you show them related posts that they would be interested in so that they spend more time on your site.  To configure it I changed the way it uses its algorithm to weight posts it chooses to show.  I made it consider the categories with extra weight because I am very specific about what type of projects and types I am categorizing on my site.  This will lead to very similar results in terms of articles the viewer is being exposed to.

The next plugin I chose was the events calendar “All-in-One Events Calendar”.  I chose to install this because I think it is important to have events that readers can participate in to feel connected to my blog.  If I have weekly and monthly events where I can give away magazines, or have Q & A sessions with the blogs experts this will create a sense of community and keep people coming back.  I configured it by adding a widget to the footer of my page and setting the time zone, and amount of events I would want to show at one time.  Clicking on the widget will bring you to a separate more detailed calendar page that will provider viewers with more context.

The last plugin I chose for this portion of the assignment was the MobilePress plugin to make my site accessible on mobile devices.  This is perhaps the most interesting plugin because I think it is nice for viewers to be able to view my site on their mobile or tablet while they may be working on their own DIY projects (often away from their computer).  This is important because it increases my sites functionality and adds convenience that could give me an edge!  There was not much customization that needed to be done but I chose how I wanted my content to show up such as amount of posts to show, whether or not to show pages or categories etc.

Plugin Decisions

Most of my plugin decisions were made based on the recommendations provided to me.  I really have never had a blog before so choosing widgets and plugins were mostly based on popularity.  I used Akismet based on a suggestion and the fact that it was already installed on my website.  I signed up and configured it so that it would be active and running.  For sharing I chose Share Buttons which offered the standard Facebook, Twitter, Google+ buttons, with the ability to share to many other sites as well.  These plugins were fairly straightforward to install and I didn’t really have much problem getting them running on my site.

The biggest pain was getting the plugin going for RSS out syndication.  I chose to use Feedburner based on not only the suggestion to do so but also that it was fairly popular.  I installed the widget to the sidebar and figured out how to customize it so that all the ads weren’t in the way and also so that people would know exactly what it was; a place to sign up for emails!  It took me quite a bit of digging and googling to find some directions on how to setup Feedburner through their website and which the right things to activate were.  After I completed that I thought I was done but when I went to test my subscription I got the “The feed does not have subscriptions by email enabled”.  The directions I was able to find really didn’t explain that I had to tie my Feedburner URL to my widget via the Feed URL Name.  Once I got this in the right way things were working great!

It has been quite a learning process so far to get the plugins and widgets working the right way.  I never though setting up a simple blog would be so hard!

Site Customization

I chose a very minimalistic theme for a few reasons.  First, I really like the “modern look” and the less is more mentality!  Second, I think a more minimalist approach will not distract my viewers, and shift the focus to the content.  I think over time as I add more to my blog and get it up and running that I might add a little more eye candy that would perhaps liven it up a bit.

Customization was pretty hard at first!  I found myself having to do some research on how to get things into the right place.  My biggest problem was realizing that you only really have one menu and you are supposed to add things to that one menu to create a top navigation bar that we are all familiar with.  Once I got over this issue I became more familiar with how to customize some of the several of aspects of the WordPress blog, and how to better navigate the dashboard.

As far as choosing some of my plugins I started with a cursory search based on what I needed and then based most of my decisions on popularity.  If one seemed to be the go to for many people than that is what I went with.  I found configuring the plugins to be pretty easy, and only really got caught up on the fact that after I installed a plugin I had to add a widget to the sidebar to get them to show up.

Web Assignment One

Context:
Home improvement ideas, Do It Yourself ideas (DIY), tips for saving money around the house.

Community:
People looking to improve in some way the functionality or utility of their home.

Use Cases:
1) A user looking to save money on their utility bills, by reading seasonal articles on energy savings.
2) A user looking to remodel a room or part of their house themselves, by examining tutorials and step
by step guides.
3) A user who is a professional looking to share ideas and designs in order to gain exposure to his
services as a designer.
4) A user looking for ideas on how to increase the value of their property through a little “sweat equity”.

Content Contributors:
‐Users could submit their own DIY projects to share with the blog community.
‐Professionals in the community could contribute tips and proactive maintenance ideas that would save
on utilities during the different seasons.
‐Designers would be able to share their ideas and plans for projects that people would be able to change
or adapt to suit their own needs (open source design).

Why Come Back?
People will find seasonal ideas in terms of projects, ideas, and suggestions to help improve life in the
home. New and innovative DIY projects will be posted regularly in order to entice people to keep
reading. Trends and news pieces on property values would also be posted occasionally to keep users
informed. Users will be able to share their before and after pictures with the community so that others
can comment and share their experiences.

General Purpose:
Having a background in architecture has me constantly thinking about ways to save money and improve
people’s daily lives through design. There are several ways and things that everyone can do with
minimal effort in order to save energy which is not only a benefit to an individual but the environment in
general. In today’s economy every penny counts and being able to have a place where people can
collaborate on innovative ideas and projects that make their home more livable through good design is
valuable.