A few years ago it became obvious to me that the static HTML websites were rapidly becoming obsolete. The “Social Web” and the need for a constant flow of fresh content demanded by search engines made CMS (Content Management System) websites the logical option. Coded in PHP/MySQL, these sites keep the design elements and content separate. This makes changing the design for a website without losing content not only possible, but easy. It also gives anyone who can use an email program the ability to add text and images – without worrying about ruining the overall design or functionality of the website. This gives website owners the advantage of adding useful information to the website without the need contacting the developer, waiting until he/she has time to make the changes and then paying the invoice that inevitably follows.
While there are several CMS platforms available (most are free) I chose to concentrate on WordPress for my customers and myself. One reason for my choice was the number of plug-ins available that make the sites I develop more valuable in many ways. Here are a few that I find especially useful:
Photodropper. Finding images to enhance blog posts and website pages can be daunting. If you grab the wrong image from Google images or other sites, you could get into trouble. (Unsuspecting bloggers have ended up paying hundreds for photos innocently included in posts.) When installed, this plug-in returns dozens of high-quality free photos that can be included in a post or page with one or two clicks.
Sweet Captcha. This plug-in makes it hard to resist leaving a comment or filling out a form. You are presented with an images and are asked to do things like “put the mustache on the man” or “add the ice cream to the cone” in order to prove you are a human. So much more fun than doing a math problem or trying to read distorted letters!
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Google Analytics Dashboard. Instead of having to open Webmaster tools in Google, this little gem displays information about website traffic and other information on the WordPress dashboard.
WordPress SEO. There are a lot of SEO plug-ins available. I like this one because it allows manual optimization for each page, and then displays a colored signal (green, yellow, orange or red) to show how well optimized the page is for the focus keyword. There is also a page analysis that explains why.
PC Hide Title. The default for WordPress is to show titles. This may be good for blog posts, but sometimes you don’t want a H1 tag reading “HOME” on the home page. This plug-in allows developers to show or not show titles at the top of pages and posts.
PC Hide Pages. Some templates automatically list all pages on the top navigation bar. Coupon pages, “thank you” pages or any other pages that should not be shown in the navigation bar can easily be hidden using this plug-in.
Google SEO Author Snippet Plug-in. This plug-in is built for SEO and Social. It allows authors to display their social profile links next to “posted by author” detail. It includes the Google+ profile with recommended rel=author tag and more.
While I believe that website development for businesses is best done by professionals, website owners will be a “step ahead” when they understand and ask their web designer to activate these and other interesting and valuable plug-ins to their WordPress websites and blogs.