Before You Start This Walkthrough
|Plan!Take a little time and decide things like:
More than almost anywhere else, “form follows function” on the Web. WordPress provides numerous opportunities to select preferences for display: there are a number of themes to choose from; there are color schemes to consider; there are one, two and three column displays; there are photo/image centric displays and text-centric displays. Each choice you make in these areas sends a message to your reader. Because WordPress is so easy to use and customize, it doesn’t take much to get lost in a forest of functionality and lose the guiding purpose of your site.
The web is predominantly a visual environment. It works best when your goals and your visual design choices are all sending the same message.
So. Please take some time and plan out what you want to do and how you want it to look. Make list. Make a sketch. Make an outline of how you want your pages and posts to relate to each other.
It will be much easier to do this work before you start creating content rather than after you have twenty or thirty-something pages created that all need to be changed, one at a time.
Access Your Site
The Administration Panel
The Administration Panel has three sections that you will be working with:
- The Header
The Header is the shaded strip at the top of the page. On the left, you will see the name of your blog and a “View Site” button that will take you back to your site. On the right, you will see a Favorites Menu of common tasks, your name (When clicked takes you to your profile settings page.), and the Log Out button. (Ignore the “Turbo” button, it is not installed on Colby WordPress MU.)
- The Navigation Menu
The left side of the screen holds the Navigation Menu. This is a listing of functions and features you will be using. At the very top, you will see the “Dashboard”. This view is currently displayed in the image above. The “My Blogs” link takes you to a listing of your blogs. The following menu items can be expanded or collapsed by clicking on the down-arrow that is to the right of each menu item. This arrow is hidden until you hover your mouse pointer over the title of the item.
- The Work Area
The Work Area is in the center of your screen. When you click on any Navigation Menu item, the features and functions available to you related to that item will display in this area. In the current image, the Work Area for the Dashboard is displayed.
The Dashboard displays information about your site. It tells you how many pages and posts and comments you have. It tells you what Widgets you have installed and what version of WordPress you are running. From here, you jump into the functional areas of the WordPress Administrative Panel.
The Order of Things…
This is a “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” type of question. We could start talking about posts and pages and then move on to themes and widgets, or we could first talk about themes and widgets and then move on to posts and pages. It probably is a matter of personal preference.
We are going to start with a single post and a single page – and then delve into themes and settings. We have chosen this method because some of the setting we will be discussing require a page or post to link to.
Creating Your First Post
A post is different from a page in that it is time-dependent. Posts are archived and displayed chronologically. They are often transitory in nature and are seldom “updated”. You just write a new post. They are effective online discussion vehicles and are very popular in the opinion/philosophical areas of collaboration.
Video: Adding a New Post
Once you have added a new post, WordPress will display the Rich Text Editor:
Video: Adding a Picture from your Computer
A Closer Look at the Insert Image Dialog
The filename of your picture
This will default to the filename. It is used in the HTML tag and can be edited under the HTML tab once the file is inserted.
This is used as the “ALT” tag information. It is useful if you want search engines to more readily find the image.
- Link URL
This is the physical location of the image file. You can copy this URL to link to the picture from other pages or blogs without re-inserting the picture.
LEFT – positions the picture on the left side of the screen and allows text to be inserted parallel to it on the right
RIGHT – positions the picture on the right side of the screen and allows text to be inserted parallel to it on the left
CENTER – positions the image in the center of the screen and any text is inserted on the following line
NONE – positions the image on the left side of the screen and any text is inserted on the following line
If you select “Thumbnail” here, the image is inserted as a link to the full-size image. When the user clicks on the thumbnail, the browser will display the full-size image on a new screen. You may hit the “Back” button to return to the post screen.
When you are done, you can either insert the image into the post or delete it.
If the image you want to insert has already been uploaded:
- Select “Media Library” instead of uploading from your computer
- Scan through the entries to find the image you want
- Click “Show” to display all its settings
- Click Insert
Finishing your Post
Once you have completed the content of your post, you need to define TAGS and CATEGORIES for it.
Categories are a way to organize and identify your posts. They allow readers to search for posts on your site, and they enable search engines to “find” your content.
All posts must have at least one category associated with them. The default is “Uncategorized” which you do not want. Create at least one category.
Video: Creating a Category for your Post
Posts can have more than one category, so you can create and assign as many categories as you want to any one post. Categories are used most often to provide organization to blog entries, which are by nature chronological.
Tags and Categories are actually the same thing. In practice, Tags have become those qualifiers that are more specific; Categories have become top-level groupings. So, for example, “Pies” would be a category and “Strawberry, Mince, and Pumpkin” would be tags.
