These are a few of my Favourite things…

Sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees…

Our recent removal from Google search has led me (slowly) to dissect the blog and try to refine the way information is stored, served and backed-up. Having adressed the page load speed, and increased the CSS compliance of the web page it was time to cull some of the slow loading and hefty plug-ins that, left unchecked, had grown to an unwieldy 68!

The plug-in review has been very helpful and has resulted in a further improvement in page load time and reduction in the plug-in load to 15. In response to recent tweets and emails I thought it might be useful to share some of my Top 9 favourite (retained) WP plugins.


Native WP comments system is inherently good. However, with this blog, most comments and discussion about blog posts occur on alternate social networking platforms such as twitter and facebook. As a result I went in search of ‘comment collating’ platforms which provided Open ID access to leave a comment which imported external conversations and trackbacks pertaining to the original post – bringing the conversation back into the blog.

Initially I used the Disqus platform but found that the trackbacks were lost, the page load time was greatly increased and it caused confusion with too many options. As a result I have moved to the Backtype plugin which I am finding quick and easy to use. It also allows threaded conversation and replies within the comment section.

Backtype Connect

Backtype Connect

2. Related posts

I currently switch between thumbnail display and text display related posts to try to determine the most effective approach to display related posts.

I really like the thumbnail images provided by LinkWithin. It is simple to install and creates fairly accurate links to pages within your blog/website.

  • Upside:
    • Thumbnails increase the number of times additional pages (related posts) that are reviewed.
    • On this blog unique visitors are 3x more likely to review an additional page using LinkWithin rather than text-based related post links
    • Looks pretty
  • Downside
    • Limited editing options, poor control over number of thumbnails displayed and ability to exclude categories, posts or tags

An alternative is a text-based related posts plugin such as YARPP (Yet another related posts plugin). This plugin is undergoing further development to provide enhanced templates for the way related posts can be displayed and gives the user much more control on what to show, and how to show the related posts.

3. WP Database Backup

With the recent crash of the website and reset by the hosting server we lost a weeks worth of posts, drafts and uploaded media. Although most posts are written externally and transposed into the blog, many posts are a ‘flight of ideas’ and written directly into WP as posts. Therefore, to lose such whimsical musings was a real shame. I had a look at many of the back-up plugins and decided to go with WordPress Database Backup.

WordPress database backup creates backups of your core WordPress tables as well as other tables of your choice in the same database. I get an xml backup file sent to me daily.

4. Smart Phone Blog Display

The slow page load, and app heavy blog was becoming unwieldy on my iPhone. Thankfully I have changed to WPtouch – a fantastic app that does just about everything to help you create your own SmartPhone interface. Currently it supports android, aspen, blackberry9500, blackberry9530, cupcake, dream, incognito, iphone, ipod, opera mini, webmate and webos.

This app from BraveNewCode does it all! You can edit the way your site is presented, choose pages to be shown; add icons to the blog posts and pages; review comments…and the user can choose not to use the mobile version if they want.If you can’t find the right icon to describe your page, post or link – try using Flavor Studios Icon Generator

WPtouch mobile them from BraveNewCode

5. Create a table in WordPress

By far the best WP plugin I have found is WP-Table Reloaded by @tobiasbg. This WP plugin enables you to create and manage tables in your WP’s admin area. No HTML knowledge is needed. A comfortable backend allows to easily edit table data. Tables can contain any type of data and additional JavaScript libraries can be used to extend it with features like sorting, pagination, filtering, and more. You can include the tables into your posts, on your pages or in text widgets by using a shortcode or a template tag function. Tables can be imported and exported from/to CSV, XML and HTML.

Now I can handle tables up to 1000 entries long easily on the blog e.g. ANZ medical bloggers and the Aussie Hospital social network list

6. Embed a PPT or PDF Document

I use Google Doc Embedder to embed PDF files, PowerPoint presentations, and TIFF images using the Google Docs Viewer (no Flash or Adobe browser plug-ins required). Unlike Scribd, the files do not need to be uploaded to any service first – including Google Documents – but can exist anywhere accessible on your site or the internet.

We embedded some unwieldy tables for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health here on Life in the Fast Lane

7. Create Show/Hide text for WordPress

I battled long and hard to try to find something simple to use…and then stumbled across this simple and effective Expanding Text Plugin for WordPress from Dagon Design.

This WordPress plugin allows you to create sections of text in your blog post or page which expand/collapse when clicked on. You simply wrap the special tags around your text, and set the ‘expand link’ (the link visitors click on to show the text). If your visitors do not have javascript enabled, the ‘expand link’ is not shown, and the text is displayed normally.

8. Be kind to your audience and the environment

Providing a print friendly page which can convert blog posts into pdf, strip images and provide a shortened pure text version of your blog page. This can be done with a bookmarklet form or by posting a WP plugin print friendly button at the end of each blog post – clean crisp and eco-friendly

9. Keep the bots coming

  • Update web crawlers and bots with a regularly updated sitemap. I use Google (XML) Sitemaps Generator for WordPress. This plugin generates a XML-Sitemap compliant sitemap of your WordPress blog. This format is supported by, Google, YAHOO and MSN Search and it works well to send an auto-generated sitemap to these engines
  • Find and repair all the broken links, and re-directing links with Broken Link Checker for WordPress
  • I use the Google Analyticator tracking support for the blog. Google Analyticator comes with an easily customizable widget that displays information gathered by Google Analytics using the Google Analytics API. It supports all of the tracking mechanisms that Google Analytics supports such as external link tracking, download tracking, tracking without counting administrative users, and any other advanced tracking the user wishes to add.
  • SEO Friendly Images WordPress optimization plugin automatically updates all images with proper ALT and TITLE attributes. If your images do not have ALT and TITLE already set, SEO Friendly Images will add them according the options you set.
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  1. says

    Thanks for the e-mail, and this post, Mike. Much appreciated. I found exactly the same expanding text plug in as you have; agree that it is most elegant.

    Tables-reloaded-wp is also fantastic. The ability to put code in each cell is a real bonus.

    You’ve lost me with the bots, but I am but a learner!

    • says

      No problems mate
      Thought it would be easier to blog my thoughts out loud so to speak
      I’m lost on Bots too…or rather they have lost me in the blogosphere, but we may get back on Google one day
      Keep finding more and more on the WPtouch application, and love the iPhone icon generator!

  2. says

    Being friendly you the reader and audience is rather import. theres no use in having a page thats isn’t user friendly as people will not use your site making one that looks and feels good always helps. These are some good tips to follow