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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Using the Text Widget

In Chapter 3, we described the widgets you can use with a WordPress.com blog in detail. We left out the details on two of the best widgets because they need more explanation to use properly. The Text widget is covered here; the RSS widget is described in Chapter 8.

According to the WordPress.com support pages, the Text widget is the most popular widget of all, for three reasons:

  • Its power
  • Its flexibility
  • The ability to use multiple instances of the Text widget in a single blog for various purposes

The Text widget is so popular that many plug-ins—the big brothers of widgets, which are only available to WordPress software-based blogs, as described in Chapter 10—are available for enhancing the power of the Text widget. One example is the WYSIWYG Text widget, which makes it easy to add colors, links, and images to the Text widget without knowing code.

Content Providers for the Text Widget

If you want to get a lot of power into the Text widget quickly, several content providers provide code that you can simply cut and paste into your Text widget. Your Text widget becomes a gateway into their blog.

Here are some of our favorites that relate directly to your blog:

  • Babelfish Yahoo Translation—This service translates your blog for visitors. This is a marvelous service for visitors because many web users have English as their second or third language; a translation into their own language helps them get more out of your blog and improve their English at the same time.
  • ClustrMaps—This is a hit counter that tracks where your blog visitors come from. It is fun, informative, and likely to generate comments.
  • Delicious—This site, shown in Figure 6.7, is probably the most influential social media site for bloggers to blog about blogging—and track what they like most. Getting attention on this site sends your visits skyrocketing. Check it out—then join.
    Figure 6.7

    Figure 6.7 Make delicious your friend.

    Here are a few content providers that add functionality to your blog:
  • Bitty Browser—People can surf the Web in a widget! Shown in Figure 6.8, Bitty Browser is great for helping people go someplace you recommend without really leaving your blog at all. It is highly configurable and hours of fun.
    Figure 6.8

    Figure 6.8 Bitty Browser has plenty of power.

  • Flickr—Get into your Flickr photos. This is great if you're a Flickr user, or willing to become one to easily add photos to your blog.
  • Last.fm and Pandora—Get the latest charts from Last.fm and favorite songs on Pandora. Let people listen while they surf your blog!
  • YouTube—You can have a permanent YouTube window in your blog. It's great fun, but perhaps a good way to lose visitors who go off to YouTube instead?

Links to these content providers and more are available on the Text Widgets page in the WordPress Codex:


Things You Can Do with the Text Widget

Now that you've seen some of the great things content providers can give you for the Text widget, what can you do with the Text widget yourself?

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Lists of key posts—You can list your top posts of all time, or by a specific topic. You can link to the most commented posts. You can create a "getting started" list on your main topic(s) for newcomers. This can be a great way to help people get to know your blog.
  • About you/about your topic—You can give a few words of introduction or welcome and perhaps links to a few key resources, on or off your blog.
  • Picture directory of contributors—You can create a directory of blog contributors with their photos.

For more on the Text widget from WordPress.com support, visit http://support.wordpress.com/widgets/text-widget/.

The Text widget can contain text, HTML code, and small images. At one time, JavaScript was allowed, but it caused too many problems. The Text widget cannot contain code such as JavaScript or Flash.

A Simple Sample Text Widget

You can create Text widgets when you add the Text widget to your blog. Here's an example of creating a Text widget; the one shown here combines text, graphics, and simple HTML:

  1. In the Administration area, click the Appearance header, and then click Widgets. The Widgets page appears, as shown in Chapter 3.
  2. Drag the Text widget from the Available Widgets in the center of the screen to the Sidebar on the right. The Text widget opens up.
  3. Enter a title for the widget. This is important; a poor or confusing choice of title might annoy people every time they see any page of your blog.

    We've titled the example widget ANDROID-RELATED POSTS, in reference to Google's Android operating system for mobile phones. (Widget titles always display in UPPERCASE.)

  4. To add a graphic to the widget, upload it to the Media Library, as described in Chapter 8. Then copy the URL into the Text widget, using the img tag.
  5. To add text and HTML to the widget, enter it in free-form fashion. Be sure to click the Automatically Add Paragraphs check box, unless you want to add a lot of <p> and </p> tags yourself. For our sample site, a typical entry contains the name of a post, surrounded by code to link it to its permalink. The result looks like this:
    <a href="http://gvdaily.com/2009/04/24/dialing-international-who-needs-mobile-
    minutes/">Dialing International: Who Needs Mobile Minutes?</a>
  6. Click the Save button regularly to save your work.
  7. When you're finished, click Save one last time, and then click Visit Site. Our sample Text widget's code along with the resulting widget are shown in Figure 6.9.
    Figure 6.9

    Figure 6.9 Text widget code isn't pretty...but the results can be beautiful.

When you're done, always review your work, note what works well, and consider how to improve it.

For the Text widget described here, for instance, here are the things we like:

  • A nice, distinctive image—easy to find for repeat visitors
  • A good location—the main keyword, Android, is right at the front of the widget title
  • A clear, simple topic

Here are the ways we'd probably revise it on a second try:

  • Revise the HTML code so that links move up into the space next to the figure, using vertical space better.
  • Add some guiding text such as "Most recent first" at the beginning, or even dates next to the posts, so people knew what was recent and what was historical.
  • Add a post to the site explaining what Android is and how it's relevant to the main topic of the site, Google Voice, then link to that in this widget.
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