After a lot of guessing and checking, you finally got through installing your very first blog, and the excitement is at its highest level. You can’t wait for it to go live for the world to see!
But deep down, you’re in doubt, and looking at all other blogs on the web, you’re feeling a tinge of envy rise in you. “Why doesn’t my blog look good as everyone else’s?”
Not to worry – your task isn’t over yet.
Any newly installed blog is going to look empty and basic – and as you’re about to learn – you’re going to need to take some configuration steps to turn your blog from empty space to a full-featured blog.
It’s time to learn how to configure wordpress blog and get it up and running now. In the previous step you learnt how to set up your blog.
If you have not installed WordPress yet you will need to go back to the previous step and install it.
In this tutorial, I’ll guide you how to configure WordPress blog:
Step 1: Learning the basics: where to start
Step 2: Picking and installing a theme: choosing your blog design
Step 3: Basic design and settings: initial settings you can do with a click of the mouse button
Step 4: Advanced design: customizing your design (theme) to create the blog look of your choice
Step 5: Advanced settings: additional settings to make your site work the way you want it to
Step 6: Creating content: creating the pages and posts for your visitors
Step 7: Installing plugins: adding further features using plugins
So let’s get started…
Step 1-The Basics: Where do you begin?
To be able to make changes to your site settings or do the configurations, the dashboard (admin area) is where you start.
1) The Admin panel
The back-end or admin area of WordPress blogs is called the dashboard.
These are the menus you’ll use to do any configuration or make any change to your site, be it publishing a post, changing your theme, updating settings, etc.
The admin panel is visible only to people with admin access. Regular visitors are only going to see the front-end content and design features.
To access your dashboard, log in using your admin credentials.
2) Logging into your admin panel
To log into your dashboard, simply point your browser to:
Then enter your login details.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll start making the configuration changes. Begin by installing a theme…
Step 2-Themes: Choosing, installing and activating a theme
A theme is a collection of files that give your blog the look that it has. You don’t need to design your blog from scratch, you just pick and install a theme, then make some adjustments on your theme to best fit your needs.
New WordPress blogs come with a few themes pre-installed by default. You can pick from any of the default themes to use, or install and activate a new one.
When looking for a new theme to install, go for ones that are relevant for your niche or blog purpose, and make sure they are professionally designed.
1) Installing a Theme
- To pick from the default themes, Go to ‘Appearance’ > ‘Themes’
- To install a new theme, you can browse the WordPress themes directory which has hundreds of professional themes you can install for free. You can search from within your dashboard and install one automatically.
- Alternatively, if you want to install a theme outside of the ‘themes directory (such as a premium (paid) theme, or themes from other sources), you can do so using the manual theme installer.
Step 3- Basic Design and Settings
Once you install a theme, you’ll adjust its design and settings to suit your needs, including by changing colors, changing layout, adding or removing items from your sidebar, footer, header or other areas, etc.
An easier way to do that is to use the ‘Customize’ tool (aka theme options); which is a feature that allows you to make quick changes to your site’s design and layout by drag-and-drop method. But some themes have full-feature ‘Customize’ tools with lots of options/menus that allow you to make advanced changes.
In addition, the ‘Customize’ screen can look different in different themes. You can consult documentation provided by your theme on how to use this feature in your theme. For our purpose, we’ll look at how to use the Twenty Twelve theme’s ‘Customize’ tool.
Site title and Tagline
On the Customize screen, the ‘Site identity’ setting allows you to edit the title and tagline of your blog.
Your newly installed blog is likely to have an irrelevant title and a tagline that reads ‘just another WordPress blog’. You want to replace that with something creative.
So, in the ‘Site title’ field, you enter a name for your blog (appears at the top of your header area.)
Under ‘Tagline’, enter your new tagline (appears right under your site title.)
You can also add a favicon for your blog using the ‘Site Icon’ option. Favicon is a small icon that appears at the top left end of the address bar.
Then click ‘Save’ to finish.
Basic Design Settings
The ‘Colors’ option allows you to select colors for:
- color scheme: your dashboard color scheme
- header text: for text that appears at the header area, includes your blog title and tagline
- background: to be used if you have no background image
- links: the color for hyperlinks on your site
To insert an image for your area either pick from the default images, or upload your own.
Upload an image to be used as background for your site.
Menus are small, box-like design features that appear at the header area, they typically contain links to internal or external pages. Here’s an example:
You can check the ‘menu options’ check box if you want all upcoming pages to be automatically added to your menu.
You use Widgets to display items on your sidebar (though, depending on your theme, you may also be able to use Widgets to add items to other areas like your footer, header or content area etc.). Archives, Email Subscriber box, Recent comments etc. are some common widget items you can add.
Under the “Widgets” section, there is a list of your theme’s widget-areas. These are the areas on your site you can add widgets to.
Add as many widgets as you want and click “Save and Publish”.
