In “How to Start a Blog” we cover the basic things you need to get started on the World Wide Web. That includes getting a domain name, selecting a host server for your website, installing WordPress content management software, and changing some basic configuration settings. In this post, we will delve deeper into the behind-the-scenes magic that is WordPress. Here you will learn just how easy it is to create your own webpage/blog without any programming knowledge or coding skills.
Each WordPress website has a front-end and a back-end. The front-end is what the world sees when they type www.yourdomainname.com in their browser. Believe it or not, you already have a front-end webpage because WordPress created one for you. Feel free to go check it out. The back-end is what you see when you type www.yourdomainname/wp-admin in your browser. Once you enter the user name and password you created during the software installation, the portal to the world behind the curtain, called the WordPress administration console, opens for you. You will be spending a lot of time here, so it is a good idea to bookmark this page.
The WordPress administration console defaults to opening with the Dashboard visible in the work area. The Dashboard displays various statistics about your website and probably looks a little intimidating at this point. Not to worry, though, as you will soon become familiar with everything. Also, please note that your Dashboard will look slightly different from the illustrations because certain plugins and themes will add additional menu items to the WordPress administration console, in order to enhance its functionality. The first thing you can do to reduce some of the workspace clutter is to click “Dismiss” on the top right corner of the welcome module. Additionally, you can rearrange the remaining modules to your fancy by dragging them around to different locations.
Now we can take a quick tour. At the top of the WordPress administration console is a toolbar and to the left is a main navigation sidebar. Starting in the upper right corner you will see “Howdy, User” on the toolbar. Hover over this with your pointer and it will expand to give you access to your profile, where you can do things like change your password or choose a different color scheme. Just below “Howdy, User,” look for two tabs labeled “Screen Options” and “Help”. These tabs are available throughout the WordPress administration console and are specific to the administration screen in which you are working. For instance, on the Dashboard the “Screen Options” tab allows you to select the modules shown in the current view (you can click on the Welcome module you dismissed earlier to restore it here) and the “Help” tab provides links to Dashboard related help topics.
Moving from right to left on the toolbar, you will find a shortcut menu for adding new content, a shortcut for reviewing comments (you should not have any yet), and possibly a notification that updates are available. To the left of these you should see your website name. Clicking here, you can toggle back and forth between the back-end and front-end of your website. This is a very handy link to use to check the effect of changes made to your website.
Finally, on the far left of the toolbar is the WordPress logo. Hover over the logo with your pointer and it will expand to give you several options. Clicking on “About WordPress” will open a new screen in your work area describing the new features in the current WordPress version. The other options are external links to WordPress.org, the WordPress documentation and information site, WordPress support forums, and the forum for WordPress requests and feedback.
Directly below the WordPress log is the main navigation side bar. This is where you will spend the majority of your time working in the administrative console and we will examine each of these screens in detail in future posts. Most of these menu items have sub-menus that will expand when you hover over your selection or will be listed on the side bar when you click your selection.
• Dashboard – We have already explored the Dashboard screen and you can click here to return to it at any time. The Dashboard Update screen provides a convenient place to update your themes and plugins when newer versions become available.
• Posts – Here is where you will create all those awesome posts to provide content to your blog. In addition to creating new posts, you can see all existing posts for editing and publishing, create and manage post categories, and add or delete tags or keywords. My next WordPress post will be devoted to exploring the details of this screen.
• Media – Before photographs or movies can appear in a post, they have to be uploaded to the media library. Uploading is usually accomplished on the fly when creating a post, so you will seldom navigate here. However, it is a great place to manage your media and delete uploaded items that are not being used.
• Pages – You will spend a fair amount of time here when you first build your website, but not so much afterwards. Posts will represent most of your content, but pages are great places for presenting “static” content like “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages. WordPress makes it easy to create, edit, and publish a variety of pages.
• Comments – Allowing your readers to post their thoughts regarding the content in your posts encourages discussion and community on your website. On this screen, you can approve, unapprove, edit, and delete comments.
• Appearance – Once you have created some content and a structure for your website, you will want to spend some time on the window dressing for the front-end. Here you can access “Themes” which are skins for your website that control the design, layout, color, etc. Your WordPress installation probably used the WordPress Twenty Fifteen theme as the default, but there are thousands of themes to choose from and you can change your theme at any time. The functionality of many of the options under Appearance varies with the theme you have installed, and it may include theme customization and editing, as well as the ability to change items in your background and header. In addition, here is where you will build your menu structure and select widgets to control the information displayed on your sidebar.
• Plugins – Want to add some sizzle to your website? There are thousands of plugins available for you to download and manage from this screen. Plugins do everything from protecting your website from spam attacks to providing links so that readers can like your posts through social media.
• Users – Having other people help you to maintain and provide content for your website is another feature supported by WordPress and this is where you can create accounts for them. User privileges allowed when logged in is dependent on their assigned role, which can include Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, or Subscriber.
• Tools – Everybody needs a few good tools, and WordPress provides tools to import or export content and to covert categories and tags.
• Settings – Up until now, we have been looking at navigating to places where you control the different components of your website. The settings screen is where you control the variables that affect your website as a whole. The control categories here include General, Writing, Reading, Discussion, Media, Privacy, and Permalinks (which we customized in “How to Start a Blog”).
It has been a long journey my friends, but we have explored the main navigation areas of the WordPress administration console. In future posts, we will explore the nooks and crannies behind many of these areas as we develop and post content, create a navigation structure for our readers, and make the website look pretty.
Please leave comments or questions in the comments area below.