Building a Web Directory with WordPress

You can use WordPress plugins to create your own web directory. There are premium plugins and themes, or you can try the free plugins. Expect to do some work, making some changes to HTML and CSS code and work with an FTP program. If you can’t (or won’t) do the extra work then look at the premium options instead. However, if your plan is to make money with a web directory aren’t you smarter to use free options and do some of the work yourself?  Note: I do pay for software and themes and even the odd plugin, but I prefer to give business to the open source and free software as often as I can.

Link Library is the plugin I have been using longest. You can work with the links you already have in your WordPress blogroll. Take a look at the information given for setting it up. It is fairly simple and most of the work is just done inside WordPress itself. Pretty simple.

Open Links Directory is the one I’m looking at and thinking I will start with for a new directory I’ve been wanting to sort out and get active. See the demo. I’ve done the install but I’ve got a bug to work out with FTP. Your own install may be bug-free. Other than a small bug, it looks great and I’m impressed.

WP Link Dir looks interesting and they say it works with pages on WordPress instead of posts. So that could leave you with the ability to run posts as a regular blog with the directory in the background, or as a feature. I’m only hesitant to download this one because they want to gather your email address first. (I don’t like having my email address harvested for spammers).

Outdated, possibly forgotten plugins which you can still find to give a try:

Article Directory is an interesting plugin to try. You can read the FAQ and find the plugin (and a theme) on the site which also acts as a demo for the plugin.

Web Directory WordPress plugin has not been updated for years so it is use at your own risk. But, you can find more information for using and installing it on the site (the download link there is broken).

WordPress Link Directory is outdated but available. The link to the site from WordPress is broken but I found it myself.

Create Your Own Unique WordPress Theme

WordPressNo matter how many WordPress themes I look at and try, I never find exactly what I want. But, I do find more things I would like to have.

When I ran my sites on Blogger I began using simple HTML and basic CSS. I learned how the Blogger code worked with the additional CSS and HTML I added. That was the beginning of my learning how to create my own blog themes (also known as templates and layouts).

A WordPress theme seemed a lot more complicated, at that time. Blogger isn’t as simple as it once was then. But, I still like Blogger for anyone getting started with blogging.

Design, Create, Make your own WordPress Theme

 

Why Should you Create your own WordPress Theme?

One reason for creating your own WordPress theme is to have something uniquely your own. There are a lot of blogs online now, many of them have the same look. They call them cookie cutters because they all seem to have been created with the same look, only small things like a different colour background to give them any unique look.

If someone is intimidated about breaking into the coding and making their own theme they can still take the baby steps and begin by changing their background to something of their own creation. Use a photograph you have taken. Get started with Gimp and other graphic software and create a design and images which you can use as the background, title bars, sidebar headers, etc. You can create hand drawn images and then scan them into an image file which you use on your blog too. There are simple, fairly easy options which will get your blog out of the cookie cutter style.

But, the best is still to create your own theme. Begin by tweaking whatever theme you are using now. Tweak to change the font, the colours for the text. Tweak to change how images are displayed in your blog. Look into other tweaks you can do. There are endless tweaks. As you tweak learn how the code works. What changes you make and how they end up working on the display of your blog.

Once you have been tweaking and feel fairly happy about what you know, get into the real mess and muck of creation – from scratch.

A bit daunted still? No fear. You can use frameworks to give you a base of operations. A framework is the basic code used for a simple WordPress theme.

Don’t sit on the fence forever with your framework. Dabble and play around and make your own theme. It doesn’t have to be rocket science or perfect. A theme evolves over time as WordPress versions change, as blogging itself changes and as your own needs change.

Next stop… once you have a theme consider selling it or offering it on WordPress.org for others to download free. A WordPress theme (if you hit on a unique design and keep it working) can be a great draw for traffic to your site.

I’m still at the dabbling stage with my own WP theme designing. I enjoy window shopping and looking at other themes. For now I’m running the Thesis Framework Theme on my main blog. Most of my other blogs are running on the Clear Line  theme.

