What Do You Need For Your Blog?

July 18, 2011

I don’t talk much about what goes on behind the scenes of this site because I know your main interest is personal finance, not all the reasons why I’m still up at 4 AM working on this blog post. However, today we’re going to take a break from personal finance and I’ll start with a short story.

Once upon a time there was a blogger named Ben who’s blog post sometimes took twice as long to write as they should because he was also writing code for his website. There was also a programmer named Ben who sometimes took twice as long writing code because he was working on new blog posts. If you haven’t already guessed, these are both the same guy – me.

Financial Bloggers Conference

This Fall, “programmer Ben” is going to lead a session at the Financial Blogger conference in Chicago about custom WordPress plugins. If that topic sounds foreign to you, just think of it as a way to make websites do cool and useful things that they weren’t originally designed for. There’s a wide range of topics that’ll be covered at the conference and I’m going to be speaking along with some people who have done some pretty cool things, you can check out the list of speakers here.

If Only I Had a …

Have you ever been working on a project and said to yourself, “If I only had a tool that did xyz”?  I found myself in that position several years ago when I was writing roundup articles for this site and wanted a faster way to collect good blog posts from the week into a summary article.

I wrote my first plugin to help out, it wasn’t pretty but got the job done.  Over the years I’ve created a variety of plugins for a wide range of purposes and each one has gotten a little better than the last.  I’ve written plugins to make me more efficient, to manage data, and recently have put out a few that show graphical representations of data.

For example, recently I wrote a Groupon Deals map that shows all the current deals that are going on in all the US and Canada. 

groupon deals

I like this one because your email inbox can get pretty crowded with all the daily Groupon deals.  Instead I can check the map for my city and get an overview of all the deals in one view.

Another example of a recent plugin is a tool that lets you compare data in charts and tables.  So far I’ve used it for these credit card bonus pie charts and a comparison table for credit card offers.

credit card fees

The pie chart you see here is a snaphot of the one comparing annual fees.   There are always bonus offers going on and frequently the main thing people focus on is the amount of cash or number of points that you earn.  I created some charts and tables that look at things like annual fees and the required amount of spending to earn the bonus.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of things you can do with a plugin and they can really add value to your site and articles.  There are also many “behind the scenes” types of things you can use a plugin to help with that aren’t as easy to show in a screen shot.

The reason I’m going on about the different things you can do with a plugin is that I want you to tell me what kind of thing you’d like to see a plugin for.

What Do You Need? 

If you don’t own or run a website then this won’t mean much to you.  However, if you have a site that runs on WordPress I’d like to hear from you.  I want to know what you need or want your website to do that you think a plugin could help with.

The reason I’m asking is that I’m going to build a plugin before the conference this fall and use it as the basis of my session on custom WordPress plugins.  In a way, it’s kind of like insurance for my presentation.  Even if I crash and burn, people will hopefully still like it because they get a plugin to take home with them!

Rather than build a plugin that exists purely for demonstration purposes, I want to create something that is practical and that attendees can put to use.  So leave a comment below about what kind of plugin you’d like to see, or you can let me know through my contact form.

I need to get started on the plugin relatively soon since the conference date is getting closer so I’ll put a deadline of this Wednesday on the ideas.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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9 Responses to What Do You Need For Your Blog?

  • Geoff

    Hi Ben, I’d love a plugin that allowed me to take a formatted Word document (including embedded images) and upload directly to WordPress and save as a nicely formatted post (instead of having to fiddle with html or WYSIWYG editors and uploading images separately).

    Another idea isn’t necessarily a plugin, but could have a plugin component….a subscription service to find images for you. I don’t mean an automated service like zemantha or flickr plugins, but actual qualified humans that can go out pick a few great images for you based on your post and within 24 hours deliver them to your plugin for you to choose the one you like best. I spend hours looking for good images and I still feel like I don’t do a good enough job at it and would gladly pay someone else.

  • Andrea @SoOverDebt

    I’m new to WordPress – this may exist already, but on a personal finance note, I’d like a plugin to add debt payoff/savings progress bars to my sidebar. I have them now, but it’s a code I have to update manually. It would be nice to have a plugin where I could put in the amount and it would automatically calculate the percentage saved or paid and update in my sidebar.

    • Ben

      Hey Andrea, that’s a neat idea. I’ll poke around first and see if anything like that already exists.

  • Paula @ AffordAnything.org

    Wow, you really want me to suggest something? I feel too “demand-y” doing that … (deep breath) but here goes …

    So I don’t want to put ads on my homepage. Ever. If and when I do put up ads, I want them to be on the content pages sidebar only, and/or at the bottom of the post.

    But I don’t know how to design a system that would put something only on a content pages sidebar. And I also don’t think (??) there’s a system that allows you to embed your ad at the bottom of the post … I assume you’d have to copy/paste the HTML manually.

    So really I’m talking about two ideas … but … well, that’s what’s been on my mind.

    • Ben

      Hi Paula, thanks for the ideas! I’m pretty sure there are plugins out there that already do what you need, I’ll send you an email.

  • Peter

    How about a plugin that can accept data feeds from major affiliates like CJ.com, flexoffers.com, etc and allow you to insert the data in tables on certain pages/posts?

    • Ben

      Thanks Peter, I’ll add that one to the list. To clarify, are you talking about a datafeed where you store the data on your server, or a web service call that pulls the information in dynamically?

  • Tariq @ Yes I Am Cheap

    Very nice article. Thanks for letting us have an insight of you. Fab.


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