Widget areas in WordPress are containers you can use to add functionality or design elements via widgets at predefined or custom spots on your pages. Widget areas, in combination with widgets, are therefore a powerful customization tool that allows you to make the most out of your WordPress site. Working with them isn’t universal because…Details
On this page, you’ll learn how to set up your WordPress site from scratch and how to continue developing it once done. If you scroll down to the end of the page, you’ll find a list of focused resources that can help you with specific customization tasks. If you’re looking for something in particular, you can use the search field to the right to explore your topic of interest.
Once you’ve started your blog or site, you can access the WordPress Admin panel by typing http://mydomain.com/wp-admin/ in the URL field of your browser and entering your credentials. It is here you start your journey by configuring your new WordPress site.
Take a look at the different marked areas at the screenshot. They are the most important functions you have to learn to work with. No worries, they are all explained in detail below.
Before You Dig In
WordPress is a great platform for two reasons: it’s made to be as easy as possible to use and it’s incredibly flexible. This means that the Dashboard is quite intuitive, using simple language, and offering different options for customization, depending on your technical skills.
The rule is that you can use WordPress without ever touching code BUT it’s a great advantage to at least be able to apply small edits to HTML and CSS. An example here is WordPress removing Justified text alignment from their editing tools. Knowing how to work with HTML and/or CSS allows you to use it anyway.
There are many examples of the flexibility of WordPress. For people with no knowledge of HTML/CSS/JS, there’re tons of options in terms of design and functionality, one can get their hands on by installing different themes and plugins.
For developers, there are almost no limitations: custom themes, child themes, own plugins, APIs, etc.
Yet another important feature of WordPress is that almost all settings, no matter when or how they were made, can be undone. This makes WordPress the best platform for beginners – or people who hate constrains – as mistakes, poor settings, or anything else you’re unhappy with, can be undone.
Initial WordPress Setup
Start customizing your site by clicking on Customize Your Site (1) on the Dashboard. Alternatively, you can access it by clicking on Appearance (7) ->Customize in the Admin menu to the left of the screen.
On the Customize (1) page you can change your Theme, edit Site Identity, edit Menus and Widgets, and enable Static Front Page.
By clicking on the option Change Theme, you can change your current theme by choosing among installed themes and clicking on Activate on the one you’d like to use. It’s a one click operation.
If you, however, want to install a new theme, you should either do it by clicking on Appearance (7) ->Themes->Add New or by installing the theme directly on your server.
After you have your preferred theme in place, click on Site Identity and write site title and tag line. The tag line should be a short and sharp description of your site’s purpose. It’s also important to add an image, your logo if applicable, so that your site is always previewed with it, also in app form. Remember to save your settings after each step!
From the Static Front Page tab, you can set your front page to show your latest posts or to be static, that is to show specially chosen content instead of a list of your latest posts. The content of your front page is what makes the difference between blogs and websites. Websites have static front pages, while blogs feature newest posts on their front page.
If you choose to work with a static front page, you should make sure to edit it accordingly. This you can do by clicking on Edit Front Page (2). This option leads you to the page editing screen, where you can directly start creating content and designing your home page.
Remember to always save your work! In WordPress, you can save changes to posts and pages either by clicking on Publish, which makes your content public, or by clicking on Draft, which saves your work as a draft. Additionally, you can choose to change the Visibility setting to Private or Password Protected for each post/page you publish. Last but not least, you can change the status of pages and posts from Published to Draft and their visibility from Public to Private or Password Protected at any time.
The section Menus gives you quick access to editing your created menus. It’s therefore a setting that you might consider using later on. As all other settings in WordPress, it can be revisited any time.
Same is applicable to the section Widgets. You should have widgets placed on your pages to be able to edit them.
In fact, I’d advise you to use Appearance (7) ->Widgets/Menus, when you wish to manage Menus or Widgets, as it gives you access to the full range of settings, including the initial setup. Alternatively, you can configure them by clicking on Menus or Widgets under More Actions (3).
Take a look at Plugins (4). This is where you can manage your plugins: you can search for new ones, install them, activate them, deactivate them, and delete them.
