DIY: Extend your WordPress-powered site with these modules

Jack Wallen shows how simple it is to bend the WordPress blogging tool to meet the needs of a small shop's online presence.

I always make sure the website highlighting my fiction and freelance writing is fresh, connected, and attracts users because your business web presence is your online calling card. Don't make the mistake of only using social networking sites to promote your business in order to save money on web design and development; if you do, you run the risk of looking unprofessional. This is where tools like WordPress come in handy.

WordPress is simple to use, incredibly cost-effective, and so prevalent on the net that it only makes sense for small businesses or single-owner businesses to take advantage of the open source tool's power and flexibility. But WordPress is the blogger's tool, so out of the gate it isn't the best match for a business site. With some tweaking and a couple of additional modules and/or widgets, WordPress can be quite the professional looking site for your company. After you download WordPress (I recommend using the latest version to follow these tips), here's how to extend the tool for your site.

Text Boxes

With simple Text Box widgets, you can add a number of features to your site. Figure A illustrates how I make use of the Text Box widget on my website. Figure A

Can you spot the Text Boxes?

In Figure A, all of the cover images for my books are shown in a Text Box. These sections are also in Text Box widgets: Works In Progress, Reader Quotes, Guest Appearances, Currently Reading, Indie Writers, and Zombie Fun (not all of these sections are visible in the screenshot).

Follow these steps to add Text Box widgets to your site:

  1. Log in to the wp-admin tool of your WordPress site.
  2. Navigate to Appearance | Widgets.
  3. Scroll to the Text Box widget in the listing.
  4. Click and drag the Text Box widget to the sidebar that will house the widget.
  5. Click the drop-down arrow and create the Text Box (Figure B).
Figure B

This Text Box will display an image that is also a clickable link, which will open a new window.

Text Box widgets can be used for many features, so don't limit yourself to images. For instance, you could use a Text Box widget to display an Item Of The Week or the Daily Special. The Text Box widget could easily become your site's bread and butter.

Events Calendar

The Events Calendar plugin is an outstanding way to announce upcoming sales, new products, and more. I have tried many of these types of plugins, and this one is the best of the bunch. You can easily schedule events, and then show them in a widget as either a listing or a mini calendar. (I use Events Calendar for upcoming releases.)

The Events Calendar plugin is simple to install:

  1. Upload the Events Calendar folder to your WordPress plugins folder.
  2. Activate the Plugin from the Dashboard.
  3. Configure your plugin in Events Calendar | Options.

To add the Events Calendar Widget, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Appearance | Widgets.
  2. Locate the Events Calendar widget.
  3. Click and drag the widget to the sidebar that will house the feature.
  4. Expand the widget from the drop-down arrow (Figure C).
  5. Name the Events Calendar widget.
  6. Select the Calendar Type (Event List or Calendar).
  7. Enter the number of events to display.
  8. Click Save.
Figure C

The easiest way for users to see upcoming events is the list. The calendar will require users to click on an item in a date in order to view the information.

Simple RSS Feed

I run a number of sites, and I sort of cross-pollinate for some of the sites. For example, the Zombie Radio site needs to feed podcast links into my main site. The easiest way to do that (without me having to manually do this every time a new podcast is published) is to use a tool like Simple RSS Feed. You install the Simple RSS Feed the same way you would any other WordPress plugin (with the newer releases of WordPress, you can install the plugin from within the wp-admin panel). Once it's installed, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Appearance | Widgets.
  2. Locate the RSS widget.
  3. Click and drag the RSS widget to the sidebar that will house the feature.
  4. Expand the widget.
  5. Enter the necessary details for the RSS feed it will display (Figure D).
  6. Click Save to save the widget.
Figure D

If you select Display Item Content, each listing will take up more room than you probably want to give the widget.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....