New to WordPress? Just installed a new blog? Or looking for a refresher? This complete tutorial will show you how to learn wordpress. It walks you through the WordPress Dashboard – from logging in, to working with the different options (menus) and sub-menus inside it.
How to learn WordPress?
After configuring your blog in the previous lesson I will now take you by the hand and explain to you how WordPress works.
If you still haven’t installed WordPress, go back to step #2 to do so now by following the simple instructions.
I’ll start with the dashboard as this is where you can configure most of WordPress settings.
The Dashboard is basically the control-panel of your site. It controls everything and it’s where you go, to add anything or make any changes to your site.
When you log into your dashboard, you find close to a dozen menus, under which are a couple of other sub-menus. Each menu and sub-menu has its own function. The following post will go over each menu and sub-menu – what each is and what they do.
This will help you get a better sense of how the whole system works, and get started using WordPress fast and effectively.
A Quick Premier on the WordPress Dashboard
When you first log in to your WordPress admin panel, the screen you see is called the admin area, or the admin panel, or the dashboard.
Under the bar titled ‘Dashboard’ at the top-left corner, there are two sub-menus named ‘Home’ and ‘Updates’.
- ‘Updates‘ tells you the number of plugins and themes that need updating, in red notification bubbles. And clicking on the notification lists the specific plugins and themes you have to update.
- The ‘Home‘ of the admin area is divided between two sections:
i) Right section:
(1) Your blog at a glance (number of posts, comments and pages)
(2) A list your recently published posts and recent comments
(3) Lets you write and save quick posts
(4) News and updates about WordPress
This section may also include other items like visitor stats or others depending on what plugins you use.
This section contains a list of about 10 panels (options) such as ‘Posts’, ‘Media’, etc. that let you make any changes or perform any tasks in your WordPress blog.
When you hover over each panel, further options (sub-panels) will appear in a drop-down menu.
In the following tutorial, I’ll in-depth on each panel and sub-panel, and show you how to use them to make changes to your site.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get started…
First things first – Logging into your Dashboard
In order to access your dashboard, you need to be logged in using your admin account.
Point your browser to: http://yoursite.com/wp-admin
Enter your admin username and password and click ‘Log in’.
Your password and username are the ones you created during the installation process.
Learning WordPress : The Panels and Sub-panels Explained
This is the first and perhaps the most important option (panel) in the WordPress admin area. You’ll use it more frequently than any of the other panels.
You use this option to create new posts and edit your existing ones, as well as to create tags and categories for your posts.
What are Posts: The content or articles in a blog are called posts and they appear in chronological order on your blog.
Sub-panels under ‘Posts’:
– All posts
– Add new
1.1. All Posts sub-panel
You can edit or delete your posts. You can also make quick edits to a post such as changing categories, changing blog title, adding tags and enabling or disabling comments etc., by hovering your mouse over the post and clicking “Quick Edit” right under it.
Then click ‘Update’ when you finish.
1.2. Add New sub-panel
It’s where you write, style, and publish new posts.
To the right hand-side of the screen are option boxes like “Publish”, “Format’ and ‘Categories’. To the left hand-side is the main post writing panel, with two consecutive boxes.
You can type the content of your blog post into the writing panel, or copy and paste it from a Doc file on your computer. Then edit and style your post using either the Visual editor or the Text editor, top corner.
Visual vs. Text Editors
With the ‘Visual’ editor, you can bold, italics, underline pieces of text, or insert hyperlink etc., using the editing Toolbar at the top row of the box, just like you would on any word processing software.
Switching to the ‘Text’ editor, on the other hand, allows you to edit and format your post using HTML.
Before that though, make sure to place your cursor where you want the image to appear in your post.
Before that, you can add details about the image like alt text, image title, description etc., or change its alignment. On the right hand-side of the screen, enter your details and click ‘Insert into post’.
Note: When you publish your post or save it as draft (which we’ll talk about in a moment), a new row named “Permalink” will appear down the Headline box. It’s a preview of the link or URL that your new blog post will be published on.
You can edit it if you want to cut back on the length, or want to add keywords etc. Click ‘Edit’ next to the box.
Once you’re done with the writing and editing of your post, you can change the format (layout) of your post in the “Format” section.
There are three check boxes. Each of the three layouts will look different for each theme depending on your theme and settings.
For example, picking ‘Aside’ as your post format gives your post a layout unlike the standard ones, which is different depending on your theme.
You pick ‘Gallery’ if you want to create a post with images so it can be viewed as gallery.
You can leave it as is, if you want to use the standard format.
