Most of my website design work is for other people more than for my own business. Because of that, my first meeting with a client involves getting information about what they like and dislike about their competition’s websites. The answers to that usually end up with several URL’s for websites that have features they’d like to duplicate on their own. For example, a cabinet shop I’m working for liked a carousel image display on one of their supplier websites and wanted something similar on their website.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get a peek into the backend of a website and see how the designer did it?
Sure, I can examine the source code and see what is going on, but it would be a lot easier if I knew exactly what plugins and themes were used when the website is built on WordPress.
Featured Plugin - WordPress Ecommerce Shopping Cart Plugin
Can You Discover The WordPress Theme Being Used?
In July, my colleague, Sarah Gooding, wrote an article about how to determine the theme that is being used on a WordPress website. You can simply visit What WordPress Theme Is That and enter the website URL to discover the theme being used.
In January, my colleague, Tom Ewer, wrote an article about “How To Find Out If A Site Is Running On WordPress.” Tom suggests using a Chrome extension called Theme Sniffer that resides in your extensions library and will show you what theme is used on a WordPress website whenever you click on it. This is amongst the simplest methods I’ve found, but it appears it’s only available on Chrome. But, if you are a Chrome user, it’s super handy.
The closest thing that is available for FireFox is Wappalyzer – but it’s not as slick as the Chrome Sniffer extension. Wappalyzer has a Chrome extension as well, but with the simplicity of Chrome Sniffer, I would probably not even consider it.
What WordPress Version Is Installed On A Website?
In August, I wrote an article about a Chrome and FireFox extension that will display an indication when a WordPress website you are visiting is using an older version of WordPress. I like this extension because it requires no extra effort on my part.
Of course, you can always visit What Is My WordPress Version, type in the URL and discover the WordPress version currently installed there. But, just like with the theme website noted above, it’s a bit more tedious.
What Plugins Does A Website Use?
I probably get asked once a week by some of my developer friends, “I wonder what slider they used on this website’s home page?” or some variant of the question.
I’ve always been pretty good about digging into the page source and finding that information. Everyone can discover that information if they’re willing to become a WordPress sleuth – and it’s not too difficult.
If you are a Chrome user, simply click on your Settings icon, hover over Tools, and then choose View Source – or you may use the shortcut keys <CTRL> and <U> if you’re on a PC. If you are a FireFox user, navigate to Tools, then Web Developer, and finally Page Source. Once you are on the page listing the source code, press <CTRL> and <F> to open the “find” window. In that window type /plugins/ and then you can simply “walk” down the page to see each plugin mentioned in the source code. This is a little clunky and tedious, but it gets the job done.
Featured Plugin - WordPress Wiki Plugin
Is There An Easier Way?
Anyone that knows me well or follows any of my writing knows that I’ve been called “The Laziest Marketer” – a title that I wear with pride because I don’t like to work harder than I have to. I subscribe to the concept of “Word smarter, not harder.”
I’ve recently discovered a very simple add-on that works with both FireFox and Chrome (sorry IE users, it’s not available for you) called SpyBar. After the add-on is installed, a little magnifying glass (or spyglass if you wish to call it) appears in your top browser bar. When you are on a WordPress website, you simply click on the icon and a window opens up showing you the name of the WordPress theme on that website, a list of all the plugins that it detects on the website, and some valuable links. The first link is to an SEO Explorer called Majestic SEO. The second link is to Alexa showing all inbound links to the website in question. The third is a link to the Who.is record for the domain.
As you will notice from the screen capture above, the theme and the plugins appear in blue indicating that they are links. You can click on any of these links and a new window will open showing a Google search for that theme name or that plugin name. I’ve looked at several websites that have some neat features and discovered the theme or plugin that they’re using so much faster than I have in the past. Manu time I’ll spend an hour or so researching a theme to discover exactly what theme is used. Now, I can easily find most themes in minutes.
What Can Be Accomplished With This Information?
Bwhahahahah, many evil schemes can be hatched with these vital pieces of information! Countries will fall! Industries will collapse! Entire economies can be crippled!
It’s just a quicker way to gather some information about a prospects website or a competitors website. Since information is power when working on a website, then more information quicker is definitely more powerful.
Is It Only For WordPress Websites?
Most of the information (themes and plugins) is only available for WordPress websites, but the three links at the bottom of the window – SEO Explorer, LinksIn, and WhoIs – are active regardless of the website you are on. This can be valuable to discover what a competitor is doing to generate higher rankings than you or your clients are. This information, coupled with a good ranking strategy can potentially increase you or your clients rankings going forward.
What Can This Be Used For?
From the moment I first saw this little browser addition, my mind began to spin with the potential. My initial thought was the amount of time I could potentially save by not having to dig through page source code hunting plugins. After working with it a while, I see even more value in the SEO Explorer and LinksIn sections.
The SEO Explorer link opens MajesticSEO which can be used to determine a number of things about a website such as number of referring domains – with a breakout of the number of .edu and .gov domains, number of backlinks – with a breakout of backlinks for images, nofollow, redirects, frames, and even deleted backlinks. This one tool alone provides more information in one place that many of the services I’ve seen before. You can get a FREE account with Majestic SEO and get a lot of information.
If you click the Linksin link, you are taken to Alexa and show a list of the top 100 websites that have linked to the website. According to Alexa, if a website links in more than once, it’s only counted once. Also, adult sites are counted in your Alexa ranking, but are not shown in this list. Once again, a lot of valuable information for sleuthing around a competitors website.
I have made some suggestions to the product developer (he asked for suggestions from customers) and hope to see those additions in a future version. My suggestions were:
- The ability to see the WordPress version in the window
- A visual indication in the magnifying glass when you are on a WordPress website
- The ability to print a report from the window of the WordPress version, theme, and plugins list
I’m sure I’ll come up with one or two more as I work with it more, but these three enhancements could make what is already an outstanding tool even more valuable. I’m looking forward to future updates.
Featured Plugin - WordPress Google Maps Plugin
If you’ve not seen this tool – or anything like it before – be sure to check out SpyBar. This plugin has been extremely valuable to me in my business, and I believe many others will find it equally valuable. Do you have tools that help you like this? If so, be sure to mention them in the comments section. If you’ve tried this tool yourself, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments as well.