Update: Thesis had a lot of changes when Thesis 2.0 came out. I don’t find it usable right now. It lost the user friendliness which was the main thing I liked about it. Since then I have bought Genesis, but, you may as well design your own theme from scratch if you have Genesis. Even the child themes you buy to run with Genesis are very much the same. If you want to make your own themes Genesis is ok, a base. But, if you want something to work out of the box you will find Genesis won’t work for you, unless you want it exactly as it comes.

I’ve looked at other themes and frameworks. I’m really reluctant to purchase any more of them. I have Catalyst with it’s Dynamik child theme and I find it complicated, a lot to read and then I still can’t make the small changes I want. I also have Headway but it has become a case of having to purchase more in order to get anything out of it. (Really disappointed with Headway which I have had since version 1.6 before they made it such a money grab).

WordPress Theme Generators

Notice a Change?

I just added Genesis as the theme here. It needs some CSS to flip things around. I will likely get something done over the weekend. It does have a clean look, a bit too much space in odd places right now and not the font I like for titles and headers. Nothing I can’t work out. Maybe it will end up being a child theme by the time I’ve got it worked out.

There are a load of Genesis plugins. I think it relies on them a bit too much. I would say it is not a theme/ framework for anyone who can’t deal with some HTML and CSS customizing. The framework doesn’t come with many options for customizing it. Thesis was much better that way, more user friendly (until version 2 came out).

Update: The update is I’m not using Genesis. Seems the only way to use Genesis is to write your own child theme. At which point, what is the point of having Genesis? Right now I’ve gone back to another premium theme I bought a couple of years ago. Nice to get some use form them now and then.

Microsoft Abandons Front End Web Development

Microsoft Abandons Expression Web and Front End Web Development – Design is Philosophy.

I’m not a web developer so I’m a bit behind on Windows software. I changed to Linux and was really happy with it, until I bought a new PC which will only run Windows. So I had to backtrack last year.

I began using my old MS FrontPage software. I know it is years outdated but, I like it. Isn’t Expression the updated/ new FrontPage? If so, I am sorry to see MS give up support to it. I was so proud the day I had enough money scraped together to buy my own copy of FrontPage.

Now, people don’t build sites so much as set up WordPress and use that instead of getting into the guts of HTML and CSS. I only have one site which isn’t run on WP and it’s just a simple few pages.

Anyway, my comments aren’t from someone “in the know” but I was surprised to read your post. I think Microsoft will regret moving away from actual web development and just looking at mobile apps – which is how I understood your post.

I don’t use a cell phone, I just hate answering the phone. So, for me the other side of things is more relevant than all the apps and such which keep popping up at me as options on sites and software.

Maybe at some point I will become a dinosaur for using the web without a mobile phone and etc. But, I find it simpler (and far less expensive).

Note:

You can now download Expression Web and Expression Design for free at Microsoft.  I searched for the link so I could get them tonight. I bet it will be a lot changed from FrontPage.

WordPress Plugins for Writers

I got the idea to make a post about WordPress plugins for writers. I use a few which help me and thought I’d share them. But, I found something interesting when I started looking around to see what other writers like to use. Almost every plugin written about as being “for writers” was for SEO in blogging. Almost none of the plugins reviewed as “for writers” were about writing. Does anyone else think that’s kind of a sad reflection on writing?

Here are the plugins I use which help me with actual writing online (not blog promoting – but blog writing).

  • Custom About Author – Add your social media links and a blurb about yourself to the end of each of your posts.
  • Dashboard: Scheduled Posts – This adds a feature to your WordPress desktop where you can store and view posts you have marked as scheduled/ saved as drafts to be finished later. I use this a lot!
  • Sideblog WordPress Plugin – Run a side blog (in your sidebar) for short posts like quotes and notes.
  • Drop Caps – I used this for awhile but didn’t stick with it. Fun for awhile, but not essential. It does work and was simple to set up.

The following are plugins I have not used myself but they sound interesting. Some of them I will download and try.

