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In a recent post, We touted the benefits of hacking WordPress over the installation of plugins. One of these benefits is that plugins can cause your blog to become bloated. Among other issues, a bloated blog takes longer to load. With the blogosphere being saturated with content on virtually any topic you can think of, making your blog as visitor friendly as possible should be one of your primary design goals.

While I certainly promote the use of hacks over plugins, I know that part of the beauty of the plugin is so that a blogger can create a fully-functional site without having to get their hands dirty with the code that drives their blogging software. Instead of looking at hacking the code, let’s take a look at a few plugins that can help build a more usable blog for your visitors.

Usability

The best definition of usability I have seen comes from the Base One Agency who states that “usability refers to how simple it is for customers to perform the desired actions on a website. Good usability can improve the conversion rate of a web site.” So in addition to how long it takes to load a WordPress blog, to achieve usability, you would need to look first at what the desired goals of your blog are. Is it to drive sales? Then your content needs to establish trust among your readers. For a more detailed look into the psychology behind usability, have a look at our previous post that covered Webpage Usability.

The Plug-ins

In the following sections, we will take a look at five different plugins that will help increase the level of usability for your blog.

Akismet

Installing Akisment and including your API key from WordPress helps keep spammers at bay. A blog with no spam is a blog that people can trust without having to worry about the comments being loaded with links to garbage.
Akismet

Subscribe to comments

Provide a checkbox for your users to select whether or not they want to be notified via email when someone has commented on your blog. Of course, they need to comment in order to use this but it does wonders to encourage the building of a community around your blog.
Subscribe to comments

WP-Print

While it is great that reading on the web saves paper and toner, sometimes your visitors want, or need, to print out your words of wisdom. WP-Print lets them do this by creating a printer-friendly version of your blog page.
WP-Print

Post Teaser

One of the most difficult things to do is read a web page that falls below the fold. Post Teaser helps by providing your visitors with a preview of a post for the main, archive and category pages of your blog. A link below directs them to the full post page. Other features include a word count, image count, and an estimated reading time.
Post Teaser

WP Super Cache

The way wp super cache works is much more complicated that this, but what it does is take the dynamically created WordPress page and generate a static html page from it. This static page is then served to the following visitors:

  • Visitors who are not logged in
  • Visitors who have not left a comment on your blog
  • Visitors who have not viewed a password protected post

Without the need to process all of the labor intensive PHP scripts that aren’t required by the static html file, your blog will load much faster for a majority of your site’s visitors.
Again, these are my recommendations. If you know of a plug-in that has greatly enhanced your blog’s usability, I encourage you to share your experience in the comments section. If you have experience with any of these plug-ins as well, we would like to hear your thoughts.
WP Super Cache