The more tags and categories you use, the easier it is for readers and search engines to find your content. However, it is important to think out your organizational hierarchies before you start randomly assigning tags and categories.
Video: Creating Tags for your Post
Creating Your First Page
The mechanics for creating a page are identical to creating a post with the exception of two items:
- You cannot assign tags or categories to a page. Some users work around this by creating a POST that is a short introduction to the article or topic that contains a link to the PAGE that contains the entire piece. In this way, users can SEARCH your site for the topic, and be able to link to the full article from the POST.
- To create a hierarchical order for your pages, you establish “Parent” (or top level) pages and “Child” (lower level) pages. To use the same example, “Pies” could be a Parent page and “Strawberry” could be a Child page of “Pies”. While users cannot search for these attributes, they can easily be shown in the navigation widgets in a “Pages” Listing. (See Widgets below)
Whether this is worth the effort, or not, depends on the intended purpose of your site. If you are building a site that will contain many articles/”blogs” over time, it may be important to create this index-like linking. On the other hand, you are creating a more static site that will contain your artworks – you can easily build a hierarchy using PAGES and do not need the linking structure.
Back to Appearance and Settings
Now that we have a page and a post created, we can go back and look at general site settings and appearance.
The appearance of WordPress sites is defined by “Themes“. Themes are web files with PHP coding on them that define how headings look, what font is used, where navigation bars are positioned on the site…etc. In short, the control everything about how the site is displayed – including logo and header artwork.
There are many themes to choose from on the Colby WordPress Site. To preview and select a theme:
- Click on the “Appearance” administration subpanel to expand it
- Click on “Themes”
Video: Opening the Themes Page
This will bring up the Themes selection page:
Browse through the themes until you find one that you like. Preview the theme to see what it looks like with your content in it. (This is one reason why we created a page and a post before we discussed Appearances.)
When you find a theme you like, click “Activate” in the top right corner of the preview window. WordPress will automatically reformat your site based on the theme you have chosen.
“Widgets” are little programs that provide specific functions on your site. Some examples are:
- A search box for your site
- A listing of recent posts
- A listing of pages
- Other links of your choosing
Each them handles these functions in a slightly different way, so you may need to adjust your content slightly if you change themes. Themes also allow you to choose which widgets you want on your site and the order and location in which they appear.
Video: Displaying your Post’s Widget Choices
Editing Widget Content
HTML and Widgets
Widget content is one of the areas in WordPress where you may need to understand some HTML code. If you select one of the pre-formatted widgets – such as a post archive – you do not need to do anything at all. But if you select a Text Widget and want to put custom links into it, you will need to know HTML coding – as the Text Widget accepts HTML code or straight text only.
Click here for a quick tutorial on HTML link code.
Your Site Settings
Video: Accessing your Settings Administration Subpanel
Below we will discuss four of the most useful settings subpanels. Be sure to “SAVE” your changes if you make any.
Under General Settings you will find your Title, Tagline, mail address and settings for date and time. Make sure your title and “tagline” are as you want them to be. They were created with default values.
Writing settings control how posts are displayed on your site.
Unless you have specific needs based on the purpose of your site, you can leave these settings as they are. The one that you may want to change is the “Default Category” setting. It will be set to “Uncategorized”. You could change this to mirror at least the name of your site. That way any posts that you forget to assign to a specific category will at least point to your site.
This is an important settings subpanel. It is on this page that you define your site as a “Blog” or as a “Web Site”.
At the very top of this subpanel, you will see the setting for “Front page displays”. If you check “Your latest posts”, the site will appear to readers as a blog. The “Home” page will be a listing of your posts and comments. If however, you select a “Static page” your site will display a page that you select as the home page and the site will look like a regular website. This decision depends totally on your target audience and the purpose of your site.
If you click on the drop-down menu next to “Static page” you will see that the page you created earlier is listed. Eventually, all your top level pages will be available in this drop-down.
Privacy settings define who can see your site; and if they have to provide a username and password to do so.
There are various levels of access you can set from “open to the world at large” to “only you and WordPress at Colby administrators.” Your blog may pass through several of these levels as you develop it. It may start out as private, move to being visible to only the user that you select, and eventually “go live” to the world. It is up to you.
These are the basic things you need to know to start working on your Colby WordPress Site. WordPress is a “hands-on” type of application. To get comfortable with it, you have to experiment with it. Try things. Add things. Delete things. Short of actually deleting your site, you cannot “break” it. And even if you delete your site, we can still create you another one.
So jump in!
If you need assistance, someone to talk to, or a little more training, contact [email protected]