Become a Master at WordPress
A brief overview: This chapter will primarily focus on the customization of WordPress blogs and how to make your first blog post. You will learn how to change how your blog looks, and how to customize your pages and posts as well.
Two Main Parts of WordPress Blogging Platform
There are two very important parts of the WordPress platform: the front end and the back end.
The front end of the WordPress platform is the part of your blog that visitors see when they go to your site. The back end of the WordPress platform is the part of the platform that allows you to customize the front end. Many of the changes that you will make in the back end will show through in the front end, but this part is not visible to anyone besides you and whoever is able to login to your WordPress account. Your readers are also able to interact with the front end of your blog by posting comments on your blog posts and sharing them.
The WordPress dashboard, which is what the back end of the WordPress platform is oftentimes referred to as, is what allows you to manage and customize both the content and layout of your blog. You must have the login information to your WordPress account to access this. If you would like to access your dashboard, simply follow the link that we posted towards the end of the last chapter and submit all of your login information.
What You Can Do With Your WP Admin Dashboard
Essentially, the WordPress dashboard is the center of everything. It has three main parts: the top toolbar, the middle section, and the left side section. In the beginning stages, you will mainly be working with the left side section, as this is where most of the administrative powers are held, as well as the customization options.
Here is a brief overview of the many tools that are housed in the left side section:
- The update section is pretty self-explanatory. This is where you will find all available updates for themes, plugins, and other things that you have installed for your WordPress site. Occasionally, there will even be an update for the entire WordPress system.
- This section is where you will customize everything about your blog, including your themes, header, widgets, overall blog design, and menu items. You will be able to alter how all of these things look, as well as manage them.
- The post section is where you will be able to customize, create, and edit all of your posts. You can also create categories, delete categories, and do the same for tags.
- Plugins allow you to complete new functions with your blog, and this section is where you download new plugins, erase old ones, and customize your settings for each one.
- This section is where you can manage all of your media, including pictures, videos, and other types of files that you have uploaded to your WordPress account.
- If you would like to add a new user to your WordPress account, this is where you would do it. You can give them a username, password, and add other details to their accounts, while also deciding what they have access to in regards to behind the scenes.
- This section is where you can add, delete, and edit all of the pages of your blog.
- In this section, you have access to all of the tools that exist for you to put content on your blog and export content out of your blog.
- This section is where you will manage all of the comments that readers will leave on your blog. You have the ability to either approve or delete these comments.
- This is the section that contains all of the settings for your entire blog. When in doubt, if you are looking for something, check here.
In the left hand section, there are also menus for each individual plugin that you have installed for your blog. You can go to each of these menus and alter these plugins, as well as select certain functions and change how the plugins run.
A More in Depth Look at All of These Areas
Like most major services and pieces of software, WordPress periodically creates updates and fixes certain issues that may have been found with its programming. Additionally, WordPress will oftentimes release updates for the specific purpose of increasing security for the blogs that it hosts. Because of this, you may have to update your WordPress dashboard from time to time. More recent versions of WordPress have made it so these updates are downloaded automatically, but you will still be required to update your plugins, widgets, and themes on your own time.
The post section provides you with the ability to control all of the content that is posted on your blog. There are many different sections that can be found within the blog menu, and we are going to highlight all of them below.
This section will show you all of the posts that you have made on your blog. From here, you can quickly edit or delete a single post or multiple posts at one time. Additionally, you can edit these posts’ categories, whether or not readers can comment on them, their tags, and their status.
By clicking this button, you will be able to add a new post to your blog.
Here, you can add new categories, delete old categories, or edit the details of your current categories.
The tag section allows you to see all of the different keywords that you have tagged your posts with, as well as to delete these keywords, add new ones, or edit the current ones that you already have.
When you install WordPress, you will automatically be given a media manager that will prove to be incredibly useful. Here, you can upload all types of media in order to insert them into your posts, headers, sidebars, and pages. This media can be anything, including music files, videos, and photos. You always have the ability to add more media, delete old media, or edit media that is already stored within your dashboard. Here are the options that fall under the media section:
The library is where all of your media is saved and where you can view all of it.
