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Plugins are great, we use a number on WPLift, but are they always neccessary ? A lot of plugins just replicate functionality that you could just as easily build directly into the theme itself. This comes in handy for client sites, they dont have to stay on top of updating the plugins when new versions come out, which could break the existing functionality. If you are releasing a theme publicly then it should work “out of the box” with no need for plugins.

With this is mind, Im going to be looking at 20 hacks, tips and tutorials for replacing plugins by adding the functionality into your WordPress themes.

1. How to build a WordPress Post Pagination without plugin

WordPress only comes bundled with the “next page” and “previous page” links to navigate between different blog overview pages. If you happen to have a blog with a lot of posts or simply want to offer a better user experience I would recommend to remove those links and replace them with a pagination like most people are using in their templates.

How to build a WordPress Post Pagination without plugin »

2. Dynamic jQuery Featured Post Slider Tutorial

Three Part tutorial on how to create a featured post slider with jQuery.

  • Part 1: How to make your own custom loops in WordPress using WP_Query
  • Part 2: Coding the jQuery and CSS slider to work with or without JavaScript enabled using the jQuery Cycle plugin
  • Part 3: Putting it all together to dynamically show posts from the “featured” category in the slider

Dynamic jQuery Featured Post Slider Tutorial »

3. Customize WordPress login logo without a plugin

WordPress login logo looks nice, but sometimes you may want to change it, for example when building a site for a client. In that case, you can use a plugin, or simply take advantage of this cool hack.

Customize WordPress login logo without a plugin »

4. Display Your Popular Posts In WordPress Without A Plugin

How to show your most commented posts in your sidebar without the need for a plug-in. As a bonus it will grab your featured image to generate a small thumbnail to make it look more attractive.

Display Your Popular Posts In WordPress Without A Plugin »

5. Show Number of Retweets in WordPress Without a Plugin

Social proof is a powerful thing. Showing how many people are talking about your article on Twitter can encourage more people to talk about it, that’s a fact.

Show Number of Retweets in WordPress Without a Plugin »

6. Show Related Posts in WordPress Without a Plugin

Related posts is a very popular feature. There are quite a few plugins that lets you have this feature but this tutorial shows you how to build it into your theme.

Show Related Posts in WordPress Without a Plugin »

7. WordPress Breadcrumbs Without a Plugin

Breadcrumbs is an important element of a web site navigation, which boosts his usability. Especially it concerns to a sites with a complex structure. I have seen a different ways of a breadcrumbs implementation on WordPress sites, but not one of them I does not like, because all of them does not display a full chain of links. So I have created my version of WordPress breadcrumbs without a plugin.

WordPress Breadcrumbs Without a Plugin »

8. Show Top Commentators In WordPress Without A Plugin

Here is a simple code snippet for getting the top commentators listing in WordPress so you don’t have to use a plugin for that purpose.

Show Top Commentators In WordPress Without A Plugin »

9. Recent Posts With Thumbnails In WordPress Without A Plugin

WordPress design — how to add thumbnails to your WordPress blog’s recent posts without the use of a plugin (it can be done). WordPress Plugins are cool, but can be a little temperamental over time as newer versions of WordPress are released.

Recent Posts With Thumbnails In WordPress Without A Plugin »

10. How to Generate Perfect WordPress Title Tags without a Plugin

If you want to create perfect WordPress title tags without a plugin, this post will certainly help you do it. First we’ll explore some of the basics, continue with some common examples, and then conclude with a comprehensive, highly flexible script for generating distinct page titles.

How to Generate Perfect WordPress Title Tags without a Plugin »

11. How to Redirect WordPress Feeds to FeedBurner without a Plugin

In this article, we will show you how you can redirect WordPress RSS Feeds to Feedburner without using a plugin (This tip is for intermediate to advanced users).

How to Redirect WordPress Feeds to FeedBurner without a Plugin »

12. Make A Custom Twitter Widget Without A Plugin

In this tutorial, I’ll show you:

  • The necessary HTML and Javascript code to pull the latest tweets
  • An overview of the HTML markup and associated CSS selectors
  • Two examples of custom-styled Twitter widgets I’ve used myself

Make A Custom Twitter Widget Without A Plugin »

13. Random WordPress Quotes Without A Plugin

Add random rotating quotes to y0ur theme, handy for showing customer testimonials.

Random WordPress Quotes Without A Plugin »

14. Add Social Links to WordPress Without a Plugin

One WordPress plugin that almost everybody uses these days is one that lets you share your post on social bookmarking and social media websites. While plugins are great, they can also be bloaty, slow loading, require updates and just be a bit of a hassle in general. Luckily it’s very easy to add social links to your WordPress theme without a plugin, just using php and template tags.

