Under Construction: Site Building Plugins (Part 1) — A Review

I am by no means an expert website builder, that much is certainly clear, but I must say that I’ve learned quite a lot since I got in the the game two years ago.

Boosted by having learned enough CSS to get things working the way I want most of the time, I’ve lately begun rebuilding my personal site from scratch and creating my new family of WordPress websites (including this one, MiscellaNiackery). But my personal site challenged me with my first experience with plugins, and while many were useful, a few were absolute site savers!

Dynamic Widgets

One of the coolest sidebar tools out there, I’m sure. Control which widgets appear on exactly which pages, posts, archives, and other sections of your site with a few easy clicks. Voilà! Total site-wide sidebar customization!

What makes this plugin completely awesome is that there’s nothing it can’t do. Dynamic Widgets options can be applied to error and search pages, archives, tag and category pages, posts, pages, static front page and blog page, and just about everywhere else you can think of.

To use, insert a widget into a sidebar as usual and click Save, then click on the Dynamic / Static link that appears. This takes you to the options page for that widget.

Options for individual posts can be set from within the post edit mode. There’s also a super handy overall control panel in the Administration menu.

Widgets on Pages

Who doesn’t want the ability to use widgets in content sections instead of only designated widget areas? Shortcodes make it easy.

The best thing about Widgets on Pages is that it so far appears to be limitless. Each new widget area can be custom-named, so it’s easy to keep the Widgets section organized.

To use, navigate to Settings → Widgets on Pages and select the number of additional widget areas to create. The default is set to one, so if you only need one, just go ahead and give it a name and click Save. To make changes later on, add the number of new desired areas to the existing number. For example, if you’ve got three existing widget areas listed and you want another two, type “5” then click Save, name the new widget areas, and click Save again.

Removing widget areas can be a bit trickier. If the unwanted widget area was the last one to be added, you can delete its name, click Save, then reduce the number of additional widget areas at the top and click Save again. That will get rid of the last widget area(s) created.

But, if the unwanted widget area is preceded and followed by others which you want to keep, then the best thing to do is to rename it BLANK (in uppercase so it’s obvious) and save it for future use.

Since removing widget areas can only be done from the bottom of the list, this method ensures you won’t lose any widget areas by accident. It also means you won’t have to rename anything; if you try to delete from the middle of the list, you’ll have to move all the following names up. And you’ll have to remember where the shortcodes are being used and update them accordingly!

TablePress

Configure the layout of pages more effectively by creating it in a table, then placing the table shortcode in the content section. I often put Widgets on Pages shortcodes within tables to control their layout.

TablePress rocks because it can be used in so many different ways. Sure, it can make actual data tables, but why stop there? Insert images, links, shortcodes, and text, combine and rearrange cells, and more. The table controls the layout of the items within the cells, which produces a cleaner look.

TablePress is really easy to use, with its settings found directly in the Administration menu. Any number of tables can be created, each with a unique table id, to be placed in the shortcode.

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