Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

Socializing a WordPress site

For this week’s WordPress Wednesday installment, let’s look at a few changes I’ve made here on this site in the past few weeks. As mentioned previously, there were several areas that I knew I wanted to go ahead and improve in the short term, as interim measures until I put a whole new theme in place. One of my primary goals here is gain and retain readers. I want to make the site “sticky” by providing several ways for visitors to keep up with my updates, and to spread my links to other potential readers.

Of course, the first part of gaining readership is to provide quality content. I hope that people already think I’m doing that. Beyond that, I need to highlight the various ways that readers can subscribe to my updates, and ways for them to spread the word. Let’s take a look at my first-cut efforts.

The biggest change I’ve made recently was to upgrade my site to WordPress 2.7, which is nearing release as I write this article. How does this help improve the site for my readers? Because doing so allowed me to enable threaded comments. You can now reply to individual comments left by other visitors. This should make it easier to keep track of conversation threads that follow a particular train of thought, and I hope encourage more participation in general.

Right now, my implementation is still crude. I haven’t had time to style the links and such, and it’s not displaying the link text I specified. But I will continue to make improvements as time allows.

I followed Otto’s notes on WordPress 2.7 Comments Enhancements. I took advantage of the new enhanced child theme templates at the same time by making my changes in a local copy of the comments.php template. I also enabled comment pagination and AJAX features, as mentioned in Otto’s article.

Another change I made was to move my feed subscription links closer to the top of my sidebar, and added standard feed icons to help them stand out. I plan to also add a form there for email notifications, but I’ll need to write some custom widget code for that.

A new addition is the Social Homes widget. This sidebar widget displays icons for various other services that I use. Things like my Delicious bookmarks, Twitter updates, Flickr photos, etc. These services help give a wider view of my activities, and ways to see other possible common interests that might not be evident in my blog.

Another new feature is the “Stumble It” button on single post views. StumbleUpon is a pretty good way to discover and share popular web sites and articles. The last few times I’ve posted items here that were more popular than usual, I’ve noticed spikes in visitors referred by StumbleUpon, so giving those users an easy reminder to share my links can’t hurt.

I’m also using a FeedBurner feature to insert links to Digg, StumbleUpon, Technorati, and Delicious at the end of each post. The StumbleUpon link is redundant, so I might take that one out. Again, I haven’t added any styling to these, but I probably will at some point, so that they stand out from the other content.

Lastly, I also have the Increase Sociability plugin installed. This plugin displays a custom greeting to visitors who arrive via links from either Digg or StumbleUpon. Again, this is a good way to encourage those visitors to vote up your links, so that they can gain more exposure.

So, those are some of the changes I’ve made in the last few weeks. Obviously, I’m still not done, but what do you think so far? What would you change?

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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29 Responses to Socializing a WordPress site

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