Add Social Links to WordPress Without a Plugin »

15. How to: Display Random Posts in WordPress Without a Plugin

There are many plugins available that allow WordPress users to add customized lists of posts in WordPress, however its really easy to do this with a few simple lines of code. Doing this eliminates the excessive use of WordPress plugins.

How to: Display Random Posts in WordPress Without a Plugin »

16. WordPress & jQuery Contact Form without a Plugin

There are lots of WordPress plugins for contact forms, but wouldn’t it be nice to have more control over the markup? In this tutorial, I am going to show how to use a custom page template to create a contact form in WordPress without a plugin.

WordPress & jQuery Contact Form without a Plugin »

17. How To Display Your Feedburner Count And Twitter Followers Without Chicklets

Feedburner offers a great chicklet which allows you to add your subscriber count to your site, and for Twitter you can use a chicklet to display your followers from a service such as twittercounter.com. What I’m going to show you today is a method of displaying these counts without actually using a chicklet which will allow you to customise how your stats will be displayed.

How To Display Your Feedburner Count And Twitter Followers Without Chicklets »

18. How To: Inserting Google Maps into WordPress

Todays Tutorial is How To insert Google Maps into WordPress Posts/Pages without Plugin, we only need to write a Google Maps shortcode and we can put our own maps easily.

How To: Inserting Google Maps into WordPress »

19. Valid, SEO-Friendly Post Translation Links

Ever wanted to provide automatic language translations of your web pages without installing another plugin? Here is a valid, SEO-friendly technique that takes advantage of Google’s free translation service. All you need is a PHP-enabled server and you’re good to go.

Valid, SEO-Friendly Post Translation Links »

20. How to add / integrate a flickr gallery to WordPress without a plugin

If you’re like me and don’t like installing one more plugin for everything you need on your WordPress installation, then here’s a solution for you if you want to integrate a Flickr gallery on your blog. Of course WordPress plugins are great, but there are a lot of things that can be done without them. And the cool part is you can do it even better than the plugins, because custom codes will let you do exactly what you need and like.

How to add / integrate a flickr gallery to WordPress without a plugin »


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Author:

Oliver Dale is the founder of Kooc Media, a small internet company based in the UK. Kooc Media runs several high-profile websites including WPLift, ThemeFurnace and DesignersTalk.

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45 Comments

  1. This is a great list of functions that people can build into their themes. People are too quick to jump to install a plugin when a simple hack will do the trick. I’m big on getting my clients to hack their themes instead of running to find a plugin – helps keep their website running like a well-oiled machine

    • Just curious why the backlash against plugins? Typically the exact same code is required to accomplish something in a theme as it is in a plugin. I’m assuming you know that, right? If so then what is the practical reason why to avoid plugins in your mind?

      • It’s not a backlash against plugins Mike, I think its easier to supply a client with one theme to activate, rather than a theme + x plugins.
        Also if you’re releasing a theme publicly, its best to not reply on any plugins for the functionality.

        • Oli – Fair point. So you are viewing it from the themer’s perspective? (nothing wrong with that, just trying to get it straight in my mind.)

          So the value proposition to minimize plugins is for people distributing themes, not necessarily for people just wanting to run their own website? For people running their own websites then this article really isn’t relevant, right?

          As for themers, let’s say for sake of argument that there were an ability for you to register plugin dependencies in your themes and have them automatically be downloaded and installed; would that minimize your concern?

          Further, what if there were “special” kinds of plugins that were designed to be used as dependent plugins; let call them “libraries” or many even “frameworks.” If such things existed in WordPress and they were transparent to the end user then you would no longer have an issue with plugins, right?

          • Hi Mike,

            I dont have an issue with plugins at all – I have released free and commercial ones of my own :)
            In just the 2 cases I mentioned – For clients and for publicly released themes I wouldnt use them.

            The article is still valid for people running their own sites, If you build certain functionality that would normally require a plugin, into your theme, thats one less plugin to upgrade and one less plugin that has the potential to conflict with others on your site.

          • It also depends on the plugin and what you’re trying to achieve. In some cases, you’re right that using a plugin is no more code than if you were to code it into your theme. However, some plugins are more of a catch-all and are bloated with features that aren’t needed. They sometimes also load extra CSS files and make extra HTTP requests that can be avoided by consolidating code and keeping files local. So, there is a time and a place for plugins without a doubt – I have many running in my sites – but there are also times when it just makes more sense to code it yourself.

          • @Dave – Definitely agree that some plugins are far too bloated; my poster child for that is GD Star Rating!