  • NetBlog – Connect posts and external resources (websites, pdf, doc, data). Use Captions, Footnotes, Bibliography. Netblog is highly customizable.
  • WP-Typography – Improve your web typography with: hyphenation, space control, intelligent character replacement, and CSS hooks.
  • In-Series – I was thinking to use this to connect posts that I didn’t write as a series originally. I use related posts but this might be a way to hand-pick posts and turn them into a series.
  • Graceful Pull-Quotes – Allows you to make pull-quotes without duplicating content. If the plugin is disabled the pull-quotes disappear seamlessly.
  • Table of Contents Creator – Table of Contents Creator automatically generates a highly customizable dynamic site wide table of contents that is always up-to-date.
  • WP Table of Contents – Add a table of contents to your post. This would be lovely for people who write long posts.
  • Add to All – Add content to your header, footer, etc and keep it even if you change blog themes.
  • Front-end Editor – Edit your typos without going back into the Admin screen.
  • FD Word Statistics – Shows word and sentence counts plus a readability analysis of the post currently being edited using three different readability measurements.

Just for fun – not about writing.

  • Quiz – An alternative to word verification, give commenters a question to answer instead.

Dynamic WP: 11 Useful WordPress Plugins for Wrtiers – These may be useful but they are not free. Some of them I didn’t think were useful when I read down the list but I’m adding the link here as a resource.

Working on Excerpts, Thumbnails and Teasers

I’m back to figuring out how to get my images to load with excerpted post with this blog (running Thesis) as easily as they do with Clear Line on my other blogs.

With Clear Line I just add the image into the post, click to make it the featured image and then click to add it to the post. That is all. Clear Line takes care of all the behind the scenes thumbnail, excerpt/teaser stuff. I love it. The image is sized for the excerpted post without me typing in a thing extra. I’d like to know how it works so I could make it work here. So far I’ve made progress, but it is still wonky compared to Clear Line.

I still like Thesis, this is not bashing the theme,  just looking for a solution to a small problem.

So far I’ve used two plugins to try to get where I am with Clear Line via Thesis. The results are imperfect. But, at least the images are showing up now. Also, the Regenerate plugin went back and fixed the old images (a great thing with over 1,000 posts here).

Thumbnail for Excerpts

allow easily, without any further work, to add thumbnails wherever you show excerpts (archive page, feed…).

Regenerate Thumbnails

allows you to regenerate the thumbnails for all of your image attachments. This is very handy if you’ve changed any of your thumbnail dimensions (via Settings → Media) after previously uploading images.

Addendum: I ended up adding some custom code and now things are working, not exactly as I planned but better than they were yesterday. Using this code the thumbnails come up without me adding extra code, typing the image URL in or anything else. I just pick the image I want as the featured image. I can set the image size in the WordPress Settings Media section. The code I’m using includes CSS to add space between the image and the text – that was something I couldn’t find at all but really wanted too.

Addendum 2: I found a site called Thesis Customization and a post about using thumbnails on Thesis which suggested Thumbnail for Excerpts AND explained how to use it with CSS code to modify it. This is what I am now using.

I also found Web Training Wheels which finally helped me understand what I needed to do to use thumbnails on Thesis. Even though I know what I was doing wrong before I’m sticking with the customization I picked up from Thesis Customization. It’s simpler than remembering not to click “Add Image to Post”.

Resources for Clear Line:

How to Write a Blog Review

If you’re ready to go forth and fearlessly give an honest review of another blog… you need a list to guide you along the way. It helps to have a plan with points which can guide you through the review. You don’t have to mention each point in your final written review but they keep you on track during the actual review.

Do you want a blog reviewed? Go to UP to the D.L. for a review of your blog by experienced blogging women.

Design

  • Is site navigation simple and natural? Do you have to search for buttons, links or archives?
  • Is there any kind of error, script or advertising that makes the site drag while it loads?
  • Does the site use pop up windows, flash, sound or video files which cause the site to load slowly or freeze up?
  • Is the site cluttered in the posting area, the sidebar or the surrounding space?
  • Is there some whitespace to let the reader’s eye have a break from text and images?
  • If the blog uses a premade theme/ template is it obvious or has the blogger made a few customizations so that it feels unique and interesting?
  • Does the site make use of the footer, include links back to the top of the site, contact information, links to other posts which may be of interest, etc.?
  • Were the comments easy to find and easy to use?
  • Is the overall blog design current (versus outdated looking) engaging, energizing or inviting?
  • Is the title of the site clear and easily read, is it located at the top of the site where people would expect to find it?
  • Is the CSS on the site working or do you see any images or text which are cut off or do not otherwise fit on the screen space or space which they are placed?
  • Do all the links in the navigation bar work and does the blog make good use of a navigation bar under the header or places elsewhere easy found and workable?
  • How many times do you scroll down to reach the bottom of the blog? Is there enough to read or too much?
  • Is there something about the design, the overall look of the blog that you especially like and would comment on in the review?

