Blogging these days has grown way beyond just standard text-based content. And even though the majority of blogs is still what we can call traditional, more and more people decide to include some additional goodies on their blogs every day.
Originally, WordPress was just a text blogging platform. Well, you could include an image here and there, but that was basically it. I mean, just look at the name “word-press” … there’s a reason why it’s not “multi-media-press.”
Anyway, although WordPress itself was not that quick to introduce new data formats, various plugin developers were. That’s why today we can host pretty much anything we want on, what seems to be, a standard WordPress blog. For instance:
There are two main ways of featuring audio content:
- Showcase some standard audio files along with a media player.
- Host a podcast.
(Actually from a technical point of view, there are many ways to add audio to a WordPress site. I’ve gone through them in my other post.)
Showcasing standard audio files can be done with a number of plugins. My favorite one (at the time of writing) is the HTML5 jQuery Audio Player plugin. It allows you to add either a single track or a full playlist with just a simple shortcode. Plus, there are some customization possibilities.
Hosting a podcast is a bit more work, but still nothing involving any actual coding.
Mainly, a podcast needs to be produced, which means audio processing, mixing, and so on. But in the end, a podcast is simply an MP3 file that can be syndicated through RSS feeds.
A couple of issues:
- Standard RSS feeds (like the ones present in WordPress by default) are not podcast-optimized, so podcast directories like iTunes won’t pick them up.
- Your website and the actual podcast episodes shouldn’t be hosted on the same hosting account because they can drain your bandwidth pretty quickly.
For creating correct feeds and turning your WordPress into a podcasting platform, you can use one of the available plugins. For me, PowerPress is the top player in this game.
It’s quite easy to use. It processes your RSS feed, optimizes it, and finally lets you publish a podcast episode just like any other blog post. This means that you don’t have to do anything else apart from hitting the publish button in your post editing screen. ITunes and other directories will pick it up automatically.
Every now and then it’s good to publish an FAQ of some kind, especially if the blog we’re dealing with is a bit knowledge-heavy, or focuses on a certain tool that has a lot of user interaction.
Right off the bat, let me just mention that the first rule of publishing FAQs is that they have to be real frequently asked questions, not just something the author thinks people would ask, even though no one has actually asked it (there’s quite a lot of such “FAQs” online).
Now, in their simplest form, FAQs can be published like standard posts. But if you want them to be a bit more readable (considering the fact that most visitors are interested in just a couple of questions, not all of them), you can present them as a collapsed list of entries.
That way, whenever someone is interested in a particular question, they can just click on it and the section expands presenting the answer.
Although this is a relatively simple thing to do with some JS code, using a plugin is still a lot more straightforward. The FAQ Manager plugin does the job good enough.
Galleries have been with us for a long time now (WordPress-wise), and the platform itself actually provides some basic gallery support.
Whenever creating a new post, you can just click the “Add Media” button, and there’s a possibility to create a gallery waiting for you right there. The only downside is that it’s not going to be the most visually attractive gallery in the world…
Here are three solutions that will provide you with a slightly better result:
- Jetpack. Yes, the big plugin that’s been the center of attention in the WordPress community recently. One of its features is a nice gallery carousel.
- The Gallery Carousel Without Jetpack plugin. This one gives you the exact same effect as Jetpack, only without actually using Jetpack. So if you don’t like the big plugin, this is a solution for you.
- make a WordPress site downloadable-media friendly – feel free to check it out for some detailed info.
Surveys and quizzes
You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked about the possibility to include a survey on a WordPress site. But maybe it’s just me… I’m actually involved in a couple of European Union education projects, and if the project launches a website, a survey is usually its main focus point. This is a very common scenario in various education niches in general. (I mean real education … not “internet marketing digital product-based education.”)
One of the most popular surveying solutions out there is LimeSurvey. To be honest, I don’t like it. It’s too complicated and not attractive visually.
For WordPress, I prefer the WordPress Simple Survey plugin. It allows you to create all kinds of surveys, polls, quizzes, and questionnaires you can imagine. Then, it lets you track and manage user submissions. In short, it’s the complete package for online surveying.
To be honest, even though this is the most popular non-text content of today, I didn’t want to start the article with it because I was afraid that it might seem just too obvious.
Anyway, we all know the standard for videos on blogs, which is featuring a YouTube video. Although YouTube provides embed codes to get it done smoothly, I actually prefer using a shortcode (one of the features in all of our themes).
Working with shortcodes has one huge advantage over manual embed code insertion. When YouTube updates their code, all you have to do is update your shortcode output. If you used embed codes directly then you’d have to modify each insertion manually.
One more interesting video solution that I’ve come across just recently is a plugin called Vimeography. Quite frankly, it might be the best thing ever for Vimeo vloggers who’d like to feature their videos on a WordPress site. The plugin connects to any account on Vimeo, takes all the videos and publishes them as a great looking gallery on any post/page of your choosing.
Let’s not forget about one additional important aspect of using videos. If you’re working with a membership site of some sort and some videos are part of the premium content then you don’t necessarily want to place them on YouTube. In such a case you can use a custom video player like the JW Player and host the video files on an external media-optimized server.
I do realize that there’s probably a lot more other content types one could feature on a WordPress blog, so feel free to submit your ideas and insights in the comments. What else is worth mentioning here?