7 WordPress plugins for a more User Friendly blog

Wordpress plugins

Plenty of WP plugins to choose from.

As a web usability enthusiast I spend quite some time looking for ways to improve my blog in an attempt to make the visit as smooth and pleasant as possible. In this article I’ll be talking about some very simple WordPress plugins that will transform your blog in a more user-friendly version with only a few minutes of work.

The main reasons it’s so important to strive for a better user-friendliness is because it will make your blog more efficient, it’s easier for your visitors to adapt to, and more satisfying to use. In other words, by improving the effectiveness, efficiency and usability, your visitors will actually enjoy visiting your blog, come back time after time and even participate in your online discussions.

Below, you’ll find a quick roundup of some of the best and most effective WordPress plugins I’ve come across.

Search

Using the search engine on a WordPress blog can be very frustrating. You might have one of the following results when you click on the search button:

  • You don’t get the information you were looking for
  • You get 50 pages of links
  • Or you don’t get any result at all.

The standard WordPress SERP (Search Engine Results Page) will only show you what you’ve asked for. Very simple and straight forward but not very user-friendly.

Search Excerpt

If you’re looking for something very general, for example “design,” you get a lot of results (if you are visiting a design related website, that is). The default result page will show you the first 55 words of an article that includes the word design, which doesn’t always represent the correct context of the searched keyword.

One of the solutions is to show some of the excerpt text which is found directly around your keyword, instead of the normal first 55 words.

Now that you know the context of “design,” it is easier to find the link you need and make a clear decision. I would also advise to put your keyword in bold, making it easier to retrieve it in the text. The plugin you need is Search Excerpt and can be found at Scott Yang’s playground.

Search Suggest

Of course, you can even do better than that. For example, you could show some suggestions if no matches were found because of a typo. Searching for “asability” on my blog doesn’t return anything, but you could suggest the word “usability.”

A great plugin to get this kind of thing sorted out is called Search-Suggest By Yoast and works with Yahoo’s API.

Print

Yes, you heard me: print! With all the current digital technology—products as the iPad, Kindle, and other e-readers—it may seem a bit weird to talk about print. You need to realize that a lot of people still prefer the more traditional approach of reading good old paper.

To integrate this into your blog, you can use the WP-Print plugin. When installing, you’ll need to regenerate the permalinks (Settings > Permalinks > hit the save button) in order to make it work.

Broken links

Nothing is as irritating as a broken link on a website. Instead of checking all the links throughout your blog or waiting until someone reports a broken link, you can install the Broken Link Checker plugin by Janis Elsts.

As you probably guessed correctly, this plugin will search for broken links and report it directly on your dashboard, making it easy to repear. You do not have to keep this plugin activated the entire time; just install it every 2 weeks and scan for broken links. Afterwards, you can uninstall the plugin.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are very versatile. Not only do they show visitors which page they’re currently visiting, provide them with an alternative navigation, and give SEO (search engine optimization) a helping hand; they also clarify the hierarchy of the website itself.

This last point is very important: imagine you’ve just typed a search string in your favorite search engine and clicked a link. Very often you will end up directly on a page other than the homepage. Because of this, people have no idea how this page is situated towards your homepage and feel a bit lost.

Breadcrumbs are perfect because they will point out the relationship of the landing page with the homepage. For example: Home > Products > Sports > Tennis > Tennis rackets.

For an easy integration and full control of breadcrumbs, install Breadcrumb NavXT by John Havlik.

Subscribe to comments

Many times I find myself wandering the internet, looking for interesting articles and posting comments (if it really contributes to the ongoing discussion, of course). Any reply to my comment—or to the discussion in general—is worth following because that is how discussions are formed. Instead of bookmarking all those pages separately and checking them from time to time for updates, it would be great to receive a message telling you something has happened.

With the Subscribe to comments plugin, you can opt-in for an email notification, which will be sent whenever something occurs. It comes with a handy overview of all your subscriptions, which you can cancel whenever you want.

Caching your pages

WP Super Cache is a very useful plugin because it will drastically improve the loading time of your website by caching your pages and minimizing the CSS and Javascript files. This plugin is a must-have.

Heaven or hell

With a staggering amount of 10,664 plugins and the ease of implementation, WordPress plugins are both a blessing and a possible threat to your website’s performance. When deciding whether a certain plugin is necessary, you need to know if it will benefit the experience of the visitor.

If you think it is fancy to have or looks kinda cool, you should throw it overboard without any second thought. It is imperative to keep the amount of installed plugins to a minimum. The more you have installed, the longer your blog pages will need to fully load.

