WordPress themes and plugins

Of interest to those who use WordPress (and those who have an opinion on web design).

Had a few hours off this afternoon so have been playing around with WordPress a bit.

New plugins:

  • Google sitemap XML : does what it says, and easy to use
  • Theme Test Drive : allows you to preview other themes (on your site) without having to make the switch first. Good plugin, seems to work well, config settings are under the theme menu of WP.
  • Twitter for WordPress‘ : you guessed it, shows one (or more) twitter feeds either as a widget or by calling a function. Works well as a widget (and all config is carried out in the widget area).
  • OpenID for WordPress : allows those leaving comments, and myself as blog author to sign in via OpenID. While it’s been noted that OpenID does have usability issues, it still seems like a good option to have. I’m leaving this active, it does work, though can’t see it being used. You don’t it near the ‘comment’ box on a post, though it is there on the signin page (which people probably would never go to), once signed in to openid (which, if you are like me, requires trying to remember what your URL is) you are actually taken to the WP admin dashboard (which scared me to start with, anyone can do this on my blog!), but the dashboard itself doesn’t reveal anything important and all other areas are locked down. In theory the user could then set up a profile, though comeone this is nostuff, why would you want a profile here? So kudos for a good plugin, though can’t see it being used on this backwater of a blog.
  • links to the above can be found here.


The first browser I used was Netscape 1, possibly 2. By default it would display black text on a grey background. This was good, far easier to read than black on white.

Since then I’ve always had a thing against plain white backgrounds, and have avoided using them for my personal sites: from the mid/late 90s (but then didn’t we all have coloured backgrounds back then!), to static web pages today, and also this very blog.

The theme is Greening, I like it as the shades of green is quite unusual, and yet – for me – quite nice to read.

However, the font is quite small [update: I’ve increased the default font size in the theme] and I couldn’t help thinking that other themes seem to be easier to read.

I mentioned above that one of the plugins allows you to try out themes without full swapping to a new one. This allows me to do cool things like show you this blog post in three different themes, try these links:

The latter two are those I’ve come across that I like the look of. The test is I can read a large post without it being a strain. By coincidence they are both by Chris Pearson.

As you can see above, some of the new plugins I’ve installed work best as widgets. Widgets are blocks in the left/right menu (categories, pages, links, etc) you can add, and order as you wish, independent of theme. This ability to easily configure and customise you’re blog’s sidebar is a powerful feature. So I was keen to move to a theme which supports widgets, there are surprisingly few. To my shame, it was only by accident that it was just now I realised that Greening has supported widgets all along.

For the time being, I’ve increased the font size on my current theme, I think it looks better. Meanwhile I’m pondering moving to one of the themes above. Ironically for all my raving about widgets above, the one which looks better to me is Pressrow, the only one of the three that does not support widgets.

Would be interested in any one’s preferences regarding the three themes above?

Update Oct 2008: Have also added the ‘Subscribe to Comments‘ extension, allows those who comment to tick a box and have any further comments emailed to them.


Joss Winn says:

Hello Chris,

Found you via jamesclay on Twitter.

Are you running WordPress at work? We’ve been evaluating it over the last few months and our Library have their own installation of WPMU in addition to the one I run.


The GPL plugins and themes on wordpress.org/extend/ make it a really interesting and flexible platform to work with.

Have started a Google Group for people running WordPress MU in HE if you’re interested.


Chris Keene says:


We do use WP though only for library internal stuff, communicating to library staff.

Currently just a few standard WP installs, as the server they are on doesn’t do the mod_rewrite, though I’m planning to move to WP MU in the future (on a different server) as it just opens up so many more options.

I like the lincoln link you provided, exactly the sort of thing I had in mind.

What’s the name of the Google group?