In WordPress, you can categorize blog posts under a topic or category. Like for example, if your blog is about relationships, example categories could be ‘get your ex back’, ‘dating tips’, ‘relationship’ and so on. You get the picture?
From the list of categories in the “Categories” box, pick a category into which to categorize your post.
Or click on the “Add New Category” link to create a new category if the one you want to use doesn’t exist.
Tags work just like keywords. They are words that help people to find the posts they want more easily, in your blog as well as using search engines.
Add as many as relevant keywords into the box, separated by commas and click Add.
Featured images are thumbnail-sized images that appear next to your posts on your homepage or other post pages. Click ‘Set Featured image’ to insert a featured image from your media library or to upload one from your computer.
Finally, you’ll preview your post and publish it. Using the “Publish” box, you can perform these tasks:
Previewing: click ‘Preview’ to make sure your post is edited and formatted the way you want it.
Saving draft: click ‘Save Draft’ to save as draft for later publishing.
Changing visibility: By default, all posts are public. But you can set a post to be private or password-protected. Click on “Edit” next to ‘Visibility’ and pick the visibility option you want to enable.
Publishing: Finish by hitting ‘Publish’ and your post will go live.
The ‘Media’ panel lets you add and edit images.
Sub-panels under ‘Media’:
– Add New
You’ll see a list of images and other media files that you have uploaded into your blog. You can delete each image or edit them by adding alt text, caption, or by resizing and rotating them etc. Hover over the image you want to edit and click ‘Edit”.
Side note: Uploading and editing of images can also be done using the ‘Add Media’ button, when inserting images into individual posts and pages.
To insert an image go to ‘Media’ > ‘Add New’.
Update: The ‘Links’ panel is removed off of the admin panel for new WordPress installations using WordPress 3.5 or later. And if you want the future in your dashboard, you can add it using a plugin called Link Manager.
This option enables you to add links or blogroll on your site. Blogroll is a list of links to other blogs. It’s usually placed at the sidebar on most websites.
Sub-panels under ‘Links’:
– All links
– Add New
– Link Categories
The Add New Link screen has the following options:
Name: the name of the site you want to link to
Web Address: the site URL
Description: description about the site or link so visitors can read it when they hover over the link
Categories: to select a category or title for your link
Target: to have links open in a new window
Link Relationship: your relationship to the site
Advanced: if you want to add an image, a rss link, and notes or description to your links
Save: found on the right-hand side of the screen. Click ‘Add Link’ to finish
You can also edit your existing categories. On the right-hand side, hover over a category and click on the ‘Edit’ link right below it.
Pages are similar to posts but they are static and won’t appear alongside your posts on your homepage. They are created for content that don’t change often like about, contact etc.
Sub-panels under ‘Pages’:
– All Pages
– Add New
4.2. Add New sub-panel
Enter a headline in the first box, and the main content of your page in the main writing pane.
To preview, save draft, change visibility and publish your page.
(1) to organize pages in a hierarchy. Click on the drop-down menu to select a parent page for your new page.
(3) determines the order in which your pages are displayed. Go to Pages > ‘All Pages’ to find the page ids of your pages. Let’s say your ‘About’ page id number is 3. In this case, enter ‘2’ as your new page order if you want your new page to appear before your about page.
Click “Set featured image” to change or add a featured image.
Comments made on your blog are held in moderation until you approve them, unless the automatic approval is turned on.
Hover over a comment to approve, reply to, edit, mark as spam or delete it.
The tabs on the top row of the screen let you sift through comments:
Pending: a list of comments in moderation
Approved: approved comments
Spam: comments marked as spam, either automatically or by you manually
Trash: deleted comment will stay here temporarily
‘Appearance’ controls the look and feel of your blog. You can customize the design and layout of your blog using this panel.
Sub-panels under ‘Appearance’:
– Theme Options
6. 1. Themes sub-panel
Themes are the design part of WordPress. They are a collection of files that control how your site feels and looks.
To install a new theme
The manual theme installer
If you want to upload a theme that can not be found using the search box (such as a theme from other sources), you can use the manual theme installer.
Note: Your theme has to be in a .zip format file for it to be uploaded.
Site Identity: lets you change your site title and tagline
Colors: to change colors of links, header text and background
Layout: to determine where you want to place the sidebar – to the left side, to the right side, or no sidebar
Background Image: to upload a background image for your site
Menus: to create a menu and pick where to place it
Widgets: to add widgets to your sidebar or footer areas
Static Front Page: to pick what you want to display on your homepage – your latest posts or a static page
6.3. Widgets sub-panel
Widgets are used to add items to different areas on your site. Mainly your sidebar, but depending on the theme you can add items to your footer, header or other areas.
