Wednesday Sep 09, 2009

Getting Started with Wordpress Customization

So you have a brand new Wordpress installation and would like to start blogging. There are several tutorials available on that topic. However it's important to customize your blog as it reflects your style / personality. Wordpress official documentation is extensive, very nicely organized and provide great tips on how to customize your blogs. But it can take a while to go through the docs and customize look-and-feel of your blog.

This blog entry explains how this blog was customized from a fresh Wordpress installation.

  • Pick a theme that you like and customize it. This blog started with "Classic" theme and added pages as relevant. This is totally a personal preference as I like the header + right navigation bar + body format.
  • Add your picture and edit the "About" page so that readers know you.
  • Customize sidebar
    • Prefer static toolbar by editing "sidebar.php" instead of dynamic toolbar created using the "Appearance" -> "Widgets".
    • Add "search" dialog box
    • Add Twitter widget (choose "Yes" for "Loop old results", explained here). May not be relevant if you don't tweet, but seems like everybody is these days ;-)
    • Add a ClustrMap widget to monitor geographical spread of readership.
    • Total Page hits / page views on sidebar + on each post (How ?)
  • Installed the following Wordpress plugins to begin with:
    • Google XML Sitemaps - Creates a Google Sitemaps compliant XML file and submits the blog content to Google, Bing and Ask.com. It took 1.64 seconds for the first creation and used 12.75 MB.
    • Sociable - Adds social media button to your posts
    • Google Analyticator plugin - Adds Google Analytics script to monitor traffic. Even though Google Analytics capture geographical distribution as well but I like the ClustrMap widget that can be displayed on the nav bar. Do Google Analytics provide that kind of widget ?
    • Search Plugin for Firefox and IE - Creates a Firefox and IE search plug-in. Install the plugin, go to "Settings", "Search Browser" to generate the code and insert in "header.php". Add a customized search page by copying "search.php" from the "default" theme. Show the summarized result with clickable links to the content.
    • Smart 404 plugin - Creates a clean and simple page with a friendly error message to a reader who might have somehow reached a broken link or mistyped the URL. Add/Edit a 404.php as explained here. It's important to not loose your reader and instead gracefully guide them to the next steps.
    • YARPP - Shows a list of related entries based on a unique algorithm for display on your blog and RSS feeds. A templating feature allows customization of the display.
    • WP Greet Box - Show a different greeting message to your new visitors
      depending on their referrer URL.
  • Some more customizations
    • Add pre/code styles to "styles.css" for code formatting. Now simple <pre> and <code> will format the code nicely.
    • Create hierarchical categories so that readers can read the topic of their choice
    • Add Next and Previous links to each page (<?php posts_nav_link(); ?>) and each blog post (<?php previous_post(); ?> <?php next_post(); ?>) as described here.
    • Personalize the page using a favicon as described here.
    • Change the default permalink format from "http://example.com/?p=N" to "http://example.com/year/month/day/post-name" as described here. This makes your blog entry URLs search-engine friendly.
  • Editing
    • If you prefer editing online, disable the "Visual rich editor" as it strips all the paragraph formatting from a nicely-formatted HTML page. It's primarily meant for newbies and I like better control over the HTML formatting so prefer editing it manually.
    • Choose a blog editor client. It seems Wordpress adds line breaks (<br>) if the text in a line is not wrapped. Qumana was chosen as the blog editor after trying nvu, Kompozer, Ecto, MarsEdit, Smultron, and HTML Tidy. Loving it's WYSIWYG capabilities, transition between WYSIWYG and source view is seamless, ease of cross-posting to multiple blogs and intuitive interface.
  • Join Technorati (if not already) and Claim your blog.
The beauty of Wordpress is that a myriad of customizations is possible but the tips above provide a common set of configuration.

Any other obvious tips that are missing ?

Technorati: wordpress blog milestogo

Monday Aug 31, 2009

This blog is moving!


I've been blogging for little over four years now. The first blog entry was on Apr 8, 2005 onĀ weblogs.java.net/blog/arungupta. A new blog was born on Aug 2, 2005 on blogs.sun.com/arungupta. While java.net blog was focused exclusively on technical entries, blogs.sun.com also talked a lot about personal stuff as well. Both blogs.sun.com and java.net teams have done a stupendous job providing my first ever blogging platform ever. I learned a lot during the process and will always remain thankful to them for that. blogs.sun.com provide a fair amount of look-and-feel customization and java.net somewhat basic (although it seems to be changing). But here are few things that I never encountered being an end-user:
  • What does it involve to manage and administer a blog server ?
  • How to leverage the "community innovation" with pluggability, extensibility, themes, and other stuff in the blogging world ?
  • How to have complete control (including hosting, domain, installation, upgrade, etc) over your blog ?
  • What issues are involved in ensuring high availability of a blog ?
  • What are the "joys" of running a blog on personal domain ?
  • Who knows what future has in store ? It's easier to deal with uncertainty this way ;-)
So taking these issues into consideration, I've decided that my primary blog going forward will be blog.arungupta.me. That does not mean that I'll stop publishing content to "blogs.sun.com/arungupta" or "weblogs.java.net/blog/arungupta" immediately. But it's going to be expensive (mostly in terms of resources) to maintain multiple blogs. I can ensure that all the content will be published on blog.arungupta.me first, and slowly exclusively there only.

Yep, it's hosted on a personal domain running Wordpress 2.8 using GoDaddy for domain and Wordpress hosting. Got a good deal for multi-year Wordpress hosting with them and have been happy and satisfied with their customer service so far. A comparison between different Wordpress hosting services is also useful. For the new blog, I've customized a theme (more on that in a subsequent blog) and added few plug-ins to have a nice user experience.

All the content (blog entries, resources, and comments) from "blogs.sun.com/arungupta" is migrated to this blog and is live for the past few days. There is very little and now stale content (dated Apr 8 - Aug 1 2005) on "weblogs.java.net/blog/arungupta" that is not migrated to the new blog. Other than that, you'll continue to experience the same richness, diversity, and depth of blog entries on the new blog.

Here is what you need to do to ensure a continued delivery of the content:
  • If you subscribe to "http://feeds.feedburner.com/MilesToGo", then you are taken care of because the underlying blog has been updated to reflect the change.
  • If you subscribe to "http://blogs.sun.com/arungupta/feed/entries/atom" or "http://blogs.sun.com/arungupta/feed/entries/rss" then update the URL to "http://feeds.feedburner.com/MilesToGo".
  • If you subscribe to "http://blogs.sun.com/arungupta/feed/comments/atom" or "http://blogs.sun.com/arungupta/feed/comments/rss" then update the URL to "http://blog.arungupta.me/comments/feed/".
  • If you read the blog on web, then change your bookmarks to "http://blog.arungupta.me".
  • For IE and Firefox users, you can add a custom search engine to search this blog by right-clicking on the top-left corner in Search Engines/Providers drop-down and selecting "Miles to go ...". Make sure the photograph in the text matches the one displayed in the top-right corner of new blog.
Feel free to drop a comment on this blog with your thoughts / suggestions on how to make the experience better.

Elated by the joys of running a blog on a personal domain, visit at blog.arungupta.me :)

Technorati: milestogo bsc java.net wordpress

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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.


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