Letting the Audience Meander Through Content: Adding a Tag Cloud Widget

WordPress widgets are pretty neat little capabilities to adding extra content, navigation, and other features to your blog–easily, without the need for plug-ins or extra code. In this little walk-through,  we’ll add a “tag cloud” to our primary sidebar–a simple maneuver that takes maybe five minutes–to help our audience meander through our content at their leisure. 

What is a Widget?

Widgets are blocks of code that do some behind the scenes magic to add amazing kinds of functionality to WordPress themes–on any kind of WordPress plan.  Here’s just a sample of the widgets available to me on my Entrepreneur theme.

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And more and more . . .It’s all kind of eye-popping.    It’s alot of functionality.   In this post we’re going to look at an especially easy one—adding the Tag Cloud to our Side Bar.

Why a Tag Cloud?

This widget isn’t really a “tag cloud” –-it’s really a list of tags, with the tags appearing in different sizes. But what it lacks in style, it makes up for in usefulness.  This tag cloud widget creates a list of your tags with the number of posts that use those tags.  This is useful in providing a navigational “index” for the reader, helping audiences to pick and choose from your content without having to scroll through too much.

I think the trick is going to populate this with enough content to give readers some choices without being overwhelming.   It means adjusting the tagging strategy so that the tag list isn’t too long and the readers can find what they want easily, like an index.

What’s a Primary Side Bar?

The Side Bar is the blank space next to your main content.  In the old days, we had “Blog Rolls” that we put there.  Usually, you might have navigation links there, or an archive or calendar, to help people find your other content.   In this blog, I’m installing the “tag cloud”  to help people explore my blog’s content after they’ve read whatever page they came here for.

How to add a Widget to the Primary Sidebar

We start by customizing the theme and selecting the Widgets option.

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Next, we choose to customize the Primary Sidebar.  And the “add a Widget button” is right there, after you pick the Primary Sidebar.

And we pick our Widget out of the list.   The Tag Cloud widget is especially easy.  We choose the widget, enter a title, and pick whether to show the number of posts like so:


And we’re done!  The tag list shows up when we open a post (hit the “read more” link to read a post –or if people navigate straight to the post through the Reader.

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I ended up working with the tags, putting in tags that are pretty much the same as the more important categories and subcategories so that audiences can find the more popular posts.  I might even create a “Popular!” tag for posts that have had lots of views–or add some other kind of “Feature” tag for the posts I’m most proud of.

Update: The Navigation Widget

My aim in this exercise was to figure out what to put on a start-here page. This widget is definitely useful for a small blog with under 100 posts — but when we begin to reach that number, this method may not be the delightful meander, but a plodding trudge.  At 85 posts, with over fifty tags, you can see the problem.    Still,  this is good demonstration on how to add a widget, using one of the simpler ones.

After a bit of experimentation,  I have taken off the tag widget and replaced it with the Navigation Sidebar widget.  I could add it straight to the Start Here page and also to the primary sidebar area of all posts.

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It provides a very clean little drop down widgets on all posts, and also appears on the Start-Here page. It’s not exactly what I want, but it’s darned close.

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More soon ~ Lola

Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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