So you're in the web provision game, and you're too much of a big shot to use WordPress, right? If you're doing multi-user, community-based, advanced website features then I can understand that. For a pretty-boy website and a heavily branded product, you don't want WordPress. If you're building the next Facebook, or setting up a web solution for The New York Times, this is not the tool you need. But if you are doing a bit of blogging and want to put in a few ads here and there, or run a newsletter, a RSS feed, a poll and an occasional blogcast, then WordPress is perfect. It's low-maintenance, set-up is quick, updating and customizing is a snap, and non-techies will find the back-end content management intuitive and hassle-free. But the best thing about WordPress, as everyone knows, is the sheer weight and quality of plugins to extend this cuddly Micro CMS. Here's a few of the best.1. PodPress. An outstanding blogcasting solution, PodPress takes your interviews/bizarre rants/drunken ramblings and brings them from the desktop to the whole wide world with a couple of clicks. (Which may not always be a good idea...) PodPress also embeds audio and video files easily into posts, adds items to RSS and other feeds, and optimises for iTunes categorization. If you want to podcast premium content, you can do that by enabling password protection. If you want to hide it from iTunes, go right ahead. Use the Podcast module that pops up in your "Write" page to manage size, permissions, and other features. See a video demo here.
2. WP-Polls Widget. Polls, plain and simple, are on offer here. Ajaxy, customizable to the hilt; pretty and functional. Configure your poll from the menu and provide the usual information (how many questions you want to ask, whether multiple answers are allowed, whether users can vote more than once). Pick from a number of poll templates (fully customizable from the source code), and you're ready to go. When you're done, slot in the poll as a sidebar widget. Stats and archives of polls are also available. 3. Adsense Manager. There are dozens of Google Adsense plugins for Wordpress, and a lot of them are a bit half-arsed. Adsense Manager is a good'un, though. It renders your Adsense code as handy widgets which can then be easily managed for use in the sidebars. Get your code, pick out your account number, and stick it into the relevant field on the ad management interface. Select colors, size, channels, whether you want inline ads or not; preview, then wrap up the whole thing into a drag'n'drop widget that can be managed like any other.
4. Adsense Injection. Puts Adsense ads into the main body of your content "without a lot of f**king around." It can be a bit messy, but there's no other obvious way of putting Adsense in the main body without ugly brute-force editing of the CSS stylesheet. So although it takes a bit of getting used to, this plugin is one you are probably going to want. 5. All In One SEO Pack. One of the most popular WordPress plugins, and rightly so. Add meta title, description and keywords to your posts. Right there in your "Write" screen so you can just copy and paste relevant information from the body of your post in no time at all. A pre-requisite for WordPress bloggers. 6. Google XML Sitemaps. Configures and updates your XML sitemap, and optimizes it for Googlebot. A fire-and-forget solution that keeps sitemaps up to date. The best recommendation I can make for this plugin is that you upload it, configure it, and then never have to look at it again. Not exciting, but you should definitely get it if you'd like to expand your site beyond, say, one page. 7. Shift This Newsletter. This is the only plugin named here that doesn't come free, but at US$ 30 it's a real steal. If you want to run a newsletter from your website, you could mess around with various plugins and products, and build a framework for managing the process. But spend US$30 on Shift This, and it will deliver a subscribe field widget, run a subscriber database, automate confirming/denying subscribers, build an outline of your newsletter, automatically import the week's/month's posts, configure your STMP server to send the newsletter out, and stagger outgoing emails so that the server doesn't get clogged. And a whole lot more, in fact. One small gripe - the system isn't really optimized for embedding ads in your newsletter. But a bit of editing gets around this. Two thumbs up. So.... what favourite plugin of yours did I omit? Which of the above tools have you tried, and found laughably bad? Feel free to vent your spleen with us. I'll just fun off and grab my crash helmet... Check out (most) of these features over at hast.ie. Now BE KIND, I know it's visually a mess at the moment. So don't start saying bad things about how ugly it is, and making me cry. If I was over there working on it, then I wouldn't be able to share my depthless wisdom with you here, now would I??