Engadget is a large gadget / technology related blog and one nice visual touch they use is in their sidebar they show which stories are popular by employing a widget which displays hot stories at the top in red with progressively cooler colors for stories with less comments like so :
Looks pretty nice? Well if you’d like to use a similar technique on your blog, there are two free plugins you can use which offer this. They are nrelate Related Content and nrelate Most Popular. In this post we’ll take a look at how to install and configure these plugins.
Install The Plugins
Choose which plugin you’d like (or both) and download, then in your WordPress admin, visit “Plugins” > “Add New” > “Upload” and upload the file.
Once they are uploaded, click “Activate” under each plugin.
Configure The Plugins
You will see the plugins have added a “nrelate” menu item with links to “Most Popular” and “Related Content” – choose “Most Popular” both plugins have the same options so the following applies to either. The first thing to do to get the engadget styling is to choose “text” from the drop down box and then choose some other options such as the title for the box and how many posts to display:
After that, you have some layout settings to choose – you can pick which pages to show the plugin on and you can choose how to add it to your theme (by widget or by pasting code into your theme files)
When you’re done choosing these options, click the “Text Gallery” tab at the top and tick the box next to the “Engadget” style and save.
The plugin will display a message in a green box as seen on the above screenshot saying that it’s indexing your site, mine took around 20 minutes to do – I think the plugin uses their own servers to do the indexing which is why it takes so long.
Once it’s finished, you can visit “Appearance” > “Widgets” and place widgets for both plugins, displayed on the front end of the site looks like this :
My test site only has a couple of posts so obviously with more posts would show more colors.
This plugin does what it says but I’m not sure its the most efficient – Using outside resources means the plugin took quite a while to index my test site which only has two posts on it. If it was done internally this would be a lot quicker. Also there is a big tab called “Advertising” which is trying to get you to signup to the nrelate advertising network – I found this a little intrusive, the plugin authors are of course free to advertise how they like in their own plugin, I would just have done it a little more subtly. There a couple of negatives, the positives for me was the actual widget – I like the look of it, there are also many more options for displaying popular posts and related posts with thumbnails and you can also use your own CSS to mould it to your theme. Overall, I would say give this plugin a go and see if it works for you.