Total time: 30 minutes
Resources needed: Computer, Blog, and Patience.
Goal: To guide you through the wordpress dashboard and hit publish on your first post.
You might have logged in to your wordpress account (www.yoururl.com/wp-login) and seen the dashboard and had a moment of confusion as to where to go from there.
This lesson is going to take you through:
-Writing a Post
-Comments and Discussion
-Navigation and Menus
-Wordpress General Settings
-Reading and Discussion Settings
Each of these might sound like a bit of a foreign language, but I promise, after you read and participate in this lesson your wordpress dashboard will be a working force for your content.
Let’s get started…
WRITING A POST:
Logging in to wordpress you will immediately see the option to go to your post. Once you have clicked that option you will be presented with the opportunity to write a new post or view all posts.
As you notice wordpress has already written a generic post called “Hello World” that you can either delete or save as a draft. This is just an example post they provide. The view all post section allows you to look at posts that you have started on, see their status, and, if needed, go back in and correct any mistakes or typos. We are going to focus on writing a new post today. Go ahead and hit new post.
Once you open up your new post window you will have a couple of places to put your content. You will write in your title, content will go in the next box under the title, and then categories and tags will be available to label your post (found on the right). We will get to categories and tags in just a minute.
As you can see, you have several different options to help with your content. Just like any word doc you can change the font, size, color, alignment and so much more. But one feature that you will need to make sure you click on is the “kitchen sink.” Yes, there is a feature called the kitchen sink, and this will provide several more editing options for your content. It looks something like this:
Note: because we have already written 25 blog posts before we ever logged in to our wordpress site, be careful when pasting those in. Some programs like evernote, pages, and other word document programs have code that is written in to them that will mess with your post. Be sure that when you paste in your content you paste it in to the TEXT option that you see next to the visual view.
You can see on the top right that you have options to set post as a draft, schedule the post, or hit publish. I will usually schedule all my posts for the next day at 5:00 A.M. Posting times can vary depending on your audience.
COMMENTS AND DISCUSSION:
Your post has been published. You have it proofed, pictures added, links correct, and a catchy headline. We will now move in to the comment section. WordPress provides a native comment system that will provide your readers the chance to leave a comment on your blog post (we will talk about another plugin for comments later). This is one of the best parts about blogging, getting comments on your post.
One way to get comments is to ask for audience participation. The best way to do this, and what most bloggers do, is end each post with a question. Asking the reader for their thoughts, feelings, and response. This is an easy way to keep readers engaged and interacting with your material.
Once you have received a comment you will be able to preview, disable, or reply. I highly recommended replying to each comment you receive. This will continue the conversation with your reader and keep them coming back to your site for more content. You can see the settings for your comments on your wordpress dashboard as well as see the tab for comments to approve, disapprove, or mark as spam.
You have your post, but what about your pages? Pages are different than posts because they are more static. They have their own destination, usually living in your navigation area, and provide the reader with content such as information about the blog, products, a speaking schedule, or a specific topic you write about.
You can create a page much like a post by hitting the page button on your dashboard. Once you create a page it will go in to your navigation area, so be careful how many you create because you do not want too many options. Think of pages like a business card. If you wanted to give people a glimpse of who you were and offer up value, what pages would you need to create to give them that value?
NAVIGATION AND MENUS:
These options are usually found in the header and above your content. This is where you get the opportunity to guide your readers in the information you want them to consume. Several themes have different options for how many navigation items you can display. This is where your pages, categories, archives, sitemap, and contact information live.
It is important to note the difference between a navigation option and a menu option. Navigation is a static setting where all you will see is one option to click, whereas a menu option is a drop-down menu that allows you to create “parent” pages or categories that live inside the menu. Parent options are sub-pages or sub-categories that you have created that live inside the overall page or category.
For example, you would create an about page, but maybe you love fish, so you would create a sub-page with all the fish you own. This fish page could be a parent to your about page. And when readers hover over the about menu option all your other sub-pages will be displayed. This is an easy trick to display more content in different places and have it look nice and clean. You can select this option by going to the dashboard and heading to the appearance tab and then select menus.
Not to be confused with a gadget, a widget gives you the ability to display several different options in your side bar. Widget option can be found in the Appearance tab. Once you select this option you will be able to see your sidebar area.
A sidebar is what it sounds like, a bar of content on the side of your post. It will either be on the left or right of your blog. Once in the widget dashboard area, you will be presented with several different functions to insert. Most themes give you different built-in options as well. This area has a ton of different options to display images, recent comments, ads, contact info, about info, and so much more. This is the primary home for any plugin you add.
Plugins provide a lot of good and sometimes a lot of bad results. There are several plugins that can be used for your blog. Click on the plugin in option right under appearance and you will see that wordpress already has one plugin added for you.
This is where you can add in comment plugins like DISQUS (highly recommended) or spam filters like Akismet. The temptation with plugins is to get a bit carried away trying to make your site customized. Resist that temptation.
Though plugins have the ability to enhance your site, the down side is they can drastically slow your blog down as well as provide security threats to your blog. The less amount of plugins, the better performance and security your blog will see.
Installing a plugin is very easy. Once you are on the plugin page, hit add new. From there you will search for the plugin you are interested in, or select from popular plugins based off of downloads from other bloggers. Select the plugin of choice and hit the details option to learn more. Once you have read the details hit install.
It is important to note that plugins, just like your wordpress blog, will have updates. These updates will provide new and improved features, or security updates to keep your site safe. Try and keep all plugins up to date to provide the best quality performance for your blog.
Like any great product, wordpress has settings that you can work with. Inside the general settings area you will be able to give your site a title and description. If you do not change your header, this title and description that is found in the general settings area will be what appears on your site. So remove the “a wordpress blog” description that wordpress adds in for you.
You will also see an option to choose your time zone. This is a code, but I live on central standard time, so my option is UTC-5. You will need to set this option so that when scheduling your post they will be published at the time you want them to be published.
READING AND DISCUSSION SETTINGS:
The next two options inside of your wordpress settings are the reading and writing options. These will provide you a couple of different options to customize the way you deliver your content as well as the way readers interact with your content.
The reading settings provide you with a couple of great features. One of those features is to create a home page and a blog page. If you want your site to have a landing page feature to it (have a designated page of arrival for your readers) you can click the static page option and select the page that you have created for readers to see. From there you can also set your posting page. This will be the page that your blog posts are seen on.
This option has a bit of customization to be used correctly, but if you are launching a product, want your about page featured, or for a more customized site, setting your static page is a great way to get that affect.
Here are a couple of examples of great static pages:
Inside of the reading settings you will also be able to customize how many blog posts appear on your front page, how many posts appear in your RSS feed, as well as if you want your RSS feed to display full text or a summary of your text.
The discussion settings are all about the reader and provide you several ways to create the best experience for your reader. You can choose to moderate all comments before they are published, be notified of any new comment, or set up a filter for words or phrases that you do not want appearing in your comment stream.
This is another setting option that allows you to customize your site to your taste.
Yes, I know, that is the weirdest setting you have ever heard of. But permalinks will be one of the most important settings you check out today. This is how your post will be structured inside of the URL.
The default setting for permalinks URL structure is to give you something that might look like this http://yoururl.com/?p=123. Try telling a friend to remember that URL.
The nice thing is that wordpress allows you to choose several different options for how you want your post URL’s to be displayed. I personally like to choose the “Post Name” option.
After going through each setting your site is ready for your first post. But before you hit publish be sure to complete Exercise 6, how to customize your site.