You may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes to the look of Civil War Memory. Actually, these changes go beyond simply moving back to a full-width framework and a transition to Arial as the main content font. Over the past few weeks I’ve slowly stripped the site of just about every plugin. While WordPress plugins add a great deal of functionality to your site the downside is quite often a slow load time, especially those associated with social networking sites. Another problem that I’ve encountered is that plugin authors are often slow to update their code with new versions of WordPress. Essentially, the installation of a plugin increases the number of external sites that your blog must rely on to load properly and quickly. I noticed this with DISQUS, which added a great deal of functionality to comments and allowed readers increased access to one another. Unfortunately, any problems on their end directly impacted the user experience, which is simply unacceptable. It sometimes felt like my blog was being held hostage.
I am now committed to locating as much of my blog’s functionality locally. I’ve gone from 20 to 6 plugins over the past few weeks, the remainder of which include: Akismet (spam), Get Recent Comments, Popular Posts, Post-Plugin Library, Recent Posts, and Subscribe to Comments. Functionality related to SEO is built into Thesis Theme, which is my theme of choice and ought to be yours as well. As you can see I’ve ditched those plugins that expand the blog’s social networking reach. The Share This plugin is gone as is Follow Me which was hidden away on the right side of the screen. In addition, I’ve nixed all of the code for such sites as FriendFeed and LibraryThing. This has forced me to learn a bit of php and css language, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve experienced very brief downtime over the past few weeks that’s me crashing the site with some idiotic mistake with the code. Luckily, it’s very easy to correct. I still need to figure out a way to bring back the Facebook Community badge as well as a Twitter feed. Again, the only way I will do it is without a plugin.
This gets me back to my overall point, which is that your primary goal as a blogger ought to be to highlight your content. That’s why people come to your site! You can’t do that if the visitor is waiting around for your site to load. Use one sidebar and locate it on the right. Then take a hatchet and cut through all the crap. Get rid of the silly badges. Nobody cares about your blog profile at Blog Catalog, etc. or your online library or the location of your readers. Keep the sidebar clean and to a minimum. The average visit time is very brief so do whatever you can to keep the focus on you.