Using a Feed Widget

Here’s a universal truth of the web publishing world: Even if your site supports a
feed, visitors aren’t likely to subscribe to it unless you display a big, fat Feed button.
Some themes automatically include one. Usually, it looks like an orange-colored
square with radiating semi-circles that suggest transmission (see Figure 12-17). If
your theme doesn’t offer a Feed button—and the standard WordPress year themes
don’t—you can add one using the RSS Links widget, which is available to all Word-
Press.com sites and included with Jetpack. (If you’re wondering, RSS is the name
of the standard that feeds must follow.)

When you add the RSS Links widget, you need to choose whether to include a link
for the posts feed, the comments feed, or both. If you want a more specialized feed,
like one for a specific category, you need to create the link yourself and put it in the
Text widget.

You also need to choose the format for the feed button (text only, image only, or
image and text). If you use an image, you need to specify its size and color. Once
you finalize these details, you’ll be rewarded with a button like the medium-sized
text-and-image link shown in Figure 12-17.
NOTE Don’t confuse the RSS Links widget with the similarly named but completely different RSS widget.
The RSS Links widget provides links to your feeds. The RSS widget looks at someone else’s feed, finds the most
recent entries, and displays links for them on your site. In other words, the RSS Links widget tells visitors that your
website provides feeds. The RSS widget lets you display links on your site that lead to someone else’s content.

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Using a Feed Widget

The Custom Menu Widget

There’s one more way to display a custom menu: in the Custom Menu widget.

Menu widget looks a lot like the Pages widget, shown in Figure 7-8.
The advantage of the Custom Menu widget is that it’s more flexible than the Pages
widget. The Pages widget shows all (or almost all) of your pages, but the Custom
Menu widget shows just the pages you want and can optionally include other category
links and links to other websites, provided that you add them to your custom
menu.

TIP One nifty way to use the Custom Menu widget is to create a blogroll—a list of blogs you recommend,
blogs by people you know, or sites that have content similar to yours. For example, a cooking blog might have a
blogroll with other food-related blogs in it. All you need is a new menu (you can name it “Blogroll”), which you
can then fill with links.

The Custom Menu Widget

Showing Pages in the Pages Widget

The Pages widget displays a simple list of links (Figure 7-5). Like any other widget,
you can place it anywhere on your home page, such as in a sidebar. Choose
Appearance→Widgets and then drag the widget where you want it.

Use the Exclude Box Sparingly

It might occur to you that you could add several Pages widgets
to different parts of your home page, each of which shows a
different subset of pages. That’s an interesting idea, but a bad
one, because of the way the exclusion list works.
If you use the Pages widget to create three page lists, for example,
every time you add a new page that you want to leave
off the lists, you need to add the page to the exclusion list of
each menu. That extra work can cause a serious headache. To
avoid this, use the Pages widget only when you want to show
most or all of your pages. If you want to show a smaller group
of just a few pages, create a custom menu and show it with the
Custom Menu widget.

The Pages widget also lets you sort your list of pages. You set the sort order using
the drop-down list in the “Sort by” box. Ordinarily, the order is “Page title,” which
means that WordPress organizes your pages alphabetically by title. Alternatively, you
can choose “Page ID,” and WordPress lists pages from oldest to newest (because
newer pages always get higher ID numbers). Lastly, you can choose “Page order,”
which lets you pick the order

Showing Pages in the Pages Widget

Post Formats

As you learned in Chapter 5, your choice of theme determines the basic appearance
of every post on your site. Once you pick a theme, you can relax knowing that all
your posts get the same font, color scheme, and spacing. Consistency reigns.
But some themes offer an underused feature called post formats, which display different
types of posts in different ways. On paper, post formats sound pretty nifty.
The idea is that you pick a format for each type of post you write, and your theme
uses slightly different styling for each of those post types.
The problem is that WordPress limits themes to a small set of officially sanctioned
formats. They’re mainly useful if you want to create a casual blog (sometimes called
a microblog), where you throw together pictures, video clips, and post fragments,
without worrying too much about organizing your content. In this scenario, post
formats provide a structure that can help tame the chaos of your posts. But if you
want to create your own post format to distinguish a group of posts that are particularly
important to your site, you’re out of luck.
NOTE Ambitious WordPress developers often complain that post formats don’t let them do what they really
want to do: create their own post groupings and apply different formatting to each group. For example, you
might want to take posts in a certain category and alter their formatting to make them stand out. (Imagine, for
example, a news site that uses a bolder background to highlight violent crimes.) This technique is possible—and
useful—but it’s not easy. You need to do all the work yourself, by adding style rules and code to your theme.
(You can find an example starting on page 495.) And you need to have a self-hosted site to use this technique,
because WordPress.com doesn’t allow theme editing.

Understanding Microblogs

Microblogs focus on small bits of content: news headlines, interesting
links, personal status updates, random thoughts, and
stream-of-consciousness chatter. They tend to be less formal,
more personal, and more conversational than posts—almost
like a cross between traditional blogs and old-school messaging
systems like email and chat. Microblogs also mix different
types of content, like audio, video, and images. In fact, some
microblogs are built entirely out of pictures or video clips.
The kings of microblogging are Twitter and Tumblr, but
WordPress fans can join in, too. However, WordPress’s vaunted
flexibility might overcomplicate your efforts. Because Word-
Press allows short, microblog-style posts and longer, more
traditional entries, it’s easy to drown out the small stuff. You
may also find that WordPress’s other features—categories,
tags, the media library, and so on—overcomplicate your
microblogging efforts.

Applying a Post Format

If your theme supports post formats, you’ll see a Format box in the Add New Post
and Edit Post pages. There, you’ll find a list of all the formats you can use with the
theme. You can pick any of them for a post, but if you don’t make a choice, your
post sticks with Standard.

You see these formats at work in the year themes (page 132), from Twenty Eleven
on. Each theme has its own way of styling the formats. Often, you’ll be hard-pressed
to spot the minor changes between an ordinary post and one with a format applied.
In many cases, the only difference you’ll notice is the lack of a title for many formats
(like asides and status updates) and the addition of a small icon. The Twenty Thirteen
theme applies the most dramatic post format styles, with background colors

To get a better sense of what your theme’s post formats look like, create some test
posts and look at them on the home page.

The Ephemera Widget

Some themes include a specialized widget to work with post formats. The most
common example is the ephemera widget. Twenty Eleven and Twenty Fourteen both
include one, named Twenty Eleven Ephemera and Twenty Fourteen Ephemera. The
other year themes don’t include the ephemera widget at all.
As the name suggests, the ephemera widget is all about fleeting scraps of content
that are useful for a short period of time, like asides, quotes, and status updates. The
ephemera widget gathers these bits of microblog content and displays them in a
small, self-contained strip that you can pop into a sidebar (Figure 6-23). The idea is
to call attention to smaller scraps of information that might otherwise be swallowed
up in the clutter of your blog.

TIP You can add more than one ephemera widget if you want to show different post formats. For example,
one widget could show a list of links, a second could list status updates, and a third could show your most recent
asides.
All in all, the ephemera widget offers an interesting way to extract bits of content
from a loosely structured blog. However, most serious bloggers are better served
by using Twitter for microblogging and integrating a Twitter feed into their sidebars,
as described on page 430.

Post Formats