Diving into WordPress for the first time can be daunting, so here are some of the key areas to understand the basics of WordPress which will help you find your way around.
Depending on where your website is hosted, and if you have already added elements eg. themes or plugins, the options available to you may look a little different.
This is an overview of a clean installation on a SiteGround hosting plan, with a couple of elements added for demonstration purposes.
I’ll work through most of the options that you’ll see, but the ones that I don’t mention are ones which you don’t need to visit at this stage.
The WordPress Dashboard
This is your control centre for WordPress and where you will arrive each time you log in. You can view basic statistics for your website from the Dashboard, draft a new post, see what you’ve published recently at a glance, view comments, and more. You can drag and drop the various modules on the Dashboard to customise it so you’re always seeing the information which is most important to you first.
Notice the Updates option in the left hand column under Dashboard? It’s worth checking in regularly to ensure that there aren’t any updates required. You’ll see which version of WordPress you’re using, and if any plugins or themes need updating. Ensuring everything is up to date is crucial – keeping elements updated, means that they will include the latest security fixes and functionality improvements. Even themes which are not in use should be kept up to date.
Next on your left hand column is Jetpack. It’s perfectly possible to run your site without ever touching this option, and we could spend a whole 10 days walking through the functionality of Jetpack, so it’s beyond the scope of the work that we’re doing together this week. But for the curious amongst you, I wanted to briefly mention it.
In short, it’s a WordPress plugin which delivers extended functionality to many existing features of WordPress to help you enhance your website. Many of them are free, and there are paid upgrades to some as well. It’s unusual in that it is one plugin with many different functions. Some of the features include monitoring your website (so you receive notifications when it is down), social sharing tools, functions to create links between related content on your site, as well as many many more.
You can read more about the features of Jetpack here, but I should reiterate, that this is more for your information, not because you need to do anything with it right now.
For anyone who is wanting to build a blog, this is where you will be spending a lot of your time.
When you click on Posts, it defaults to All Posts which is a list of all the posts that you have published or which are in draft, and from here you can click through to edit them.
To write a new post, you simply click on Add New and include the content of your article.
Remember to include a Featured Image on your blog post, as this will be used as a thumbnail throughout your site where you feature blog posts. You’ll find the option at the bottom of the right hand column when you’re writing your post.
This is your library of images, documents and other uploaded files.
To add a new image, you can drop a file into the dotted border, or click on Select Files. This uploads the file to the media library for you to use in any of your posts or pages. If you’re writing or editing a post or page, and you want to add an image, simply click on the Add Media button above your text editor and select an image from your library (or upload a new one).
The view for Pages may look almost identical to that of Posts, and although they are similar, Posts and Pages are two very different entities. Posts are written as articles on your website, and are often time sensitive. Pages are ‘evergreen’ content, which isn’t likely to change very often eg. About, Services, Contact.
If comments are enabled on your website, this is where you will be able to moderate any which are left on your blog posts. Hovering over a comment presents you with a set of actions you can take such as editing or deleting the comment.
A lot goes on in this area. It controls how your site looks to the people visiting your site.
When you click on Appearance, the place that you end up is Themes. You may have heard people talking about WordPress themes. They are basically the skin which controls the style of your website.
There are hundreds and thousands of themes which are available, some free and some paid. WordPress ships with 3 themes by default, but you can load your own. Simply click on Add New to look through a directory of available themes. If you purchase a premium theme, you’ll usually need to download a zipped folder, and upload it to the Themes area of WordPress. Your active theme (ie. the one in use) will always appear in the top left of this window.
We’ll be talking more about themes this week, as it’s an area that overwhelms a lot of people as there is so much choice.
In this area, you’re able to customise the style of various areas of your site, including fonts and colours. The options available to you here may vary depending on what theme you have activated.
Widgets give you control of what is going on in various areas of your site, usually sidebars and footers. You can edit or delete active widgets, or can drag and drop new widgets into the areas of your choice.
This is where you control the navigational menus on your website. To build a menu, just select the pages or posts you want to include, click the Add to Menu option. You can drag and drop your menu links to rearrange them. Then you simply select a menu location and save your menu.
This is a really key area of your site which you will visit a lot. Plugins can extend the functionality of your site, and you will undoubtedly be adding new plugins. You can either upload premium plugins, or install and activate plugins from the free repository.
From here you can control, add, edit or delete user profiles for your site. If you’re the only one with access, you’ll be the only one listed. If you allow multiple people to have access, they will be listed here along with their role and number of posts written.
When you were installing WordPress, do you remember that I said not to agonise too much over the Blog Title and Tagline settings because you could change them later. This is where you can do that. There are a lot of other options available under Settings, and we’ll be covering one or two of them during our masterclass on Friday, but in this General area, you can ensure that your language and timezone settings are correct, as well as choosing a date format. These will show up on your blog posts.
This gives a brief insight into the various areas of WordPress. We’ll be dipping into them in some more detail over the next few days.
When you first look at the front end of your site, by typing in your domain name, you see the Twenty Seventeen image in the header, followed by the default blog post. For some, that’s a Hello World message. For others, such as those of us using SiteGround, it’s a message about our hosting plan.
In the right hand sidebar, you can see one most recent post, as you only have one post on your website so far.
Your task today is to add your first blog post.
To do this, you go to Posts > Add New.
Don’t worry about the content that you’re going to add. For the time being, you can just add some test content. Include a title and some content within the main body. Also, don’t forget to add a featured image as I mentioned in the Posts section above. Try out some of the formatting options, such as emboldening text, and have a play around with some of the options.
Remember to hit the blue ‘publish’ button on the right hand side to save your work.
Then scroll to the top of the page and click ‘View Post’. This will show you how this post looks to people visiting your website.
When we include a new blog post, it appears above the original blog post, as the published date is more recent. (WordPress by default organises posts chronologically to show the most recent first). You’ll also notice that it appears under the Recent Posts in the sidebar too, and the featured image which you added, appears at the top of the article.
If you click on the title of the post, it wlll take you to a dedicated page for that particular post where people can leave comments.
That’s it for today. I simply wanted to give you a short walk through of the features of WordPress and give you an opportunity to try out some back-end functionality and see the effect it has on the front end.
Well done for creating your first WordPress blog post! Next, we’re going to look at choosing a WordPress theme.
This post was part of a Free 10-Day Build Your Own Website challenge. I’ll be running another similar challenge in February 2018 if you want to take part live. Join the free WordPress Happy Community to be sure to get in on the action.
Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2014 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. The programs are about so much more than website creation – they’re about rising above the noise, thriving at entrepreneurship, mastering technology with confidence and staying on track.