What Oprah Winfrey Can Teach You About Making WordPress Better

What Oprah Winfrey Can Teach You About Being a WordPress Ninja

“Aha moment”: a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension (Merriam-Webster)

You know someone has achieved the pinnacle of popular recognition when they coin a phrase that is consequently added to the dictionary. Oprah Winfrey can now boast such an achievement, as you will find her “Aha moment” in the 2012 edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Before I had heard Oprah’s phrase, I actually described the same phenomenon as “Ooooh! Moments“, but I guess hers got a little more traction 😉

Anyway, we all love a good “Aha moment”, don’t we? I certainly do – especially when it comes to WordPress. Whenever I find something that makes our favorite content management system easier to use, I get a double benefit – not only does it help me, but it’s also something for me to share with you guys.

Which brings me to today’s article, which offers up a mixture of two things. The first is those effects I have achieved on my blog where people have repeatedly asked me, “How do you do that?” The second is things I have discovered that just make WordPress so much easier to use, more efficient, and/or more functional, that I can’t help but tell the world about them. Enjoy!

10. Lossless Image Optimization

For all the importance of optimizing your code and design to increase the speed of your site (as we all know how important that is), images are still likely to be the biggest bandwidth hog on your blog. Therefore, anything you can do to optimize images without compromising their quality is worth taking a look at.

Whilst there are some general tips that you can follow when it comes to preparing images for the web, you can also install the WP Smush.it plugin. This little beauty will automatically perform lossless optimization on all newly uploaded images to you blog. You can also use it to optimize all existing images (if you have a lot, it will take a while). Your site will load more quickly at no cost of quality!

9. The WordPress Comments System

There are a few reasons why I love the WordPress comments system above the alternatives (like Livefyre and Disqus), but the main one is how simple WordPress comments are to moderate.

I had comment notifications delivered to me by email for quite a few months before I discovered how awesome the WordPress comments management system is, but I haven’t looked back since. Manage spam and edit and reply to comments across all of your posts, from one location.

8. Quick Custom CSS

I’ve been asked on a few occasions how I create the notification boxes on my blog, like this:

Notification Box

Anyone who has a bit of experience with CSS will know that creating something like the above is very easy with a bit of styling, like this:

div.notification_box {
	background-color: #f5f5f5;
	border: 1px solid #dbdbdb;
	margin-bottom: 16px;
	padding: 10px;
	width: auto;

But for anyone who likes using WordPress’ WYSIWYG editor, having to switch to HTML mode and manually enter the CSS class reference is a pain. An unnecessary pain in fact, because with the AddQuickTags plugin, you can wrap text in CSS styles with the click of a button:


As you can see from the above screenshot, I also use this for image attributions, for which I reduce the font size and align them to the right. All easily facilitated with AddQuickTags.

7. Comments Signup Checkbox

This is the first of two plugins that I previously featured as a top plugin to make the most of comments in WordPress.

The comments section is an ideal place to convert visitors into subscribers. If they’re leaving a comment they are arguably as engaged as they might ever be, and they’ve already entered their email address, so all they need to do is check a box in order to subscribe.

So all you need is that checkbox, like this:

Comments Signup Checkbox

Getting a checkbox in your own comments section is a piece of cake with the Newsletter Sign-Up plugin. The plugin can actually do a lot more than just the above, but having a signup option in your comments section is a great way to boost your subscribe rate.

6. Comment Reply Notification

This second pick from my top comments plugins feature is an absolute no-brainer for me. If someone has left a comment on your site, they should be notified if you respond to it. The fact that WordPress doesn’t come complete with functionality along those lines as standard surprises me.

Fortunately, Comment Reply Notification does the job beautifully. This is the only outdated (last updated in 2010) plugin that I ever recommend, because despite its age, it still works perfectly.

With this plugin activated, when you respond to someone’s comment, they will receive a notification via email, so that they have a chance to respond.

5. Better Internal Link Search

I cannot overstress how much I am in love with this plugin. It resolved literally one of the biggest issues I had with WordPress – its truly awful internal link search engine:

Internal Link Search
I hate you, with a fiery passion.

Whilst the default internal link search returns a chronological list of any post in which the keyword is mentioned (either in the title or anywhere in the content), Better Internal Link Search searches only the post or page title, which results in far more relevant results. There are also a ton of additional features which make it even sexier.

It is an absolute crime that this plugin hasn’t even been downloaded 500 times at the time of writing. Spread the word!

4. Code Snippets

If you’ve been following the ManageWP blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a huge fan of code snippets. I have featured them on more than one occasion, because they are lightweight and open your blog up to a world of additional functionality.

However, adding all of those code snippets to your functions.php file can start to get messy after a while. That’s why you should use the Code Snippets plugin, which you can use to organize all of your code snippets, just like plugins:

Code Snippets

3. Better WordPress Search

We only featured Relevanssi the other day, but I will take any opportunity to promote what is a far better search solution than WordPress’ default offering (which is, like its internal link search brother, truly awful).

The default WordPress search returns a chronological list of articles in which the keyword is contained (either in the headline or the content). To give you an idea of how inept this search function can be, consider someone searching for your contact page. They would probably (and rather sensibly) use the keyword “contact”. WordPress would then list every single post and page on your site that includes the word “contact”. Given that your contact page was probably created very early in your blog’s lifetime, the most relevant result would be one of the last to be listed.

Relevanssi on the other hand offers up a far more Googley experience. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer.

2. Interactive Tables

Tables are a nightmare in WordPress. I used to paste them into the visual editor from Excel, and manually strip out all of the superfluous code in the HTML editor. Then I would apply some manual CSS styling and make sure not to switch back to the visual editor (as WordPress would then strip out the CSS styling I had just applied).

None of this, however, was necessary. WP-Table Reloaded is a seriously feature packed plugin that allows you to create fancy tables with absolute ease. I have used it for both iterations of my LWB 100 lists and received various comments on how attractive and functional the tables are.

WP-Table Reloaded

If you need to produce a table on your WordPress blog, I would always recommend WP-Table Reloaded. Quite frankly, I can’t believe that it’s free.

1. The Distraction Free Editor

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite feature in WordPress is, I always come back to the Distraction Free Editor (DFE). And with good cause – although I love tinkering with WordPress, I spend the majority of my time writing in it, and so the environment in which I write is pretty damn important.

In short, the DFE pushes all distractions off the screen and gives you an uncluttered and unencumbered environment to write in. No more awkward scrolling in the small visual editor screen, no more meta boxes cluttering up your view – just whitespace and content:

Distraction Free Editor
Mmm…Writing Nirvana.

Although the DFE is not without its minor bugs, in my opinion, the overall experience is far better than anything else WordPress has to offer.

What WordPress “Aha Moments” Have You Had?

So there you have it folks – 10 WordPress tricks that I use to make life easier. Do you have any similar tips and tricks that make you a WordPress ninja? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Wikipedia

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer is the founder of WordCandy.co. He has been a huge fan of WordPress since he first laid eyes on it, and has been writing educational and informative content for WordPress users since 2011. When he's not working, you're likely to find him outdoors somewhere – as far away from a screen as possible!

1 Comment

  1. Phil

    Totally awesome list of helpful WordPress additions, most of which I had not heard of. Wow, thanks!

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Add as many websites as you want for free, no credit card required. Sign up and start saving time!

Have questions? Get in touch!