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WordPress Plugins wot I use

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It’s pretty easy to go overboard here. Don’t get carried away (oh, the irony). Every extra plugin is extra work for your web server and database to do before it serves each page to each client. A caching plugin will alleviate this somewhat. Some plugins in areas such as admin and behind-the-scenes management won’t affect performance much, or at all.

I have tried plenty. My current favourites amongst the somewhat less-famous plug-ins are

  • WP-minify is a good speed-up tool. It shrinks and combines, then compresses (gZips) your JavaScript & CSS files into one file for each which speeds up page loads by having less http requests and less data to transfer. Some plugins don’t play well with this model so sometimes you have to exclude a few files. Cases like this are why you need a sandpit site (or a thick hide) to experiment a little to see what breaks and how to fix it. Do your homework
  • wp Super Cache should be no stranger to anyone who runs a self-hosted WordPress blog. I found this to be the most plug-and-play of the caching plugins. I didn’t go through too much torture-testing when I was looking but it sure works for me. Response times in my Pingdom panel halved as soon as I installed it. It seems to play well with everything I have
  • another speed-up plugin, particularly if you have a lot of images in a long page is jquery-image-lazy-loading. It waits for the user to scroll down to an image on your page before it is fetched from the server. I had some issues with it and WPtouch and wp-minify. I posted my solution to that in the WordPress forums. Once I got those things resolved it works like a charm, even on an iPhone, which is handy because any time & bandwidth saved on a mobile device is a good idea.

Other plugins I use which are for functionality rather than speed, aka" I could also have called this section Slow-Down Tips."

  • Smart-404 catches 404 errors (links to non-existent pages, posts etc.) and tries to make it happen for you. If it finds a likely match it will redirect to that page. If it doesn’t find an obvious answer it will load a page with search results of the link the user was trying to find and a ready-to-go site search. In either case it is a much nicer experience than "404 – page not found"
  • Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu makes getting around your admin page a lot nicer. It also gives you more working space by moving most of the menus you’d find down the left-hand side to a toolbar at the top of the page
  • SEO Smart links grabs key words and turns them into links around your site. It’s a great plugin to make up for all the internal links you keep forgetting to add. You can add phrases to the list and the links just magically appear. Great for SEO and stickiness but I suspect it could get expensive in terms of performance so perhaps a caching plug-in is a good partner for this
  • Subscribe to Comments could keep readers interested in a post they have commented on and keep a conversation alive for longer. A couple of good companion plugins to this are WP View Subscriber info (too see who has subscribed to what) and Subscribe to Comments Now to allow users to subscribe by email to a comment thread without having to leave a comment themselves first. These are basically for the RSS-unsavvy.
  • WordPress Database Backup is a must, really. You’re mad if you don’t have some sort of regular backup routine in place. This one emails me a compressed backup of my database every week
  • WP Ajax Edit Comments is for people like me who can’t type of always forget something when they leave a comment. Now you can go back and fix it. It even works with wpTouch, the iPhone theme.  There’s a paid-for version – I just use the demo for now [EDIT} – I upgraded to the paid version. It’s pretty slick and the developer’s support is very good. You can find it at http://www.ajaxeditcomments.com/ You need to tweak WP-minify to get it working properly. (see below)
  • Yet another Related Posts automatically finds related posts – handy once again for SEO & stickiness
  • WPtouch is the same iPhone theme that WordPress.com uses. It works just fine with all of my plugins.
  • WP-Prowl sends instant push notifications to your iPhone for a user-selectable variety of new comments, posts, pages, updates etc. You can also tailor what the messages will look like and include links in them. Very handy. If you’re running WPtouch then make sure you set the push notifications in WP-Prowl and untick all the relevant boxes in WPtouch. This plugin has a wider assortment of settings and notifications than WPtouch.
  • WordPress Mobile Edition serves up very lightweight sites for Nokia & other non-touch phones. While it appears to have been abandoned (no updates since June 2009, Not much support in the forums) it is still, IMHO, a much lighter and less-bloated alternative to the mysteriously more popular WordPress Mobile Pack. I tried them both at http://ready.mobi/launch.jsp (good site for testing your mobile format in non-iPhone formats). Mobile Edition was much lighter and it also gave me a more relevant page. Mobile Pack based its home page on my desktop theme’s home page and was pretty-much empty an empty page but it was a lot, lot larger download. #FAIL. Also, Mobile Edition is supported by Super-cache
  • Dave’s WordPress Live Search starts searching as you type. For busy sites this may increase your traffic but I don’t think that will be a concern for me in the near future

Believe it or not, all of the above plugins(and more – 26 in total at the time of writing) seem to co-operate quite nicely **Works on My Machine**. Please let me know if you find otherwise on my site.

[EDIT] Here are the tweaks to get WP Ajax Edit Comments working well with WP Minify, even on the iPhone. Replace yoursite.com with the path to the relevant places.

JavaScript files to exclude from minify (line delimited)

CSS files to exclude from minify (line delimited)

[Edit May 3, 2010] – I removed all of the exclusions for ajax-edit-comments and all seems well wp-minify version 0.8]

[Edit Oct 13, 2010 ]– I’ve stopped using wp-minify for now. To really get the best out of it you need to focus on only minifying a core set of of CSS & JavaScript files, otherwise you’re simply downloading a new set for each page-type in your blog. This is because CSS &/or JS may vary depending on the page. Any change in the contents will generate a new minified collection of them for that specific page’s contents. I’ve decided to take the initial hit on the first view with an empty cache and rely on client-side caching to keep the traffic down for subsequent page views.

I find using Safari is easy way to simulate a few different user-agents to test mobile themes. The option is per-tab and it is in the dropdown menu – Develop – User Agent. Just enter "Nokia" in the "other" Section. Don’t forget the Capital N – User Agents seem to be case-sensitive for the Mobile Edition plugin user-agent list. Use the Web Inspector to see what is going down the wire. Chrome has a web-inspector too. Firebug is still my favourite but changing user-agents in Firefox is tricky. The advantage of using Safari or Chrome or whatever as an alternative test-browser is that you are probably not logged into your site in that browser so you will see what yer average visitor will see.

Hope this helps.

Written by CADbloke

October 13, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Wot I use

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