            OTOH, what I also see is at the local WordPress meetup group (with over 600 members; I attended it last night) there as so many people who ask me ho to do things but then tell me “Well I don’t want to use plugins” and I ask “Why?” and they say “Well I’ve read that plugins are bad!”

            Then I feel compelled to spend the next 15 minutes explaining (yet again) how that is a misnomer and that it’s blog posts this this (just sayin… ;-) that imply there is a problem with plugins when in fact the problem is with poorly written plugins. Poorly written themes can be a problem too (but then I don’t often see theme designers writing articles about poorly written themes. ‘-)

            Others end-users tell me: “I try not to use too many plugins” as if the number of plugins were what causes problems; it’s what each plugins does and how well written it is that matters. Hell, I can write a simple function that will bring a site to it’s knees if I wanted to (though many plugin and theme developers do so without even trying. ;)

            The reality is a “plugin” is just a way to package code; exactly the same code that might get stored in a theme. If you put bad code in a theme you are not any better off than if its in a plugin.

            Yes, there are rules of thumb that are helpful but I think possibly blog posts with titles like “20 WordPress Theme Hacks to replace the need for Plugins” that get seen by a lot of WordPress end-users do a fair bit of harm because the end users see those titles as an implication that plugins are bad and because they are not technical they never explore the reality.

            Anyway, this just hit a little hot-button of mine and felt like I needed to present another view for the benefit of those who take the effort to read the comments.

  2. 20 WordPress Theme Hacks to replace the need for Plugins http://goo.gl/9E6ji

  3. Great range of theme hacks compiled for plugins, wordpress lovers should spend time reading comprehensively about this.

  4. Hi Mike,

    I dont have an issue with plugins at all – I have released free and commercial ones of my own :)
    In just the 2 cases I mentioned – For clients and for publicly released themes I wouldnt use them.

    The article is still valid for people running their own sites, If you build certain functionality that would normally require a plugin, into your theme, thats one less plugin to upgrade and one less plugin that has the potential to conflict with others on your site.

  5. Thanks for the shout out to my article Oliver!

  6. Fantastic post, I’ll certainly be making use of a few of these hacks as I don’t like some of the plugin options in a few areas – and I’m trying to expand my knowledge of WordPress and coding in baby steps. ;-)

    I’m real curious – what is the social share series of icons I’m seeing on the left-hand side of this page? Is it DiggDigg? I really like it… It’s that or a toolbar such as Gigya, but I’m all about speed and the little floater over there seems very lightweight in terms of loading speed.

    Also, does anyone have any good suggestions for a nice ‘Connect with us’ plugin? I’m trying to come up with all the plugins that offer good looking widgets for the upper-right hand side of my page, and coming up a little short. I’d like something that shows off my followers/subscribers as well as a nice icon. Basically for RSS/Email, Twitter, and Facebook. Eventually I’ll hopefully be able to master #17 on this list and work up something of my own – until then, not so much. ;-)

    Thanks for the post, and any advice!

    • Thanks Thomas,
      Funnily enough, the share widgets are custom coded into my theme ;)

      You can add them with the following code :

      Tweet

      <script src="http://www.stumbleupon.com/hostedbadge.php?s=5&r=“>

      <fb:like href="” layout=”box_count” show_faces=”false” width=”150″>

      Most themes have built in social widgets nowdays, its easy enough to add them yourself if you follow #17

      • Oli,

        How super nice of you to provide that for me. You’ve got a new fan here, as soon as I’m at school tomorrow and not on dial-up, I’ll be following you in every way possible. That was really kind of you to help a new guy out providing that. It looks great, clean and simple. Which part of the theme files does it get added to, anywhere special? I was thinking the index.php, but that’s just a shot in the dark… What in that code you provided makes it float?

        I’m working my way through #17 – I’ve actually came up with something I’m almost happy with. It’s just integrating cleanly into my theme, and little things. I’m totally new to all of this, so sometimes the slightest error will throw things totally out’ve control for me, and I’ll have to start over. Still, this is how I learn best – jumping in and swimming.

        Thanks again, hope you’re having a wonderful week.

        • Hi,

          You can add that code to your single.php and it will just appear on the blog posts.
          To make it static like that, add the following code to your css file :

          .share {float:left;margin-right:10px;position:fixed;margin-left:-90px; width: 63px; z-index: 0;text-align:center;padding:1px;background:#FFF;border:1px solid #E8E8E8;margin-top:225px;}
          .sharesection{padding: 2px;}

          Play with the margin-left-90px property to position it

          Hope that helps!

  7. Do not try free template, it may contain virus or shell for local hack!

  8. The list above is definitely must read sources for WordPress theme developers…
    Thanks for the great list :)

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