If you wish to install a new plugin, all you need to do, is to click on Plugins (4) ->Add New, type a keyword or the name of a specific plugin, click on search, and check out the results of the search. Find the plugin you wish to install and click on Install. If you’ve already downloaded it to your computer, you should simply click on Upload Plugin at the top of the screen and follow the steps in the upload wizard.
Be aware that installing a plugin isn’t enough. In order to use it, you must activate it. Once installed, you can find it in the list on your Plugins (4) page. Click on Activate on the same line as the plugin’s name and details. If applicable, now you’ll also need to find the plugin’s settings and set it up to fit your needs. In most cases, you can do that directly from the Plugins (4) page, by clicking on Settings on the plugin line.
Plugins can be quite handy when trying to add functionality to your site. Keep though in mind that they slow down your pages and can cause plugin incompatibility. It’s therefore recommended to use as few as at all possible.
Users (5) leads you to the page, where you can see, add, delete, and change the role of site users. Site users aren’t site visitors but typically persons with some editing rights. You can check out this post on WordPress user roles, if you’d like to learn more about the difference between them and the importance of assigning the right role to users.
As an Admin, you can change almost everything about a user or yourself but usernames. Usernames are chosen when a new user is registered and can’t be changed. However, you can change the way names appear on your site, which makes it less important to have a great username.
The only important settings in connection to users, that aren’t located under Users (5), are Membership and New User Default Role. You can – and must – find them under Settings (6) ->General and configure them correctly.
If you tick Membership – Anyone can register, you basically open the door for truly anyone, including spammers. It’s therefore recommended to either have a good spam protection in place or not tick this option. If you want to allow people to register in a secure way, use a social signup plugin as this one.
No matter whether you tick the Membership option or not, it’s recommended to not set the New User Default Role to anything else but Subscriber. If you’re looking to give more privileges to a group of users, you can either do it manually from the Users (5) list or by implementing memberships.
Settings (6) you’ll be using a lot as they provide you with the ability to control some of the most important settings of your site. They are reviewed one by one here.
- Settings-> General allows you to configure your site, including site name, tag line, URL, time zone, time format, and language. Even though it might not seem important, time zone and time format are crucial to posting and scheduling. Setting site language is important as well as it’s what “tells” search engines what language your site uses. This has implications for your organic search traffic.
- Settings->Writing gives you the opportunity to set up posting via email. Needless to say, this is not a necessity and you can simply skip it. If you want, you can set it up later on.
- Settings->Reading helps you configure your front page and a post page, if you choose to use a static front page. It doesn’t, however, give you the possibility to use multiple post pages. For this you will need added functionality from a theme or plugin. On this page, you can also choose how your posts appear in feeds (RSS) and whether your site should be indexed by search engines. If you’re still in the process of working on the core of your site, you might want to discourage indexing. Just remember to change this setting, once you’re done.
- Settings->Discussion is where you configure commenting. Choose whether a comment field should at all appear under your posts and who should be allowed to comment. In order to avoid spam, it’s highly recommended that you only allow registered users to comment and control comments manually, either before or after they have been published.
- Settings->Media allows you to resize the three standard image sizes, Thumbnail, Medium, and Large. It’s a good idea to do it, if you always use the same image sizes. If not, you can change the image size each time you use an image by adding it to your page, selecting it, and then clicking on the Edit button on it.
- Settings->Permalinks is an important setting as it affects the way your URLs are built site-wide. You can either choose one of the standard options or create a custom structure, following the instructions on the page. It’s recommended to use URLs that only include numbers and letters, no characters as, for example, the quite often used question mark. White spaces should be avoided and replaced by dashes, if necessary. Here’s more advice on permalinks and other important elements of on-page SEO.
Appearance (7) is the other set of settings you’ll be using all the time. Here’s their overview:
- Appearance->Themes is your WordPress theme workshop. On this page, you can install new themes from .zip archives by clicking on Add New->Upload Theme at the top of the page. Alternatively, you can search among the available themes that are fetched from WordPress.org/themes. Be aware that some premium themes cannot be uploaded from within WordPress! They should be uploaded to the server via, for example, FTP. You can learn all about installing and changing WordPress themes here.
