If you’re a beginner, this basic WordPress post will help you find your way through the admin area — the back end. Once you know your way around, WordPress is easy to use. Even if you’re an experienced developer you may not be aware of all that WordPress can do.
As the most popular content management system (CMS), WordPress powers about 39.8% of the internet and its popularity is growing. It has grown from a blogging platform to a full-fledged CMS since I first started using it in 2006.
To log in to the admin area, go to yoursite.com/wp-admin. I suggest you create a permanent bookmark in your browser to make it easy to log in. Here’s a short video that will show you how.
WordPress Admin Menu
After you log in, you’ll land on the WordPress Dashboard. This is the control center for your website. It’s where you’ll go to add new posts or pages, update plugins, and change anything you like on your site.
Posts are timely and are by default arranged in reverse chronological order with the newest posts appearing first.
The Posts page is simply a list of your posts, both published posts and drafts. Under Posts you’ll see Add New, Categories, and Tags.
Category names should reflect the topic of what you’re writing about. For example on my site, I write about marketing, WordPress, and writing, so those are my category names.
You can also have sub-categories. Under my WordPress category, I might have sub-categories called Plugins and Themes.
Before you start posting, you’ll want to set up your categories. There you can set up the category name, description (although it’s rarely used), URL (this is important for SEO purposes), and the parent category if there is one.
Some themes allow color coding for different categories, and that’s where you would choose the colors. You could also do this with CSS.
Tags are a more specific way to sort your content than categories. For example, if you have a post about lemon cookies, it might be in a category called Fruit, but you might tag it lemon cookies and/or lemon.
The Tags page is set up in the same way as the Category page. You can set up tags as you set up your site or wait until you begin writing posts and set them up before you publish.
Don’t use a tag with the same name as an existing category. You can use as many tags as you like on each post.
The media library is where you’ll add images to pages and posts on your site. Click on the image and you’ll see information about that image, such as filename, alt tag, date of upload, file size, and dimensions.
Keep your image file sizes as small as possible — use JPG for photographic images and PNG only for images that require transparency.
Pages are set up similarly to posts, but, instead of appearing in reverse chronological order, they stay in place. Use pages for content that is evergreen, such as your About page, pages that describe your services, and your Contact page.
Like posts, you’ll see a list of pages and a link to create a new page.
The Appearance menu controls the site’s look. That’s where you go to select the theme for the site.
This menu varies according to your theme. It generally contains site identity settings, homepage settings, a place for custom CSS, and menu settings. Some themes have more Customizer settings than others.
You can create as many WordPress menus as you like. Your theme will specify the locations, but you can also use a widget to add a menu to any other area that accepts widgets.
Menus are arranged by simple drag and drop. To edit a menu, select the menu at the top, then drag and drop to change the order of menu items.
Each menu item has options of its own, such as title, ability to move between menu levels, and a space to add a CSS class to that menu item. This is useful, for example, if you want to make your last menu item a button.
Widget areas are usually defined by the theme, however, you can add new widget areas. Many themes have a built-in way to add widget areas; if not, you can do it with custom code in the Functions.php file.
Edit CSS and Theme Editor
Although you can make changes to your CSS and theme files in this section, you should not. If you edit theme files, your changes will be lost when you perform a theme update.
If you’re going to make changes to theme files, it’s better to create a child theme, which I’ve explained here. For CSS, you can use the Additional CSS section in the Customizer.
Plugins are an important part of WordPress. They are simple pieces of software that add additional functionality to your website.
They are not without issues; plugin conflicts can break things on your site, so stick to plugins that are well-written and solid. You can read reviews and see ratings about plugins on WordPress.org. You can also click Details in the plugin list and see information about how many times the plugin has been installed, who the author is, how recently it’s been updated, and whether or not it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. Read carefully before you install a plugin.
You can add or delete users as you wish. Be very careful who you add and especially careful about those who get Admin access, which allows the user control over the entire site. You can read more about user roles and capabilities here on the WordPress site.
Included in the default WordPress tools are import and export, which allows you to export your entire site and import content. This is useful for migrating your site, especially from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org site.
Plugins you install or your theme may add additional settings to the Tools section.
Basic WordPress Settings
This is where you add the name of your site and the URL. Your WordPress URL is the address where files and folder are stored. Your Site URL is the public address of your website. They will generally be identical.
This is another important setting. You may have already set this up in the Customizer, but if not, you can specify your home page settings here. If you’re using the site primarily for blogging, you can make your home page display your latest posts.
If you are using the site for business, you’ll want to set a page as your home page.
Use the Discourage search engines checkbox while you’re in development or if for some reason you don’t want search engines to index your site.
Configure your related posts here, choose whether or not you want a thumbnail displayed or just a list of posts.
Here’s where you set your permalink structure, which is the way your URLs will appear. The permalink is the permanent link to your post or page. By default, your URLs will look something like https://bethgsanders.com/?p=123.
That’s not only not pretty, it makes your content difficult to find. You can select what information you want to be in your URL, but I opt for post name. That makes my URL https://bethgsanders.com/name-of-my-post.
Not only is this URL more meaningful to the reader, it’s an SEO boost.
Write a Post
Next week we’ll talk about writing a post in Gutenberg, WordPress’ text editor.