By design, blogs seek to foster conversation. You post, ask for comments, and look to engage in discussion. The lifetime of a post can exist long after you press “Publish.”
But a single post isn’t the only thing you want your readers to pursue. You want them to come back, engage with others, explore other posts, and so on. You don’t want drive-by readers but you can’t expect them to do all the work themselves. As such, you want to make sure their experience on your site fosters conversation, high usability, and prompts them to continue exploring your content.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out these three plug-ins that enhance the user experience and that require absolutely no coding in order to get them up and running.
Subscribe To Comments
Oftentimes, conversations are what help the initial post mature after it has initially been published. This is where you connect with your readers and your readers connect with others.
But you don’t want to hold your readers accountable for remembering to come back and check your page. After all, they’re reading at least as many blogs as you are. So give them the option to subscribe to comments.
Subscribe To Comments is a free plug-in that allows the user to opt-in to be emailed whenever new comments are applied to a given post. If you’re not going to be using a third-party commenting system, this one is worth checking out.
Embedding images in posts is a good thing; however, many of us often end up linking from a resized version of the image to its full-sized version. This can interrupt the user’s experience as it takes them away from your page and then it forces them to navigate back to your site.
You should seek to keep your users on a given page as long as possible even in the context of linking to an image. Enter Fancybox.
It’s a free plug-in that will transform any linked, embedded image into a slick overlay. All you have to do is install it.
Yet Another Related Posts Plug-in
Finally, if you’ve written tons of articles, the last thing you want is one-stop-shopping readers. Once they’ve landed on a post and are browsing your content, it’s nice to offer them articles similar to the one that they’ve just finished readings.
Yet Another Related Posts Plug-in (or YAARP) does just this. Although it will provide suggestions for related posts right out-of-the-box, it offers the ability to continue tweaking the metrics in order to make better suggestions. Furthermore, the suggestions that it writes out at the bottom of a page will show up in the feed of your RSS readers.
Note that in a previous article, John mentioned that YAARP has potential to act as a bottleneck for very large databases and offered another alternative as provided by Google. When making your decision, always evaluate what will work best for you and your organization.
Constantly looking for ways to improve your users’ experience should be the goal of every developer. When it comes to visiting your site, this often means looking for ways that you can absorb the pain rather than your visitors having to do so.
What other plug-ins have you found or tweaks have you made that have ultimately contributing to the overall experience of your site?