WordPress Plugin Review: Feature a Page Widget

UPDATED:  The plugin author, Mark Root-Wiley reached to let me know of some changes to the plugin because of my initial review.  I’ve revised my review below.

A few years ago I created a WordPress site for a client that wholesaled high-end cheeses and cured meats.  Part of the requirements was a box on the home page on which they could display a product of the the month with an image, description and link to view more.

I ended up custom-coding this into the template, but we are luckier today – we have a WordPress plugin called Feature a Page Widget.

Despite the title, you can choose a page or a post to feature.  The widget displays the featured image, excerpt and links to the content page/post.

Installing the WordPress Plugin

Not sure how to install a WordPress Plugin?  Check out my FAQ.

Make sure when you type in the name of the plugin on the Add Plugins page that you use the correct name and check the name of the author.  There are a large number of plugins with very similar names and even I was confused at first.  This is what the plugin should appear as:

WordPress Plugin: Feature a Page Widget

Using the Widget

 

Once installed and activated, go to Appearance->Widgets.  A new widget appears in the list on the left.

WordPress Plugin: Feature A Page Widget

Drag it into a widget area on the right and click on it to see the options.

WordPress Plugins: Feature A Page Widget Options

I commend the author for the design of this widget – it requires no guesswork to use.  Unfortunately such self-explanatory plugins and widgets are rarer than you might hope.

Back to the widget – though the select box says “Page to Feature” it actually lists your posts as well and displays icons in green to show if a post/page has a featured image and excerpt (otherwise they display as red).  If you don’t have an excerpt the widget will not pull one from the beginning of your post – so make sure you custom-write an excerpt for posts/pages you want to display.  As Mark nicely pointed out (without saying RTFM), his FAQ page has links to code you can put in your functions.php file so that an excerpt will be pulled from the beginning of the post.  Out of the box it won’t automatically create an excerpt. However, I think writing a custom excerpt is smarter – you can make it catchier and more “linkable” than just your intro text. 

You can choose to display the thumbnail image with the text wrapped around it or as full width in two ways.  The banner image shows a narrow version of the featured image, the big image shows… a big image.  I told you it was self-explanatory.

You can click on/off whether to show the title, image, excerpt and read more link.  In other words, everything about this widget is editable right from the widget box. Well, almost everything.  I put an example in the footer to test it out:

featured-article

The “Featured Article” is the widget title and the image and post title both link back to the post page.  I don’t like the “Read more” link, however, and it isn’t editable without editing the core plugin files.  Yes, you can add a filter to your functions.php page that allows you to change the “Read More” and “…” part.  Also, the title after the “Read More” can be hidden with CSS (.screen-reader-text{clip: rect(1px, 1px, 1px, 1px);position: absolute !important;height: 1px;width: 1px;overflow: hidden;}).    Not only is there an error, no space between “Read More” and “about”, but I’d rather not display the title again.  This is a relatively small issue, however, and I am comfortable turning off the “Read More” altogether.  When the author updates it seems like adding a custom box for the read more verbiage shouldn’t be too much of an issue and would make the widget perfect.   Mark fixed the small spacing problem and issued an update.  He also points out in his FAQ that ‘This widget is intended to be straightforward and avoid melting into “option soup.”‘  It really is a perfect solution to highlight featured Posts/Pages in widget areas.  Here is the new, revised widget as it appeared as a test on my site:

2015-05-01_14-47-35

 

Conclusion

Love this widget and look forward to including it future client projects.

 

 

 

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