This button allows you to upload new media to your collection.
Pages are what provide content that is always in the same spot and never changes unless edited. Generally speaking, the most common pages that a blog includes are its Contact page, About Me page, Products page, and other similar types of ideas. Here are the sections that can be found in the page area:
This is where you can view every current page of your blog. You can see when they were last updated, the author of each page, and perform quick edits.
This button allows you to create a new page.
How Are Posts and Pages Different?
When individuals first start out blogging, they are oftentimes confused about the differences between posts and pages. In order to make this as clear as possible, we are going to go over these differences and explain what posts and pages are used for.
To begin, here is how they are similar. Both posts and pages have titles, authors, very specific content, publishing dates, and the ability to include both media and plugins. Additionally, they can be edited, added, deleted, and updated as many times as the blog owner would like, and they can essentially contain any type of content the blog owner wants.
However, this is how posts and pages differ. Generally speaking, you would not use pages for posting the main content of your blog. Instead, you would use posts. Pages would be used for subjects relevant to your blog, such as your biography or contact information. They are also perfect for things that remain relative static and that will always be relevant to the content of your blog.
Posts, however, are always related to the main content of your blog, and they will show up in your blog’s feed. Pages never show up in your blog’s feed, and you must instead directly link individuals to them in order for others to see them.
Comments are by far the easiest way for readers to interact with blog owners. With comments, readers can give blog owners feedback regarding their posts, they can ask questions to other commenters or the blog owner, and they can provide their own insight and stories, all of which is very valuable. This interaction helps for other readers to become engaged as well, and encourages others to start reading the blog. Unless you decide to disable comments on either your blog posts or blog pages, readers will be able to write on both of these. Encourage readers to leave comments on your posts, approve the comments very quickly once they do, and always do your best to respond to them. This conversation between you and the individual reader will make him or her want to continue reading your posts and comment in the future.
In the comment section of your blog, you will be provided with several different options, including the ability to approve comments, delete comments, or mark certain comments as spam.
This menu is exactly what it sounds like- where you can control the appearance of your blog. This is where you will install or edit your blog’s themes, change the background of your blog, or edit or put in a new header.
Within the Appearance menu, here are the following sections that you will want to become familiar with:
Here, you can download themes that are available via WordPress, or you can install a theme that you obtained somewhere else.
Almost all themes allow you to customize them to at least some extent, so you will have the option of changing colors, fonts, background images, taglines, and the content that is featured on the home page of the blog.
To put it simply, think of widgets as ‘boxes’ that you can add to different parts of your blog. The types of widgets that you can add will vary based off of which theme you are using, but basic ones include headers, footers, homepages, and sidebars. In order to add widgets, you generally just need to drag and drop them to your blog, making it an incredibly simple task to accomplish. More advanced and specific widgets include recent comments, recent posts, search bars, subscription links, about texts, and links to other sites.
Again, like widgets, menus primarily depend on which theme you have decided to use. Generally speaking, however, you can add at least one menu to the header of your blog.
If your theme allows you to, you can always place a picture or other type of graphic at the top of your blog. This is referred to as a ‘header’.
Again, if your theme allows it, you can choose to change the color of your background or use a photo as your background.
The Editor is a very technical tool and we strongly recommend that you do not try using it unless you are an advanced WordPress coder. With the Editor, you can edit the code of themes in order to make them look or function a specific way. If you do this, it is recommended that you make your edits offline, so you can check to make sure that the theme works properly, and can then fix any errors if it doesn’t. You do not want to make the edits while the blog is live, and then have potential readers see that your site is broken, as this looks very unprofessional.