Tip: The names of the widget-areas such as ‘main sidebar’ and ‘footer area one’ etc. can be different in different themes, which makes adding widgets a bit tricky.
To figure out the exact location of your theme’s widget-areas, try adding a widget to different widget-areas one at a time, and see where the widget will appear in the preview. For example, you can add ‘Calendar’ to ‘footer area one’ or ‘footer area two’ etc. one by one and preview your change.
Basic Layout Settings
To pick where on your site your sidebar appears; left sidebar, right sidebar, no sidebar.
Most blog front pages display posts in reverse chronological order, with most recent posts appearing at the front. The pages update each time the blog publishes a new post – hence the name ‘dynamic’.
However, you can set your front page to display a static page such as a sales page, a newsletter sign up page, a squeeze page etc.
The default front page setting displays your dynamic posts page. If you want to use a static front page, pick the ‘A static page’ option.
Before you do that though, create the static page you want WordPress to use as your front page. And another page to be used as your posts page, you can name this page “Blog” or “Articles” etc. (you don’t put anything on this page. You only need to create it and WordPress will auto-populate it with your posts once you’re done with this setting step.)
On the first drop-down menu, pick the static page you just created.
And on the next drop-down menu, pick the posts page you created.
Then click ‘Save and Publish’.
This way, visitors won’t see your blog posts when they land on your homepage; instead they have to go to yoursite.com/blog.
Step 4- Advanced design and layout
In step 3, you have made basic design changes. In this step, you’ll take it a bit further and make some advanced design modifications to give your site the feel and look you desire.
1) Customizing using the ‘Editor’ tool
As discussed earlier, your theme is composed of files. These files are written in CSS and PHP.
Out of these files, you’ll use ‘style.css’ the most often. It is a CSS file that mainly controls the look and feel of your theme. For example, you can use it to change your font type, size, color; or to customize size, layout etc. of widgets, sidebar, footer, and so on. The rest are PHP files which mainly control the structure and functionality of your theme.
Other theme files you’re likely going to use more often are:
- php: controls the layout and structure of your footer area
- php: controls the layout and structure of your sidebar area
- php : controls the structure of your header area, you can add or remove items from your header
- php: controls the overall functionality of your theme
To edit a theme file, click on any of the files on the right. The code you’ll work with will load in the pane on the left-hand side.
Of course, knowledge of CSS and PHP come in handy here. If you’re stuck, you can do a quick Google search to figure out which line of code you need to hack to make a certain change.
1) Adding widgets
Widgets let you display items/features on your sidebar.
You can customize how your widgets look by editing your ‘Style.css’ file, such as to add widget borders, change font styles for widget content, or change background colors of the different widget areas etc.
Other Site Elements
To customize your footer area, you can edit either your ‘footer.php’ file under ‘Appearance’ > ‘Editor’ to add and remove items from your footer area; or use ‘style.css’ to change its color, border width, size, and other styling features.
Step 5- Advanced settings
In this step, you’ll make further adjustments to your site settings; from commenting settings, to your profile details, to how your links will look… so your site works the way you want it to.
1) Picking Custom permalinks
Permalinks refers to the way links look on your blog, including for your posts, pages, archive links, category links etc.
The default link structure in WordPress is not easily readable. For the sake of both your readers and search engines, change your link structure to something readable.
You can pick ‘month and name’ or ‘day and time’, most blogs use ‘post name’.
So, instead of the default link structure –> http://yoursite.com/p?=123, your posts and pages will have links that look like these:
http://yoursite.com/title-of-your-post/ and http://yoursite.com/title-of-your-page/
2) Updating your profile
Make sure you’re using a ‘nickname’ that’s different from your ‘username’. Username is the login ID you’ll use to log into your dashboard, and you don’t want it to be displayed publicly for everyone to see.
You’ll then pick your Nickname as your public name in the ‘Display name publicly as’ drop-down menu.
After that, you can update your password (important especially if you used an auto-generated password during installation.) Scroll down to the ‘Account Management’ section and click ‘Generate Password’, and hit ‘Update Profile’ to finish.
3) Commenting settings
The next step involves comments – how users can leave them, and how you want to approve/moderate them, and once approved how you want them displayed on your site.
On that page, some of the key settings you should adjust include:
- Trackbacks and pingbacks: to get notified whenever other websites link to your pages or posts (and vice versa)
- Enable vs. Disable comments
- Registered users vs. everyone else can comment:
you check this option, only users who are registered on your site can leave comments
- Automatically close comments after 14 days:
If you want to disable comments on posts older than 14 days, pick this check box.
- Email notifications:
- Comment blacklist:
Enter words and links that spammers are likely to use when commenting, so comments containing those words and link will be flagged spam automatically.
4) Blog pages settings
Next, you’ll set how your blog posts are displayed on your blog page (i.e. your homepage, or your ‘/blog’ page for sites using separate homepage and blog pages.