If you have any other examples of plugins which gives your users a helping hand, let us know.

About the Author

Paul Olyslager

Paul Olyslager is a web designer and usability consultant at Corelio, a Belgian based newspaper publisher. He's the creator and editor of paulolyslager.com, a blog about User Experience and and Web Usability. To keep up with him you should follow his tweets via @paulolyslager.

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Comments

  1. Is someone actually kicking your head on your profile pic?

  2. Hi Paul, thanks for this, some good choices. I recently wrote a similar blog post on WordPress Widgets and Plugins that I suggest be included on a Blog for reader usability (and they’re different to yours!) – http://aztecinternetmarketing.com/2010/11/15/best-wordpress-plugins-and-widgets/

    All the best

  3. Awesome! Thank you very much for this article! I’m still working on my wordpress site and can use all the tips I can for good plugins. Thanks for sharing.

    Timothy Whalin

  4. Wonderful plugins, especially that one about caching pages. And I really laughed with that foot on your photo. hehe

    I also have wordpress plugins featured in my site, feel free to visit anytime!

  5. it was useful for me thnx a lot

  6. I love this writeup, but I personally recommend using W3 Total cache over WP Super Cache. It is a more complete plugin that offers a better solution.

  7. Thanks for this article. Like you mentioned, there are more than 10,000 plugins available and it can be a pain to figure out which ones are the best, or even which type are necessary.

    I’m glad someone pointed out that you were being kicked…I initially thought you were making a goofy face for no reason. Why change an image that gets so much discussion?

  8. I should also say that those people who like to have lots of plugins on their WordPress site should also look at WP Super Cache as you suggested its great for keeping your site up to speed

  9. Nice tips – its good to see someone discussing plugins and techniques that are different to the average joe plugins everyone else talks about!

  10. Wp super cache is a very usefull plugin. As for the rest well everyone should have their own opinion on what’s going to be useful for their readers.

    For example i would choose disquess comment system with auto subscription already included instead of subscribe to comments plugin. This way i get great comment plugin and the subscription at the same time.

    Cheers.

    • Interesting idea indeed. But I thought it wasn’t possible to attach an auto subscription to a comment (forcing an optin) because of legal issues.

  11. Another one I have always liked are the keyboard navigation plugins, nice if you are flicking through a blog

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/keyboard-navigation/

  12. Awesome list of tips, definitely going to put them to use. Thanks!

  13. Hey, I’m always looking for plugins that will make my blog more useful and I particularly like the one that enables print.

    But then you said keep plugins to a minimum and I’m thinking, maybe if someone really wants to print your stuff they can just use the print function on their desktop right?

    The broken links checker is actually very useful. Thanks.

    • Hi Jay, printing a page in a browser has always been a big hassle. All browsers have a different way of handling print requests. With the print plugin you just print out the text and you get a nice overview of all used links. You can set the plugin to print images and comments or not.

      Of course you have other ways to accomplish this, just try to print out this page in different browsers and you won’t see any advertisement (images) or fully colored backgrounds.

      Maybe Uxbooth can tell us how they did that?

  14. Excellent round up on wordpress plug-ins which will be very helpful for the people who were at the designing. The list was good & also impressive.

    http://www.beautifulwordpress.com/

    Make use of this link to check out the wordpress designs & themes.

  15. Thanks for the article. Good tips. My blog is needing some updates, these might be some of them.

  16. That’s the first time i’ve noticed that there is a foot on your face in your pic! brilliant! Well done for getting a post on uxbooth, it’s been on my todo list for a couple of years, really must get it done this year! :)

  17. I hadn’t heard of the subscribe to comments plugin, this is going to save me loads of time! Ideally I’d use all plugins on my site but I get worried the more I use the more vulnerable I am to being hacked through the third party code, essentially I’m trusting other peoples scripts is that right or am I paranoid for nothing??

    • @Ben: You always have to be a bit careful about plugins. It is true that people can use plugins to hack into your WP system. Be sure to always use the latest version of your plugins. To be on the safeside, you can install a plugin called WP Security Scan. This plugin sends automatically an email when code was changed, added or deleted in your php files. This way you can react more quickly if something has happened.

  18. Some nice tips!

    As for the comments, I’m always looking for ‘subscribe to replies to my comment’ option. A must have on blogs that get lots of comments.

  19. I’m finding out about wp. thanks for sharing

  20. So useful.
    But i think Wp total cache is better than WP super cache. Supporter of Hostgator suggest me this.

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