Choose the Perfect Theme For Your Blog
One of the first steps to creating a successful blog is to find the perfect theme for your site. While you do want your theme to be aesthetically pleasing, you also will want to make sure that it is practical and versatile. Readers should be able to look throughout your blog and sift through your content with ease, and they should never feel confused or lost while doing so. The fact of the matter is that if a site visitor struggles to navigate through your blog, he or she will most likely never return to the blog again. Thus, you want to make sure that you have a blog theme that causes the opposite to happen, and instead encourages readers to come back to your site and read more of your content.
Almost as soon as your WordPress blog is officially up and running, you should start thinking about which theme you would like to use. How your blog looks is one of the first things that your site visitors will notice, and it is important that you put a lot of thought and consideration into the theme selection process. Pick a theme that you personally like the looks of, but that also works well with your content and the overall subject that your blog revolves around. There will be a default theme that is automatically installed on your site when you first create it, but you do not want to stick with this theme for longer than necessary. It is basic and gets the job done, but you will want something that is a little more eye-catching and exciting.
In order to make the theme selection process as easy as possible, we are providing you with some tips and tricks that you should definitely take advantage of:
- Always Make Sure to Read the Theme’s Description. It is very rare to find a theme that doesn’t include a short description regarding what the theme looks like and what functions it provides users with. Make sure to take a look at this before you ever download a theme, as you do not want to be hit with any surprises.
- See What Other Blog Owners Have Rated it. If a theme has a very low rating, you obviously do not want to use it. However, if it has a very high rating, this is a good sign that you should consider giving it a chance.
- Look Closely at the Theme. Take a look at the theme in preview mode and make sure you like how it functions. See if it is easy to use, and make sure that you like the aesthetic appearance.
- Pick a Responsive Design. Make sure your theme is versatile enough to work on all types of operating software, computers, tablets, and cell phones. You don’t want a potential reader to not look at your site simply because he or she can’t view it properly.
If you find a theme that you are absolutely in love with, that’s great! However, don’t be immediately disappointed if it doesn’t look perfect when you first install it. You will need content, pictures, graphics, pages, and lots of other things for it to look like the site you have been dreaming of. If it looks a little bare at first, try not to be discouraged. You just need to make it your own blog and customize it to fit your own dreams and needs. Simply follow the instructions we provided you with earlier in order to add content and graphics.
The Different Types of Themes Available to You
There are thousands of free themes available for WordPress blogs, but for many bloggers, these free themes simply just do not cut it. Fortunately, if you fall into this category, there are two other types of themes for you to take a look at: premium themes and custom themes. They range from being very affordable to very expensive, and they cover a wide arrange of interests and features.
However, when so many different options are available to you, it can be difficult to decide which theme you would like to claim as yours and use for your blog. This is why we are here- to help make this process easier for you.
Both individuals and companies create premium themes, and there is a huge variety to choose from. They generally start for about 40 dollars and can sell for up to 300 or 400 dollars, and they range from very simple to very complex.
A custom theme is a theme that you hire an individual to create for you. When this happens, the coder or agency either alters a current theme that you already had in mind, or makes a completely custom one for you from scratch. They start at 500 dollars and can sometimes even cost thousands, and we do not recommend that beginning bloggers start out with them. Due to their costly manner and the fact that you must have extensive knowledge regarding WordPress themes in order to tell the person making it for you what you would like, they can be a difficult choice for beginners.
WordPress Blog Unique Customizations
Now that we have given you the tools that you need in order to select a theme for your blog, let’s move on to how you can further customize it in order to make it 100 percent yours.
Plugins are different bundles of code that help to complete certain actions for your blog. They can be incredibly useful and we strongly recommend that you download and install at least several for your site. Currently, a majority of them are free, but you may have to pay for some of them.
We strongly recommend that you start by downloading certain ones, such as Akismet, Google Analytics, Digg Digg, Authors Widget, and Contact Form 7. All of these will help you have a great foundation for your blog and will get you going.
Make sure to take advantage of all of the customization options that WordPress provides in order to make your blog fit all of your needs and become completely yours. It may take a little for you to become comfortable with all of these options, but you will eventually get the hang of it.