Navigation

  • Does the blog use breadcrumbs so you can select the category to see related posts or skip to the home page, etc.?
  • Can you get from one post to the next without returning to the home page each time?
  • Do the links, on at least the most recent posts, all work?
  • Does the blog redirect to another site?
  • Is there a link back to the home page in the footer and at the top of the blog which is easily found on any page being viewed?
  • Are categories and/ or tags used well?

Focus

  • Is the focus/ purpose of the site easily understood before you go looking for more information or even read a post?
  • Does the site seem to reach it’s intended audience, is it appealing to the target readers?
  • Does it have relevant and current posts and information on the topic?
  • Does the blog use a subtitle and does it make sense with the content and style of the blog.

Content

  • Do the blog posts attract comments/ reader response?
  • Does the content of the site stand out enough from the rest of the site?
  • Is it easy to read the blog posts, do the colours and fonts work?
  • As you begin reading posts is there a post that you especially enjoy or find useful?
  • Does the writer have a voice or style?
  • How is the site for standard spelling, grammar and punctuation?
  • Does the writer need to spend more time proofreading to catch typos?
  • Are the blog posts proactive, give the reader something to think about or come back for?
  • Does the site bring old posts up or related posts which can be read by readers once they finish the current post?
  • Does the site have any broken image files?
  • When graphics are used in a post are they effective, do they go with the post, make sense in their use?
  • Does the blogger tackle a large topic or idea and push it all into one post? Could they use this as a series or a post continued instead?
  • Does the blogger have enough space between paragraphs and ideas in their posts or when you look at a post is it a solid wall of text and not reader friendly?
  • Is the blog sticking to it’s focus or wandering too far off? Are there niche areas which could be used or have been underexplored so far?
  • Knowing many readers will skim posts, are the posts written in the pyramid/ news format?
  • Does the site mix up the format of posts, do they have some lists, some bullet points, some quotes, a bold line to highlight a point or a subheader, maybe even some coloured text or highlighted text in a post?
  • Do the headlines grab reader attention while also letting the reader know what the post will be about?

Site Admin.

  • Is there an About page which clearly explains the purpose and/ or niche of the site?
  • Does the About page explain why the blogger is an authority on the topic with their experience and interests listed?
  • Can you find the site archive and is it easy to navigate?
  • Is there at least one way to contact the blogger, other than leaving a comment on a blog post?
  • Is the blog software up to date or a security risk?
  • Does the site use Creative Commons or some form of copyrights on the blog?
  • Is there too much comment moderation, possibly limiting comments being made?
  • Is there a way to search the site for specific content, using a Search or through categories, tags or an index of content?
  • Does the site use meta tags for title, keywords, description, etc.?
  • When images are used do they belong to the blogger or is credit given when they belong to someone else?
  • Does the blogger give link backs/ proper credit to content they cut and paste from other sites/ sources?
  • If guest posts are used or if the site is looking for writers to contribute are there clear guidelines to what is expected and what the writer will get back from it?
  • Does the blogger have an author resource box at the end of each post, introducing the blogger and the site (a good thing when a post is linked from another blog)?
  • Does the blogger have a posting schedule and is it one which they are able to stick to?
  • Is there a blogroll (list of links), if so, is there some order to the links so readers could know what to expect when they click them?

Social Media/ Networking

  • Are you able to connect to the blogger through social media links like Facebook, StumbleUpon and Twitter?
  • Does the site syndicate, use an RSS feed?
  • Does the writer interact with readers in the blog comments?
  • Does the site use other media to interact or connect with readers: forum, podcast, etc.?
  • If the blogger has other sites, activities like contests or regular events like a weekly podcast are these links and promotions found on the site? Do the links work?

Branding

  • Is there a theme with the blog that carries through to different elements and any social media sites the blogger uses?
  • Would you know this was the same blogger if you found them on Twitter or another social media site or network? Does the site use an avatar in comments or elsewhere?