- Appearance->Customize leads you to the same screen as the Dashboard shortcut Customize Your Site (1).
- Appearance->Widgets is where you can manage the content of your site’s widget areas (sidebars, footers, custom areas). To the left of the screen you can see the list of all available widgets. Widgets are functional outputs, such as menus, contact forms, calendars, lists, RSS feeds, etc. The variety of widgets is for the most part dependent on the theme and plugins you use. Widgets can be placed in the different widget areas. Widget areas’ availability and settings are usually controlled via your theme and only sometimes via a plugin. Here you can learn more about working with widgets.
- Appearance->Menus is your workshop for menus. At the top of the page, you can choose to edit an existing menu or create a new one. To the left of the page, you can see the available pages, posts, and custom fields that can be added to the menu by dragging and dropping them. To the right, you can see the menu’s structure, rearrange items, and create levels by pushing items further to the right. At the bottom of the page you can choose where the menu should be placed. Here you can learn more about creating and customizing menus in WordPress.
- Appearance->Editor allows you to edit the stylesheet of your site. It’s recommended to avoid this option, as long as you aren’t sure how to work with CSS and child themes. For beginners, it’s best to stick to the design of your theme. There are enough themes out there, so chances are that you can easily find something that fits your needs.
Posts (8) is a function you can’t oversee. It’s from here you access the list of your existing posts (Posts->All posts), add a new one (Posts->Add New), and manage Categories and Tags. Categories are important in connection to content structure, while Tags are more of a “user friendly” setting.
When you click on Add New Post, you get to the Edit Post screen. In the middle, you have writing fields for headline and text with simple editing tools. On top to the right, you have the publishing options, discussed above under Edit Front Page (2).
Depending on your theme and plugins, you’ll also have additional settings available. Check them out and, if uncertain how to use them, experiment. The best thing about WordPress is that every setting can be changed.
Working with Pages (9) is almost the same as working with Posts (8). The only differences are that pages can’t get a category or tag, they don’t appear in your Archives, can be assigned a Parent, and can be set to automatically appear as a menu item. Pages are meant to present static content, which doesn’t get outdates as quickly as a blog post and represents the core of your business. You should therefore be very thorough when working on and updating your pages (keeping them current and fresh).
Media (10) is the next step in your setup journey. When you place the cursor on Media (10), you get two options: Library and Add New. If you click on Library, you’ll be able to see a list of your uploaded images, where details as upload date, file name, post attached to, and a thumbnail are available. If you click on a file from the list, you’ll be able to edit both the image itself and its meta data.
At the top of the page you can find the button Add New allowing you to upload files to the media library. You can also upload files by clicking on Media (10) ->Add New or Add Media->Upload Files on the post and page editing screens.
The New (11) button is a quite smart shortcut to adding new entries to your site. You can choose between Post, Media, Page, User, and other options, dependent on your theme. When you click on, for example, New (11) ->Post, you end up on the very same page as when you use Posts (8) ->Add New.
Your Site’s Name (12) is a switch between the Admin panel and your site’s preview. It’s especially useful for a quick check of results, when changing settings or publishing content. If you place your cursor on it, without clicking, while viewing your site, you get a list of shortcuts to Dashboard, Themes, Widgets, and Menus.
The overview part of the Dashboard (13) gives you an insight into your publishing activities. You can see how many published pages and posts you have, as well as how many drafts. Additionally, you can keep an eye on dates of publishing and eventual scheduled posts.
Last but not least, you can simply draft a post directly from the Dashboard or follow one of the links on the list to edit a post or preview it.
Comments (14) is something you must really keep an eye on, in case you’ve enabled commenting. Here you can find the full list of Approved, Pending, marked as Spam, or Trashed. Spam comments are a major problem that can affect user experience negatively or do even more damage, if links in them contain viruses.
Theme Settings (15) are theme-specific settings. When you install a theme, it’s recommended that you check all the available options and use the time to configure your theme for maximal impact.
Instead Of Conclusion
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