The Megaphone

Own Your Online Identity (with WordPress and FavePersonal)

When we redesigned our site this fall we simplified our product offerings. One of the things I liked best about this was our choice to make FavePersonal a freely available theme.

I’m a big fan of owning your own online identity and owning your content. I believe that WordPress is a great tool for this, which is one of the reasons I’ve used it and supported it for the last decade. My personal site (alexking.org) is powered by WordPress, and it is my home on the web.

I blog there, I post photos and status updates, I have a list of my projects, and I point people there when they ask where they can find me or learn more about me. And I’ve been blogging there since 2002, so there is plenty of interesting stuff to find there.

However, my site is not an island. I have integrations with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (via Flickr), Pinboard, and GitHub. My site is my home, but I love interacting with my friends in these other communities.

When I began planning out the FavePersonal theme with our great designers, I did so with a few goals in mind.

  1. A personal home on the web for folks who want to own their data
  2. A design that encourages a more casual relationship (encourage you to post more frequently)
  3. Integrations with the greater social web
  4. Clean, readable, mobile and reader friendly design
  5. Designed for search/direct link traffic

Let’s look at how we tried to achieve each of these.

Colors and Post Formats

One of the first thing we wanted to do was make it easy for people to change the colors to personalize their site (to better reflect themselves). We initially had an integration with Adobe Kuler to power the color swatches, but switched that to COLOURlovers to remove the API key restriction. It’s a great feature, simply browse or search for color combinations you like, then preview and apply them to your site.

Color Themes

In order to make it comfortable to post more frequently, we wanted to make it easy to put up shorter form content and media as well as longer posts. We created our Post Formats Admin UI to create a customized posting experience for status posts, link posts, photos, galleries, videos, and quotes.

Post Formats

We also made sure that the output of each of these formats was tailored appropriately for desktop, mobile, and even RSS feeds.

Integrations and the Social Plugin

Your FavePersonal-powered site can display all the stuff you post to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr – all on a site that you own and control. But if you’re not posting to those communities, you’re not getting any of the benefits they provide. You shouldn’t have to give up anything when owning your content, and FavePersonal is built with that in mind.

The integrated Social plugin does a ton of cool integration work for us. It both sends to Facebook and Twitter, and pulls back responses and stores them on your site.

Everything is sent to Twitter as a standard Tweet, but you can use the Twitter Cards plugin to customize the appearance of your content on Twitter. When broadcasting to Facebook, care is taken about the format of the content being sent. Status posts are sent as status updates, photos as sent as photos, videos as videos, and the rest as links back to your site. You can also use the WordPress Plugin API to customize exactly what is sent and how.

The broadcasting is really only part of the story. The integration with likes and comments on Facebook and with retweets and replies on Twitter is where things get really interesting. Those social reactions are brought back to your site as WordPress comments, and are displayed appropriately on your site.

Social

It’s a true two-way integration. You can have someone reply to you on Twitter, have that tweet imported back to your site as a comment, then have someone reply to that comment on your site and broadcast back as a reply on Twitter. What? Yes, really!

The same thing happens with Facebook comments, there is an option for each commenter to broadcast their comment back to the Facebook thread or to send it to Twitter.

I’ve found it to be really cool to have the discussion from Facebook/Twitter archived with the post on my own site. Instead of being lost into the ether as it scrolls through the stream, it’s there and available to people who visit the post in the future.

I’ve also created integrations on my site with Pinboard, Flickr (supporting Instagram), and GitHub. I’ll talk more about these and how you can do the same in a future post.

Featured Posts and the Bio Box

These days it’s rare for people to land on your home page then navigate to your content. Thinking about your site design with each page as a target landing page is a better approach. That’s what we did, and we came up with a few things we thought were important to include on every page:

  1. a context of what this site is/who the author is
  2. (optional) callouts to a few other things on the site that might be of interest
Featured Posts and Bio Box

The ability to feature posts also helps encourage more casual posting (y’know, using your site more!). You don’t have to worry about less important posts bumping more important posts down where they might be overlooked. Keep them up top as long as you like, or turn off the featured posts feature altogether. FavePersonal gives you a lot of flexibility.

Clean, Readable, Mobile-friendly Design

Above all, your website should be a place where people feel comfortable reading and want to hang out for a bit. We took care to design the presentation of content in a straightforward, reader-friendly format that adapts elegantly to mobile devices. Phone, tablet and desktop views are optimized with the reader in mind.


Are you thinking about how you can own your online identity in 2014? Give WordPress and FavePersonal a try. I think you’ll like it. And look for a few follow-up posts here where we’ll discuss how to further customize FavePersonal.

About the Author

Alex King founded Crowd Favorite in 2007. Before that he was an independent developer, an original contributing developer to the WordPress Open Source project and creator of the Share Icon. He blogs at alexking.org.