The One Webdesign Practice Most of Us Forget

May 6th, 2013 by , in Monday in the HTMLab
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Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to see a picture, watch a video, or listen to a song, only to see a warning that reads “You need [this random browser plugin] to view this content”? It’s an unpleasant shock to any user, even (and maybe especially) for us webdesigners and developers who know the inner workings of such programming.

What compounds the frustration, however, is when a website that needs a special plugin does not tell you anything about how to get the plugin–it just tells you that you need it and leaves you to fend for yourself. At that point, most users simply exit the site and find another one that isn’t so picky about how they view content. And who can blame them? Most Internet users (and that includes us, too) don’t want to have to work that hard for information or entertainment!

It’s easy to point the finger at other websites for inconveniencing their users like this…but we who create websites often forget to provide that exact same service for our own users. We often forget to make our sites as easy and convenient as possible for our users to view.

The Solution: Plugin Links

Whenever we include media content on our websites, such as a photo gallery that requires a script to run, a video, or an audio track, we should always take the following steps:

  1. Check your media content in as many common browsers as possible, to make sure it will appear and run correctly with the right plugins installed. Today, most people use Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome, but also include Opera and Safari.
  2. Be aware which browser plugins process which content. For instance, Adobe Flash Player is most often used to run Youtube videos, and Quicktime still runs most audio tracks; most photo galleries use jQuery or something Javascript-related.
  3. Include plugin links for these common browsers–for example, if you’re running a Flash video, make sure you have Adobe Flash Player plugin links for Firefox, IE, Chrome, Opera, and Safari located somewhere just below the video in plain view.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s important that we do this backend work so that our users don’t have to. It’s all part of providing a more convenient, informative website.

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Road-Tested (and Robin-Tested) WordPress Plugins

March 12th, 2012 by , in Monday in the HTMLab
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As a blogger on dialup, I don’t have a lot of connection speed to test plugin after plugin. Instead, I spend a good bit of my time researching good plugins on WordPress help sites, and asking other WP bloggers what they personally use. Once I know the general community’s opinions and issues, as well as the opinions of closer blogging friends, I can then know whether the plugin is right for my own WP setup and needs.

In the process of all that research, vetting, and questioning, I have found 6 plugins that really help Crooked Glasses be all it can be, in the midst of all the other plugins available. I highly recommend each of these, as they have all made my blogging life much easier.

Akismet: Worth Its Weight in Data

Akismet, to be fair, came already installed when I loaded WP on my own server. But I have been so pleased with how it targets spam that I recommend everyone who hasn’t signed up for an Akismet API key to do so. (This is a completely unpaid statement on my part–I just really like the plugin because it works.)

Akismet plugin download page

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP): Reaching Into My Archives For Me

Despite being named “Yet Another” related posts plugin, YARPP is the only one of the three “related posts” plugins I tested that worked for me. Not sure if it was operator error, faulty installation, or non-working programs on the other two, but YARPP came through with flying colors.

At the end of each single post, now, I have links displayed to other posts similar enough in content, without ever having to lift a finger. THAT is such a help, much more than I ever imagined. Now I don’t have to do huge, link-laden Glassics posts unless I just want to!

YARPP plugin download page

Wordbooker: A Way to Connect My Blog with Friends and Family

Thanks to Wordbooker, which automatically posts newest blogs to my Facebook, my close friends and family can now read my blogs with ease. This actually means a lot to me, to know that real-life people are reading my works and they can comment on Facebook about them.

(Wordbooker’s plugin updates do tend to unhook the link between my FB and Crooked Glasses, but all you have to do is go into the plugin’s settings and re-connect with Facebook, which takes about 5 minutes even over dialup.)

Wordbooker plugin download page

AddThis: Making Tweeting/Liking/Sharing SO Much Easier

AddThis, like many of the sharing plugins, has a tweet button and a like button–but it’s also infinitely customizable by adding other specific-site share buttons to your lineup as well (like Foursquare and Pinterest).

I also like that it tells you how “viral” your links have gone through being shared (via your Dashboard)–though Crooked Glasses hasn’t gone all that viral yet, I know that the potential is there and I’ll be able to track its progress.

AddThis plugin download page

Tweet Old Post: Tweeting from the Depths of My Archives

This wonderful little plugin digs back into my archives and auto-tweets older posts about every 3 or 4 hours, even when I can’t be online due to having to keep the phone line clear (or when I’m feeling sick/headachy, which is often these days). Thanks to this plugin, my older posts have a chance to get some Twitter love, and my blog’s Twitter presence stays fresh and updated.

This plugin and the aptly and funnily-named plugin below are likely the ones I have to thank for my Twitter following…just saying.

Tweet Old Post plugin download page

(Special Honors) Just Tweet That S**t: It Does What It Says!

Like Wordbooker does for Facebook, this plugin auto-tweets links to my newest blogs. It helps so much to have this automated, since I can’t always be online and logged into Twitter when my blogs go live.

The reason this plugin gets a special honor? Because I tried several auto-tweet plugins before this and none of them would authenticate correctly with Twitter. I was about to tear my hair out trying to find an auto-tweet plugin, and NONE of them would do it…but this one did!

Just Tweet That S**t plugin download page

Summary

If you run a WordPress blog and are looking for plugins to help your spam problem, link to older posts, auto-post to social media, or make sharing easier, I would highly encourage you to install these 6. I have found them to be reputable, without spam and without hassle. Amazing how a single plugin can change your blogging life!

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