Finally…

  • Did you learn anything while doing the review?
  • Maybe you found a new site, a new plugin or social media?
  • Would you recommend this blog, link to them or follow them on Twitter?
  • Does the blog feel fresh, like it is still growing and evolving or does it fall a bit flat or feel stagnant even?

Fixed my WordPress List Formatting Glitch

I’ve made a few list posts, mostly bullet style. The problem was the formatting, all my points were crammed together in a solid block of text. It made the post kind of unsightly and not very easy (or desirable) to read. If I tried to add a space it would try to make it my next bullet. So the choice was to leave it as a block of text or have extra bullets between each point. Neither was a great option. So, this morning I began looking for a way to fix it.

It turned out the problem was my Thesis theme. I spent the morning trying to find a solution to fix it with a WordPress plugin (thinking it must be a common problem and a glitch they had overlooked in the last update) and then realized I was looking at the wrong software. Once I started looking into Thesis I made progress. Here is the code I added to my custom CSS in Thesis. It worked! The margin-bottom is now set to leave a 1em space between each point.

Luv Your Blog Lately?

Have you visited Blogs We Luv? I was interviewed at Blogs We Luv for my personal blog, back in 2008.

Put together your own answers to the ten questions and send it in for your own interview. Here are the questions so you can get thinking right away:

  • Describe your blog in five sentences or less.
  • Link us to one post from your blog that best defines who you are.
  • What sets you apart from other bloggers?
  • When and how did you first discover blogging?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve related to blogging or the internet?
  • Name one plugin, blogging widget, or service that you can’t live without.
  • If you could choose anyone, living or dead, to write a guest post for your blog, who would it be and why?
  • How has blogging made you a better person?
  • What are your tips for becoming a better blogger?
  • Name one great blog that you read on a regular basis. What makes it unique?

Here are my answers:

Ten Questions with Laura of That Grrl

1. Describe your blog in five sentences or less.
A scrapbook/ junk drawer of things I create, write, think or just find interesting. Rural exploration photos when I have been out taking photos. Cartoon drawings to illustrate the blog mostly every day. Basically it is things I think of when I’m in the shower. Conversations I have with myself. Ideas I find somewhere else and want to keep track of to explore further. It’s made of stuff I love, stuff that bothers me and just stuff in general. Kind of like life.

2. Link us to one post from your blog that best defines who you are.
Love the World – Doesn’t define who I am. There is no one post that does that. But it has some of the elements of who I am. I think there is too much in my head for any one post to contain it all.

3. What sets you apart from other bloggers?
I don’t especially want to be set apart from other bloggers. With all the other bloggers out there I’m sure there are several doing the same stuff I am. I post for myself. I still feel the passion for web publishing that I first did over ten years ago when I began my first weblog. I like the ideas of diy web publishing, free journalism, creative CSS and HTML and having the freedom to do it all my way.

4. When and how did you first discover blogging?
Over ten years ago. I almost remember some of the first blogs I read. They were still new in 1996, most people had a webpage up if anything. Blogs were software which made keeping a site updated easier as your newest work would show up on top of the older work. They weren’t all journal-like then either. People who knew code were doing wonders. The rest were trying to learn from the best of them. I remember being awed and amazed by those who created blogs back then, they really were feats of artistic and geeky genius. I was working more on ASCII art, newsgroups and IRC than blogging. My first blog was on Blogger though, I liked it even way back then.

5. What is your biggest pet peeve related to blogging or the internet?
Biggest peeve are the ads (and splogs which followed the ads). If anything is killing blogs it is monetizing and seo obsessed people who don’t really create anything. All too often it is recycled, stolen or mass contributed content which lacks anything personal at that point. Splogs are like a huge clog in the drain of the kitchen sink and they spoil blogging by making it harder to find real blogs that would awe and amaze as they did once upon a time.

6. Name one plugin, blogging widget, or service that you can’t live without.
Nothing is coming to mind. But it’s always the widget that you don’t even think about which is most essential and taken for granted. I couldn’t live without Blogger itself. I love finding good avatar making sites, Blessthischick.com is my favourite at the moment. I like Firefox though lately it hasn’t been keeping me logged in anywhere as it used to do. I like StumbleUpon and Flickr too, both services.

