6 Great WordPress Plugins Behind CSSnewbie

Published April 28, 2008 by CSS Newbies.

Maintaining a site as complex as CSSnewbie requires a bit more than just fancy CSS footwork. It also relies on a Content Management System (CMS) – WordPress, in this case – and a healthy dose of plugins to extend that CMS’s capabilities. Here are six of the many WordPress plugins that help keep CSSnewbie growing and thriving.

cforms II

The cforms plugin helps you build complex contact forms and embed them in your WordPress site – all from the WordPress back-end. I use this plugin on my contact page, and my advertising page. The plugin is amazingly customizable, both from within WordPress and by manipulating the CSS the plugin uses. Although, I have to admit I haven’t done a lot of modifications to the forms’ CSS yet.

Comment Relish

Comment Relish is a great way to encourage interaction between your site’s readers and authors. The concept is pretty simple: each time a new person comments on your website, this plugin automatically sends them an email of your devising. You could theoretically use this plugin to inform your new community members of just about anything – a new e-book, perhaps, or other sites you run that they might be interested in visiting. I’m currently using it to thank my users for their comment and encourage them to comment again (and subscribe to my feed, if they haven’t done so already).

Using this plugin has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. Many commenters have responded to the email to tell me they appreciate the articles I’ve produced and to show me the work they’re producing in CSS. If you’d like to see the plugin in action, just leave a comment, and you should get an email at the address you specify fairly quickly.

Google XML Sitemaps

My content is only useful if people are able to find it, and search engines are the number one way most people start looking for new information. Thus, it pays to make sure your site is being properly indexed by search engines. One of the easiest ways to ensure you show up in the world’s most popular search engine (Google, for those counting) is to use the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.

This handy-dandy little plugin automatically creates an XML-based file describing your site’s content that you can then submit to Google. Once you tell Google where your sitemap resides, they’ll use it to ensure they’re fully indexing your website. And every time you post a new article, the plugin updates your sitemap. Organic Google searches are a growing segment of my inbound traffic, and I have no doubt that this plugin has a fair bit to do with that growth.

Redirection

Of course, all the search results in the world won’t do a bit of good if you reorganize your website and don’t leave a forwarding address for your users. About a month ago, I rethought my article permalink structure – I decided having the article’s “primary category” in the permalink wasn’t useful, as most articles belonged to several categories, and I didn’t consider one any more “primary” than the others. Unfortunately (in a way), Google had already indexed my site, and people were visiting from other sites via several soon-to-be-incorrect links. That’s when the Redirection plugin saved my rear.

All I had to do was describe to the plugin what my old permalink structure looked like, and what my new one now looked like. It took care of all of the forwarding stuff in the back end. I was worried the process of setting up a redirect file would take me most of the afternoon… but it ended up taking me all of ten minutes.

SEO Meta Editor Advanced

And while we’re on the topic of making sure your users can find your content, a little search engine optimization (SEO) can make a big difference, too. WordPress already does a pretty good job with SEO just by providing clean, well-written code in their included templates and making “friendly” URLs the default for all new installations. However, there’s more that can be done in terms of metadata, and for that, I turn to the SEO Meta Editor Advanced plugin.

The plugin adds a couple of extra fields to each post that I write, allowing me to specify a group of meta keywords and a description. The keywords help search engines categorize my articles and increase the chances of someone finding the information they want. Search engines also use the “description” field to describe your pages instead of just grabbing an excerpt from your article that may or may not be descriptive. This is particularly useful for someone like me, because I can be a bit wordy at times (this time, for example). The description field ensures that people coming in off search engines get a good, concise summary of the article they’re clicking through to.

Snippet Highlight

The fundamental purpose behind CSSnewbie is to help people learn more about CSS. To do that, I often turn to code snippets to explain concepts or describe techniques. However, a snippet of code all by itself can be difficult to read – especially once the snippet is more than a few lines long. The Snippet Highlight plugin helps out by colorizing my code examples. It’s what turns this:

p {
	font-weight: bold;
	color: #333;
	text-transformation: uppercase;
}

Into this:

p {
	font-weight: bold;
	color: #333;
	text-transformation: uppercase;
}

The plugin can also add line numbers to your code snippets, but I personally found them a little distracting, so I modified the plugin’s CSS to exclude the line numbers.

These are just six of the many plugins that help keep CSSnewbie running – but these six I tend to rely upon more heavily than the others. I’m constantly trying out new plugins in the background to see if they could make the site more useful. If you know of any plugins that you think would be a good match for the site, please let me know about them in the comments!

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