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Case Study: Behind the Scenes Look of List25 – Plugins and Hacks

As many of you know that we have launched a new blog called List25. In the past month or so, we have been continuously working on improving that site. What looks like a simple list blog in the front-end has a lot of cool little things that you never see. In this article, we will take you behind the scenes of List25 and show you the plugins and cool hacks that we are using to power that site. Perhaps reading this article will give you some feature ideas for your own site.

About List25

List25 is a blog that curates lists of lesser-known intriguing information on a variety of subjects. The purpose of this blog is to be a good fun read when you are bored while being educational at times.

We have the site optimized for readers, so they can always find interesting content while being on our site. We also have the site optimized for new authors, so they can easily adopt to the writing style and format of List25.

Plugins

Here we go. People are always interested in knowing what plugins are other sites using. Our goal when developing a site is to accomplish things the easiest way possible. Plugins are pretty handy and saves us a lot of time. We will list a plugin and then share why we are using it.

Akismet – D’oh. We don’t want comment spam. Every WordPress installation comes built-in with it for a reason.

Compact Archives – We are using Compact Archives plugin power the dates area of the archives page. Having the year and months organized in a compact style not only saves space, but it also makes it look good.

Featured Posts List with Thumbnails – We are using this to showcase our “featured” articles in the sidebar. Instead of using a popular views mechanism, we handpick these articles. This allows us to control and moderate the traffic flow to specific articles. You can see the live demo of it in our sidebar or see the image below.

Featured Posts with Thumbnails on List25

Gravity Forms with the MailChimp Addon – We are using it to power our contact form. We are using the MailChimp addon to collect emails from the contact form if the user choose to opt-in. We have already written about Gravity Forms and its benefits in lead generation.

Lazy Load – This allows us to lazy load our images. Basically when you install Lazy Load, it only loads the areas that is being accessed right away. So if you have a page with 25 Fail GIFs, then only the first few images in the post will be loaded. The rest of the images load as the user scrolls down. By using this technique, the perceived page load time is a lot faster.

MaxBlogPress Ninja Affiliate – Although we haven’t done a lot of affiliate marketing on this site. But we are using Ninja Affiliate to automatically replace some keywords with affiliate links in our posts. This hasn’t generated a lot of revenue for that site yet, but it is because it is such a new site.

Members – Members plugin allows us to create new user roles and limit permission based on the user role. This plugin is a must have for any multi-author blogs.

No Self Pings – Occasionally we link to our own posts. This pretty much tells WordPress to not send pings when we are linking to our own site. Because there is nothing worst than having your own site’s trackbacks to your other entries.

Redirection – We are using redirection plugin to track 404 pages and redirect them appropriately. Its a good plugin to have in general.

Regenerate Thumbnails – We are using Regenerate Thumbnails plugin to generate additional image sizes. This allows us to have various sizes for design purposes (such as Slider Navigation, Featured Posts in the Sidebar etc).

Simple Facebook Connect and Simple Twitter Connect – These two plugins are super powerful and are being used for variety of purposes through out the site. Their #1 purpose is to allow third-party login for comments. See the screenshot below:

List25 Comments Area

Simple Facebook Connect is handling our Facebook Open Graph Meta Data details for us, so we have the right image, title, and description when users share our articles on Facebook.

Simple Twitter connect is also being used for automatically linking our twitter usernames when you type @list25 or any other twitter handle. Because simple twitter connect is using the Twitter Anywhere API, we are also using it for live tweet box on our Subscribe Page for List25. (This tutorial will show you how to create live tweet boxes on your WordPress site)

Subscribe to Comments – This plugin adds a little checkbox after the comment that allows users to subscribe to comments if they choose to.

User Photo – User photo plugin lets each author to upload their own image rather than using gravatar. This allows us to moderate the images that show up in our author bio’s.

VaultPress – We are using VaultPress for backups. It is a managed backup solution by Automattic. They backup our theme, plugins, posts, and all other media files. This protects us from disasters. If anything happens, we can always use VaultPress to restore the site to normal.

W3 Total Cache – This keeps our site from not crashing. List25 is getting a lot of traffic and without this plugin, our servers would crash every hour.

WordPress HTTPs – We are using this plugin to make sure that our site’s backend is secured. But most importantly, we are using it to host media files and serve it to our Facebook Application that we have discussed in this article at WPSaviour.

WordPress SEO by Yoast – This plugin handles our sitemaps, and all other on-site SEO such as Meta tags, indexation etc.

WP-Leads – We are using this plugin to add a little checkbox in the comment form for our MailChimp list. It makes it easier for our users to subscribe to our daily newsletter if they choose to.

WPTouch Pro – We are using WP Touch Pro to power our mobile version of the site. We did create a custom theme for WP Touch Pro, but it didn’t take that long to do so.

WP4FB Pro – This plugin is handling our facebook application for Giveaway. Which we have discussed on pretty extensively on how to do facebook giveaways using WordPress.

That will conclude the list of plugins that we are running. Now lets take a look at other cool hacks that we have on the site.

List25: Theme and Hacks

It is important to emphasize that List25 is running on a custom Genesis Child Theme. We do have some pretty nifty features on the site.

I’m Curious Button in the Header – When a user clicks on that, it redirects them to a random post on a site. It’s essentially simulating a Stumbleupon like experience. You can do this too. Check out our tutorial on How to Redirect Users to a Random Post in WordPress.

Custom Post Editor Layout

Custom Post Editor Layout

The reason why we have a custom post editor layout is so our new authors know exactly what type of formatting we want. If you visit any one of our posts, you will see how handy this feature can really be. It does require some knowledge to create a custom post editor. Smashing Magazine has a tutorial on how to do this.

Slider

We are using the jQuery version of SlideDeck plugin to create our slider. They do have a WordPress plugin. Check out our step by step guide to creating a slider in WordPress.

That’s about it. We hope that this gave you ideas for your own site. Let us know your comments and feedbacks. Oh, and don’t forget to check out List25

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