nrelate is a related content plugin that uses some patent-pending technology to deliver related content to your readers. Instead of simply relating content by categories or tags, it actually analyzes the post content, and finds other posts/pages/links on your site with similar content. One of the things that makes this plugin unique, as compared to all the other related content plugins, is the way that nrelate determines what is considered related content. The plugin uses dedicated servers to analyze all of the content on your site, keeping the performance impact very low.
From the plugin page:
nrelate is not just another related posts plugin. Our patent-pending technology continuously analyzes your website content and displays other related posts from your website. This ultimately leads to higher page-views for your site, and a better user experience for your visitors.
After being asked to review the plugin and installing it on one of my demo sites, one of the first thing I noticed is that it definitely is not like other related content plugins. When you first activate the plugin, the nrelate servers immediately begin indexing your content. A message is displayed at the top of the plugin settings that tells you when the indexing process is complete. Assuming you don’t need a plugin that displays related content right now, this should not be a problem.
Configuring the plugin is very easy and straight forward. There are a variety of options, such as thumbnail size, the number of related items to show, the relevancy of results to show, where to show related items (home page, category archives, single posts, etc), advertising options, and style settings. Aside from the setting UI feeling a bit out of date and not consistent with the WP UI (I’m a huge advocate for using WP core-only styles on plugin admin pages), the settings page is fine. It gets the job done well. Everything is explained well and there is not unnecessary options-bloat.
Once my site was done being indexed, the related items showed up great in all of the locations I specified. The results seem perfectly relevant and there did not appear to be any CSS problems with the integrated themes. A lot of times plugin developers neglect to realize that theme styles can easily over write plugin styles, causing layout issues. This plugin did not have that problem.
Now, there were a couple of areas in the plugin that I felt could definitely use some work. First, as I mentioned already, the settings page UI feels out of date. I feel that it could be dramatically improved by incorporating the built-in WordPress styling. This would provide a more consistent user experience, and decrease the size of the plugin foot print.
The second set of issues that I felt could be improved with the plugin, also related to styling, are the built-in themes. The plugin includes six themes that you can use to display your related content. While the themes all work really well, they look a little out of date, just like the settings page. With just a little bit of CSS manipulation, the themes could look great.
And the final issue, though it’s not really an issue, is the fact that related content is not immediately displayed on newly published posts. This is because the new post has to be indexed by the nrelate servers in order for it to populate the related items. I don’t know how long it typically takes for new posts to get indexed, but it’s definitely more than 20 minutes. If you don’t mind related content not being displayed right away, then this shouldn’t affect you. I would like to see the plugin use a fall back system for new posts, however. Perhaps it could displayed related items based on tags or categories while the post is being indexed, and then the more relevant related content after is has been indexed.
Overall, the plugin works very well and does everything it says.