Using Widgets – 1

The “Display WordPress Posts” Widget

Many of us like to provide our readers information and links to other blogs on related topics. There are a number of ways of doing this. One of them is the “Display WordPress Posts” widget.

Like other “widgets” this tool is used to place an item into your sidebar. The short description of the widgets says “Displays a list of recent posts from another WordPress.com or Jetpack-enabled blog.” To get a better idea of its use let’s look at some examples. (These are not shown at the same scale.)

Widgets-01

Widgets-03

Widgets-02

Oh, wow, you say, “these are all different!” Indeed they are. That shows the versatility and usefulness of this WordPress widget.

Widgets-04A little bit about where this widget will display the information from another blog. Widgets work in sidebars. Your WordPress blog theme might have different options for the sidebar location. The classic place is on the right side. Some themes will place it on the left. There may even be multiple sidebars and “sidebars” on the bottom.

To install a “Display WordPress Posts” widget, go to you Dashboard. In the left sidebar click Appearance then Widgets. Scroll down to find it and click on the name. Select the location, then click Add Widget.

Widgets-05The widget will open on the left and show the various options with some defaults already set. This gives us a chance to visit the various options and review what they do.

The first field is “Title:” The default is shown as “Recent Posts”. If you accept this or if you replace it with some other text, the widget will show this text followed by a colon followed by the blog title. In the examples above I have removed the text from the title field.

The second field is for the URL of the blog. Note that is must be either a WordPress.com blog, like galleryludwig.wordpress.com, or a site using WordPress and having the Jetpack plugin installed. If you are not sure about the blog you wish to link to, just try it. If the blog does not meet the requirement you will see this rather confusing error message in the place of the widget in your sidebar: “We cannot load blog data at this time.”

If you see this message the URL might have been mistyped or the blog is not compliant. There are other widgets for showing a link or information from other types of blogs, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Back to the widget. The third item is a selection option, “Number of Posts to Display”. It is set to 5. You can change to 1 to 10. This will display the title or titles of the most recent blog posts.

After this there are three check boxes. By default they are not checked.

Open links in new window/tab:” – If you check this box the user will see the link in a new tab or a new window of the browser.

Show Featured Image:” – Check this box so a small picture of the post’s “Featured Image” will be shown. This makes your blog colorful and interesting. It also makes it more likely that a visitor to your blog will see and click the link. Unfortunately many bloggers do not set a “featured image”, some themes don’t even provide for that. There is nothing you can do to get an image here, only the blogger has control. More on this farther down.

Show Excerpts:” – Check this box to show an excerpt of text from the post. If the blogger has not “managed’ what is shown here, there will be about six lines of the first part of the post text. This can take up quite a bit of space.

Note that you may have multiples of this widget installed to provide links to as many blogs as you like.

Managing your own blog’s appearance in such links

If you link to other blogs using the “Display WordPress Posts” widget chances are good that your blogger friends will do the same for you. As you saw above there are some things you can do to manage the appearance and even what text is show.

Widgets-06Featured Image

Be sure to set a “Featured Image” for every blog post. You can do so when editing the post in your Dashboard. The option will be in the lower right.

Not all themes offer this option. You can still set a featured image for your post even if your theme does not support that.

Use the online editor (wordpress.com). There in the left sidebar you will find a “Featured Image” option. Click that and click Set Featured Image. It will take you to your Media Library. You can upload an image from your device to set it for the post.

It is best if your featured image to be wider than tall, that is, a “landscape” format. It will take up less space in the widget and appear better in the WordPress reader.

Excerpted Text

If you do nothing in your post to manage the “excerpted text”, the “Display WordPress Posts” widget will grab the top part the text, about six lines or so. The text may end in the middle of a sentence and just terminate with “…”.

That’s mostly just fine, but you can do better. The easiest way is to insert a “read more tag” or “clear break” after the first paragraph or so to indicate how much of your text is to be shown. Read more about this in my post A Magic Diet Pill: The Read More Tag.

But wait! There is more!

Widgets-07Some themes have a section below the Dashboard edit window for specifying the “Excerpt” text. It doesn’t have to be the fist paragraph of your post. It can be a summary, just what you want to offer! For bloggers using WordPress.org there are plugins (usually SEO plugins) that install that option.

The online WordPress Editor also offers such an option. Click More Options in the left sidebar and enter your summary text in the Excerpt box.

So there. You can manage how your blog post information will be shown in your fellow bloggers sites! Make use of these features!

.:.

© 2016 Ludwig Keck

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