Key settings you can adjust are:
- Number of posts to display
- Full text vs. Summary
Under the ‘for each article in a feed’ setting, the ‘full text’ option displays the full text of your blog posts on your blog-page; while the ‘summary’ option displays a small piece of your posts so visitors can read the full text by clicking on the ‘continue reading’ link at the bottom of each post.
1) Search engine visibility
In some cases you may not want your site to appear on search engines. Under Settings > ‘Reading’, the ‘Search Engine Visibility’ setting allows you to block search engine bots from finding your content.
2) Update services
This setting allows you to automatically notify update services whenever you publish a new post. Basically, update services are sites that you can alert whenever you post new content. Doing so will help search engines to find your content faster. Simply Google “WordPress update services list” to find a list of links to enter in the box.
Step 6- Content: Creating posts and pages
Finally you’ll create Posts and Pages — collectively known as content — for your site. Content is key because it’s what visitors come to your site for. A site without content is like a grocery store with empty shelves.
Content may take the form of text, video, or images etc. or a bit of all three. Here’s the key difference between posts and pages:
Posts vs. Pages
Pages have a static nature. They are for content that don’t change often, and that you don’t want appearing on your blog along with posts, such as About and Contact pages. You can link to pages from different areas on your site like menus, sidebar, footer, or inside posts.
Posts are used for timely content. If you’re building a blog, you’re most likely going to need only a few pages such as ‘About’, ‘Contact’, ‘Newsletter sign-up page’ etc. All the remaining content you’ll create will be published as posts which appear in reverse chronological order on your blog.
1) Publishing your first post
There are two consecutive boxes. Put the headline/title of your post in the first box. You want to make your headline something that is eye-catching and creative, and remember to include your main keywords in your headline.
Then enter the main text of your article in the next box.
After that, you can format or style your post before publishing it such as by adding images, formatting the text, picking a category etc.
Visual vs. text editors
While, ‘Text’ editor allows you to edit your post using HTML tags such as <strong>, <i>,<a href> and so on.
You can also edit, resize, add tags and captions etc. to your images before inserting them into a post. You do that in the section to the right-hand side of the screen that pops up when you click on an image.
Post URL: Once you hit ‘Publish’ or ‘Save Draft” in the previous step, a new field named “Permalink” will appear. It is the URL that your new post is going to have. You can click ’Edit’ next to the box to change your post URL.
In WordPress, categories are used to sort content by topic. When you publish a new post, you can categorize it under any of the categories in the ‘Categories’ box. Just click on the check box right before the category you want to use, or click ‘Add new category’ to add a new one.
Depending on your theme, they appear either at the top or to the left-hand side of each post excerpt on your homepage.
2) Creating a page
The post writing and the page writing screens have pretty much the same interfaces and features, with the only key difference being that tags and categories features are not available for pages. Therefore, to create posts, you follow pretty much the same steps like that of posts.
Step 7- Maximize the power of WordPress using Plugins
In this step, you’ll further customize your blog to your needs using different kinds of plugins.
Plugins allow you to add functionalities or features that don’t come with WordPress by default. If you want your blog to have a certain feature that it doesn’t by default, you can do so using plugins.
1) Installing a plugin
If you have downloaded a plugin from external sources, you can upload it manually by going back to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add new’, then click ‘Upload’ at the top corner of the screen.
1) Configuring plugins
Some plugins may require configuration (or changing settings) after activating them – which is typically easy to do. But the plugin developer will provide documentation or instructions on their website on how to go about it.
2) Must-have plugins
- Search Engine Optimization plugins – to make your site SEO friendly, so you can get your site listed and ranked on search engines more easily. Yoast and All in one SEO are two common options. There’s also a plugin called “Google xml sitemaps” which creates XML sitemaps for your blog, making navigating your site easy, and in turn helps your SEO.
- Contact forms– plugins such as ‘Contact form 7’ allow you to create forms mainly for ‘Contact us’ pages.
- Social sharing– to place social sharing buttons on your posts and pages, so visitors can share what they like on their social accounts. Shareaholic and DiggDigg are among the top plugins you can use for this purpose.
- Anti-spam – help you to prevent comment spam by flagging spam comments for you automatically. WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam and Akismet are two common options.
- Backup and security– help you to schedule backups and make your site hacker safe. Top alternatives include Vaultpress, WP-DB-Backup, Snapback Backup and iThemes Security.
Two other plugins worth mentioning are W3 Total Cache which is a plugin that caches your site content to make your site load faster; and Google Analyticator, which makes it easy for you to integrate Google Analytics on your blog for traffic tracking. It also allows you to view your stats from within your dashboard.
So, there you have it, 7 steps to configuring WordPress. These are the key initial steps on how to configure WordPress blog that you can take to actually publish your blog. But of course, there’s no limit as to how much customization you can do once your site is fully up and running.
After understanding how to configure WordPress blog and set it up and running, our next step deals with WordPress. Come, let’s see what WordPress is all about.