The following tutorial is targeted towards new WordPress users. I wrote this guide for Thermal Exposure clients as a kind of quick-start guide. However, I’ve tried to keep this article generic enough that anyone can refer to it. Feel free to share this article with your colleagues and clients.
This tutorial refers to WordPress version 3.2.1, the most current version as of this writing.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a sophisticated, easy-to-use, highly-scalable, FREE blogging platform and content management system. It is highly configurable as it is supported by a massive online community of developers. If you want to know if WordPress can do this or that… chances are, it can, because someone, somewhere has written a plugin to do just what your looking for (or pretty darn close).
Once upon a time, WordPress was just a blogging tool. In recent years it has really come into its own as a robust Content Management System (CMS).
Who uses WordPress?
Millions of individuals, celebrities, and enterprises both large and small.
Why should I care about WordPress?
WordPress empowers individuals without knowledge of HTML to manage their own website updates without having to engage a webmaster. You no longer have to wait hours or even days for your webmaster to fix that typo or add that new page to your site. You can do it yourself. And it’s a piece of cake.
As a webmaster with a decade-and-a-half of experience under my belt, I’m not thrilled with doing mundane website updates. I would much rather turn a client loose and be on my way to the next exciting project. My clients are happy they don’t have to pay for maintenance. WordPress is a win-win for Webmasters and Clients.
Once a WordPress installation is tailored to your needs with plugins to support Search Engine Optimization, Analytics, Social Media, and whatever else your heart desires, you’ll wish you had jumped on the WordPress band-wagon a lot sooner.
Yadda, yadda, yadda. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
WordPress: For the Uninitiated
Your WordPress Dashboard (CMS Back-end) is typically located at http://www.Your-Domain-Name.com/wp-admin/
The first time you visit your dashboard, you’ll be prompted for your username and password. It looks like this.
You know what to do.
The Dashboard. Don’t Panic.
The first time you log in, try to resist the urge to panic. It looks scary and complicated.
Relax. Breath Easy. It’s not that scary.
The Dashboard just shows you the health and status of your website. It can be configured to show more or less information, depending on your preference and what plug-ins are installed on your site.
Here, you’ll see how many pages you have, how many posts (blog articles), comments (including any that are awaiting approval). It will also let you know if there are any updates for wordpress.
The dashboard may appear different for you depending on what privileges you’ve been granted. Administrators see everything, whereas Editors and Contributors may see few options.
Over on the left side of your screen, you’ll see a menu with all the cool stuff you can do in WordPress. Once again, depending on your privileges, you may not see everything here. Let’s assume the Webmaster who turned you loose on WordPress really thinks highly of you, and you have access to everything.
Let’s do a quick run-down of what’s what.
Dashboard: Takes you to the home screen (the Dashboard).
Posts: Stuff related to blogging. Posts are different from Pages in that their treated a bit like news articles. They have a date stamp, they can be categorized depending on subject matter. If you run a blog about food you might have a few categories like “Cooking”, “Shopping”, “Holiday Meals”, “Storing Food”. If you’re a corporation you might treat your Posts like a news section, with categories like “Press Releases”, “In the Media”, “Product Announcements”, “Letters from Customers”, etc. ‘Posts’ are where the exciting commentary between you and your visitors take place, adding more and more value to your site over time. This is the heart and soul of your blog.
It’s possible you may never want to have a blog, or a news section. That’s okay. You don’t need to use WordPress like a blog. You can simply use WordPress to manage static pages that never (or seldom) change.
Media: This is your library. It can contain images, pdfs, videos, etc. You can upload media assets directly to the library. Alternatively, you can upload supporting images and documents while you draft your content (directly in the Post or Page editor). All of your supporting media assets will appear here, in the media library, where you can update and manage them in one convenient place.
Links: This one’s easy. Ignore it.
Pages: Different from Posts, think of Pages as the stuff that never (or rarely) changes on your site. Stuff like “About Us,” “Our Services,” “Contact Us,” etc. ‘Pages’ are your timeless content, whereas ‘Posts’ may simply be news, articles. By default, when you create a new page, it gets added to your site menu (though you can create your menus manually, instead.).
Comments: In this section you’ll be able to moderate comments that have been posted by your visitors. You can approve, reply, trash, and even mark as spam. Comments can add value over time to your blog and improve Search Engine Optimization.
The rest of the links, (Appearance, Plugins, Users, Tools, Settings) are all advanced features reserved for Administrators and are outside the scope of this article.
The Editor: It’s just like Word, only it doesn’t suck.
There are two places where you’ll encounter the WYSIWYG editor (what you see is what you get) [pronounced: wizzywig]: The Post Editor, and the Page Editor. The interface is the same.