7. If you could choose anyone, living or dead, to write a guest post for your blog, who would it be and why?
No one. What would be the point of having someone else write a post? It’s a personal blog, a way for me to hear myself think as much as a way to create something for others to view. To have someone else post would turn it into something else and then it wouldn’t be me writing for me any more. I’d have to start another new one. 🙂

8. How has blogging made you a better person?
That’s easy. Blogging kept me from going insane when I was alone in a foreign country and getting divorced. Not sure if it really made me a better person but it really did keep me from feeling completely alone and isolated with just all kinds of thoughts and feelings spinning in my head. It gave me focus and a place to put my feelings out there and get feedback from a few blog friends so that I felt someone was listening to me even if I was still in a room all by myself.

9. What are your tips for becoming a better blogger?
That depends if you really are a blogger or someone using blog software. If you really have the genuine interest in creating something go for it. Try new things and don’t worry about the opinions of others. You should be doing this for yourself. Making your own footsteps into the virtual world. Don’t go too far into the idea of writing for an audience, write for yourself or it soon becomes meaningless. You get burnt out when you really don’t have anything of yourself there any more. If you focus on traffic and link backs to your blog instead of adding colour, ideas and thoughts you won’t have anything of your real self invested in it any more. Readers won’t find that interesting either.

Work on keeping your blog easy to navigate, organized, not too cluttered and keep it to a simple, clean layout. Also, make sure your colours and the font size don’t strain your reader’s eyeballs right out of their sockets. If you want to post every day but feel stuck a few days try a new way of expressing yourself: draw something, post a photo, a poem, write about a new hobby you are interested in, take a day off and do something new to write about, anything else you can think of that will fit into a blog post. Just like the old days when I wrote penpal letters and would think of new things you could fit into an envelope and mail acros the oceans, a blog is a format you can fit a lot of things into if you put your mind to it.

10. Name one great blog that you read on a regular basis. What makes it unique?
Had to think about it for a bit. It’s a tie between The Useless Men and Blog U now. The Useless Men are fun to read but Blog U has been a great source for blog innovations especially when there was something specific I wanted to change or fix.

Personal Choices in Weblog Templates

How often do you change or customize your blog’s template (theme, your word of choice)? I find there is only so much I want to change through tweaking and the rest I hope to find in the template I pick. There are certain things I always look for, mainly to do with readability. I like a clean cut look with a font that looks pleasant and is easy to read. Many templates seem to have tiny fonts lately. I don’t see how a site focused on being content rich can pick a small font and think that is ok.

What do you look for in a blog template?

Here is my list, likely there are some things I will miss but it should give you an idea.

– Clear header, shows the site title and doesn’t blend in with the rest of the site.

– White space so the text doesn’t sink into the design.

– Dated entries. What is the point of making updates if no one can see your blog is being kept active.

–  One sidebar only. I tried 3 and even four but it just gets too cluttered. You have to be bold and cut out some of that stuff you are keeping in sidebars. Move it or lose it.

– A footer that lets you stick some of the clutter away. But don’t use it as a catch all. Everything down there is pulling down the load time for your blog. Is it really worth keeping?

– Clear definining points between posts. This includes having comments be easy to find wtih the blog entry they should be with. Some blogs require you to go back to the newest post to figure out where one entry divides from another and which comment link is the one with the post you were reading.

– Simple, clear font which looks pleasant on the page. I like a font with a little roundness but not to the point of being bloated looking. That may only make sense to me. 🙂

– A layout I can easily adapt by changing backgrounds and other things with the bit of CSS I know or can look up in a book.

– Not a lot of colours. I think I outgrow those first. Black and white may be really traditional but when I see it on another blog I always like it. So I try to stick to that even though I really love colour, especially red.

– I like being able to add links just under the header but it’s not essential. An about section or a place to put a short description under the title or near it. People are getting blind to the content in sidebars so your most essential information (what your blog is about) needs to be in a place where it is very visible.

– A border of whitespace around the blog itself. I like to have the option of adding a background image to fancy it up for special occasions.

– Something that doesn’t look really boxy. I know CSS works in sections and measurements but I prefer the template to look like it isn’t so regimental.