Enhancing a WordPress Site without Code
TwentySeventeen has been a hugely successful and adopted theme for WordPress blogs and sites. And that certainly has to do with it’s customiser options, including the ability to set static homepage areas.
In doing so, you can unwittingly remove some very useful features from your users. For example on my personal blog I have set a static homepage up, that has the “2 column” width, with recent blog posts being listed underneath. Whilst I really like this layout, it does means that I have lost the standard sidebar, and along with it some useful widgets, such as a search option.
In the video below I demonstrate how I can re-add these features in, using Widgets on Pages. I also show how I can use the new “Auto Insert” feature of the Pro version to include certain widgets at the end of each blog post.
In this video we’re going to enhance our 2017 themed WordPress blog, with a few widgets and plugins… with a secondary aim of not having to touch any code.
This will give our site extra functionality, useful to the user, but also provides hooks to try and increase the time the user spends on our site.
I’ll be using my own site toddhalfpenny.com as a demo, and you can see a quick demo here. I have used the customizer to set a static front page, and then also used the next content part to list my recent blog posts.
Since I have done this I’ve lost my sidebar, but I want to include some functionality that sidebars give me, namely widgets. Functionality I’d like includes “search“ and maybe a link to a featured / stick post.
Another feature I’d like to add is some hooks at the end of each blog post to try to engage with the user, in my case I’m wanting to add “featured / sticky posts” links.
For me to achieve what I want, without having to code anything, I’m going to add a couple of plugins to my site.
Firstly a “posts-in-sidebar” which will enable us to create widgets for our sticky posts. This is a 5 star plugin with a 10 active installs… though it does not support adding these to the tail of posts, without having to touch the code.
Second I need the Widgets on Pages plugin. This will allow me to add the search and sticky posts into my static home page, and will also enable me to auto add the sticky posts widget to the end of each post. This is also a 5 star rated plugin, with over 60,000 active installs.
First up I’m going to create a new Turbo Sidebar, which is what Widgets on Pages calls the widget areas that you can create. Note you can create an unlimited number of these. I’ll call this one Hello Page. Now that it’s saved I will copy the shortcode that will allow me to insert it.
Next up I’m going to add the widgets to my new widget area. You can see my “Homepage” sidebar has a nice border, this highlights the Turbo Sidebars. OK I’ll add my Search widget, I won’t bother giving it a title.
I’ll also add the Posts in Sidebar widget, and set it to show sticky posts, and limit it to 1 post.
Now I’ll jump to my Homepage page, the one that is used as my static homepage. And in here I’ll paste my shortcode just before the last paragraph, and now Save it. How about that… looks good right?
Seeing as I have the PRO version of Widgets on Pages installed I can also do a couple of extra things… firstly I’m able to add Turbo Sidebars using the visual editor, let me first get rid of the shortcode. And when I click this nice button I can select the Turbo Sidebar I want to use, and also select the number of columns I want to use in my layout. For me I’m going to use 2 columns on large and wide screens. Once I save and go back I can now see these widgets align side-by-side, and if I shrink the screen down I see them move to a vertical layout.
Next up I also want to add a link to my sticky post to the end of each blog post. I’ll do this in a similar way to before, first creating a new Turbo Sidebar… I’ll call this one “After Post”. In this Turbo Sidebar I’ll also select the Auto Insert option, and set it to appear after the content of each post.
I’ll now go to my widgets admin screen and add my recent posts widget as before., in this case maybe I’ll add 1 stick post and 2 recent posts.
Now let’s check back at our blog post. Cool eh.
But what if we had a post that we didn’t want to display this on? Well on each post edit screen we have a new checkbox to exclude it from being used.
And there we have it. With a couple of plugins, and no code, I’ve strongly enhanced my TwentySeventeen themed WordPress blog.