You’ve got your blog going, either as a free enterprise, or as a paid domain. You have amazing content and great pictures and a following of loyal minions…I mean…subscribers…who cling to your every word.
But your site still looks kinda bland. Right?
Sure it does. That’s because you haven’t explored Plugins (also called Widgets).
Plugins are the spices of the blogging world. They should be used carefully, and sparingly, for maximum effect. Excessive use will overpower the blog and turn it into a kitschy online circus which nobody will take seriously!
So, how do you use these things properly?
What Are Plugins?
Plugins, also called widgets, are small, additional accessories and features which you can put on your blog to improve the quality of your website, and improve the visitor experience.
They range from the simple to the entertaining, to the useful, to the ridiculous! Great care should be taken in deciding which, and how many plugins you should put on your blog.
As I said: Plugins are like spices – if you use too many, they overpower your blog and what it’s about, and the blog becomes more about the frilly bits that are added onto it, rather than the actual content.
With this in mind, you should start with plugins which are useful on a practical level, first.
Where Do You Find Plugins?
Exactly where the plugins are located does depend a bit on which web editing platform you are using.
You can do a search on Google (or the search engine of your choice) and download them.
But typically, the plugins or widgets are usually found in their own menu around the back of your blog, in the administration panel/dashboard area.
You may have to hunt for them in that administration area (they’re sometimes hidden inside another menu or dropdown), but you’ll know them when you see them.
Once you do find them, plugins are sometimes (not always) organised by categories, depending on what area of your blog they are intended to enhance or improve. These categories could be ratings, visitor tallies, contact-details, colour-schemes, and so-forth.
Plugins are usually divided into FREE plugins and PAID plugins (these are usually divided, again, by category), so make sure you read the headings and titles of each category before clicking willy-nilly on every single fancy plugin that you think you’d like for your blog!
Now that you know what plugins are and where to find them, you need to start selecting a few. Here, you should exercise both restraint, and caution.
Some plugins are manufactured and released by the company or developer that created the software that your blog uses and runs on. These are generally safe to use on your blog without fear of anything untoward happening.
However, many plugins are created by hobbyists trying to make a few bucks, or who want to share their creative abilities with the online world. These plugins are not always compatible with your blog, and it’s these plugins that you should be careful with.
Usually, user-created plugins are tested and certified by the web-host that looks after your blog. Make sure that you only pick user-created plugins which have been tested, and which have high ratings from other satisfied users.
Loading your blog with untested plugins can cause software problems and mean that you’ll have to reset your blog to default in order to remove the subsequent issues that come with using untested or uncertified plugins.
Having found where the plugins hide in your blog’s back-area, and having selected a few to use in your blog (being sure to check their compatibility, first!), you now need to install them onto your blog.
This is generally a straightforward procedure, and instructions are generally included along with the selected plugin. Once the plugin has been installed on your blog, you then need to customise it to your tastes.
There will be a menu in your blog’s administrative page where you will be able to see all the plugins already installed on your blog. There will also be boxes available (or spaces, depending on the platform you are using), which show which installed plugins are currently in-use, and where they have been placed on your blog’s homepage.
Simply select, or click and drag the new plugins (which should be off to the side somewhere if you are using WordPress) into the relevant boxes, and arrange them as you see fit. Then go to the homepage of your blog to check the results.
Some plugins come with extra features and customisable effects and options; be sure to check these out so that you can make the most out of your plugins.
Once you’ve mastered how to select, install and make the most use out of the plugins or widgets that your blog has to offer, then your website will start looking much more interesting, engaging and professional. You’ll be able to do things like see what ratings your posts have, how many visitors come to your blog each day, and which postings, pages and categories are the most eagerly received and regularly viewed by your growing number of visitors and subscribers.
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If you’re looking for more general information on how to set up a blog, I've written a series of guest blogs for West Island Digital about it. You can check them out here at the West Island Digital blog.
If you want to have a look at a fully-functioning paid-domain blog...with plugins...you can visit my own blog, found at www.throughouthistory.com.
While you're there, take a look at some of my blog articles about antiques I've found.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER: Shahan Cheong writes guest posts for West Island Digital on a regular basis, describing his battle with and eventual victory over the technology he uses in his business and blog site, www.throughouthistory.com.
Shahan is a history and antiques buff with a wide-ranging and varied interest in different time periods and the collectibles from them. He enjoys writing about his finds and describing the process he uses to get the pieces working again.
If you have a question about an antique, you can contact Shahan at firstname.lastname@example.org For a small fee, he will research the history of your antique and provide a short report about it.