The Page Editor
Over on the left side of the Dashboard, click on “Pages” to expand the menu. You’ll see “All Pages” and “Add New”.
Click on “All Pages” and you’ll see a list of pages on your site. (Click on the image below to enlarge it.)
Here, you can either edit an existing page, or add a new one. Click the link that reads, “Add New”.
When the “Add New Page” page loads, you’ll see an empty editor. I’ve filled some text in, so you can see what it looks like with content.
Give your new page a title. Page titles will be displayed in your site menu (navigation), so it’s best to keep it short. “About Us” is a good example. However, “Why Umbrella Corporation is the Proven Leader in Retro-viral Undead Serum Development” is probably too long. However, that’s a great title for a Post, and since Posts don’t appear in your site navigation, you can make them long, descriptive, and enticing. One can argue that Search Engines put significant weight on page and post titles – so, whatever the case, make it relevant!
Now let’s write that article!
The Editor’s Text Formatting Palette has some simple, probably familiar, controls. You can guess what some of these do. The screenshot below diagrams the functions of some special, very important buttons:
Familiarize yourself with these controls. The “Full Screen” button is a life-saver when composing a long article. The “Kitchen Sink” button switches between more or fewer buttons on the formatting palette (hiding the more advanced options on the second row.
You can format text as you would in MS Word, or any modern text editor. Simply highlight the text with your mouse and apply the formatting you desire (Bold, Italic, bullets, etc.).
You can also set some other Page Attributes. You can chose a “Parent” page – which will make the current page a “Child” of the Parent (duh.). This tells WordPress that this is not a top-level page and the link to this page will show up only as a drop-down menu item within the site navigation.
By default, WordPress will automatically generate your website navigation. Pages without a Parent are considered top-level pages. Child pages (pages with a Parent) will appear on the site navigation only as drop-down menu items underneath the parent.
Example: If the Parent page is set to Development, and Development has no parent, then Development will be a top-level menu item on your site navigation. The link to this new page, then, will appear as a nested drop-down menu item, below Development.
WordPress can be configured out-of-the-box to NOT automatically add new pages to the menu. Rather, you can manually construct your site navigation using the “Menus” tool under the “Appearance” tab (Administrators only).
The Post Editor
The Post Editor interface is just like the Page editor. The only difference between creating a Post and a Page is that Posts don’t get added to the navigation, and you have some different options for tagging, and categorizing your posts.
By default, WordPress only has one Category: Uncategorized. To make your blog (or news) easier to use, you should create a few categories to differentiate your posts. That way your readers can filter all your posts based on categories. e.g. “New Product Announcements” or “Recipes”.
In addition to Categories, you can also Tag your posts with helpful keywords. For example, if your post is a recipe for French Onion Soup, you might tag your article with the keywords, “French”, “Onion”, “Soup”, “Gruyere”, “Thyme”, “Beef Stock”, “Beef Bouillon.” Thus, your visitors have multiple ways to filter your blog. They can first filter by Recipes, and then show only recipes that call for Gruyere.
When you’re done composing your masterpiece, you can chose to save a draft, preview it (in a new browser window) or publish it (make it live!).
Working with Images
Inserting New Images
Image management within WordPress is not exactly intuitive. It’s not hard, but it just takes a bit of getting used to.
You have to understand, first, how to add an image.
My clients always seem to overlook the little icon on top of the editor:
It’s not exactly jumping off the page. In Full Screen mode, it’s a little easier to find. Look for the little camera with a musical note:
Clicking the Insert Media button will bring up a dialog box where you can chose to upload a file from your computer, from a URL, from the gallery (images already associated with the current post/page), or chose and image from the Media Library.
In many cases, you will probably be uploading from your computer.
Once you upload an image, you’ll be given the chance to give it a title (which makes it easier to find in the Media Library), provide Alternate Text (good for Search Engine Optimization and for text-only browsers), and provide an optional caption.
You can also decide how you want the image aligned relative to the text (None, Left, Center, Right). You can choose the size of the image (keeping in mind that your page template may not be able to accommodate the full-size image). You may also choose to link the image to another page, or another website – so you can change that property, too, where it reads “Link URL”.
Editing Already Inserted Images
You can always manipulate already inserted images by clicking on the little picture frame that appears as you hover over an image.
Here you can re-size the image, change the alignment, title, caption, and the Link URL.
It might take a few tries to get it just the way you want it. But with a little practice, you’ll soon be a WordPress master.
There are thousands (if not millions) of articles online about using and configuring WordPress. Remember, Google is your friend. If you’re not sure how to do something, just ask Google.