Left (Available widgets section):
To the left-hand side is a list of items you can add on different areas of your site using Widgets.
Right (Widget areas section):
To the right-hand side is the areas where your theme supports widgets. In other words, those are areas you can add widgets into.
For example, in the ‘Twenty Eleven’ theme, the items you add into the ‘main sidebar’ area will be displayed on your sidebar. If you add items into ‘Showcase Sidebar’, they’ll be displayed on the sidebar below the ‘main sidebar’ area.
To add a widget, simply drag and drop an item from the ‘available widgets section’ on the left, to any of the widget areas on the right-hand side.
You can also rearrange the order of your widgets by dragging and dropping them. If you want to customize a widget, click on the drop-down button next to the widget you want to edit, make the changes you want and click ‘Save’.
6. 4. Menus sub-panel
You have most likely noticed that most websites have links such as “Home”, “About Us”, “Contact” and so on, at the bottom row of their header area.
In WordPress those are called Menus.
On the window, the section to the left-hand side of the screen is the types of menu items you can add. These include ‘Pages’, ‘Posts’, ‘Custom Links’ and ‘Categories’. Click on the drop-down button next to any of these to reveal a list of more items under each menu type.
For example, clicking on the “Posts” drop-down will load a list of blog posts down. From the list, check the check-boxes right before any of the posts you want to add. And click ‘Add to Menu’.
On the right-hand side of your screen, you’ll see a list of the items that you have added into your menu:
To finish, give your menu a name in the “Menu Name” box and click “Create Menu”.
If you check the “Auto add pages” check box, all the future pages you’ll create will be added into this menu automatically.
If you pick the “Primary Menu” check box, the menu you’re creating will be your ‘primary menu’ and will be placed at the regular header area. Other menus you’ll create can be added to other areas using Widgets.
Finally, you can also rearrange the position of the items by dragging and dropping, or delete items you don’t want by clicking on the drop-down arrow next to each item.
6. 7. Theme Options sub-panel
Most themes have a feature called “Theme options” which lets you make quick changes to your site by dragging and dropping.
As you can see, you can change your color scheme, link color and layout (sidebar on right, sidebar on left, or no sidebar).
To the right-hand side is a list of files you can edit.
And to the left-hand side is the actual code you can work with.
Each file on the list has its own utility. For instance, header.php controls the layout of your header area, and footer.php controls the layout of your footer area.
Out of which, style.css and functions.php are some of the key files in your theme.
Style.css is the CSS file of your theme and controls the feel and look of your site, and functions.php controls the overall functionality of your theme.
The more familiar you are with CSS and PHP, the easier it is for you to make advanced changes.
Plugins are tools that let you add features or functionality to your blog that WordPress doesn’t have by default.
The “Plugins” panel lets you install, activate and change the settings of plugins in your blog.
Sub-panels under ‘Plugins’:
– Installed Plugins
– Add New
To add a plugin, go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add new’.
The box titled “Search Plugins” at the top right-hand side lets you search plugins by keyword.
The Manual plugin installer :
You can also upload a plugin manually if you have downloaded a plugin to your computer from outer sources.
And click “Install now”.
This option lets you perform advanced edits on your plugins, but requires knowledge of PHP. This is for advanced users, which is beyond the scope of this post, as this site is primarily meant for beginners.
In WordPress different users can have different roles. For instance, as an owner of your blog, you have admin access to your site and have all the capabilities in WordPress, be it activating plugins, adding themes, posting articles or whatever.
Using the ‘Users’ panel, you can add other users to your site and assign them a role. Administrator, Editor, Contributor, Author and Subscriber are some of the roles in WordPress.
Assigning them an ‘Admin’ role, for example, gives them capabilities as an admin, ‘Authors’ role allows users to edit and add posts only, ‘Subscribers’ role allows users to view private posts, and so on.
Sub-panels under ‘Users’:
– All Users
– Add New
– Your Profile
To add a new user, go to ‘Users’ > ‘Add New’.
Username and e-mail are required fields, your user will need them to log into your blog. Then select their roles from the ‘Role’ drop-down menu, and enter other details like their first name, last name, and website. And click ‘Add New User’. An email containing their login details will be sent to them automatically.
‘Users’ > ‘Your Profile’ allows you to edit or update your admin profile details including password, email address, bio info and so on.
Lets you hide the ‘Visual’ editor on the post writing panel, pick a color scheme for your admin area, enable keyword shortcuts when moderating comments and hide or reveal the toolbar when you view your site while logged in – in that order.
To change nickname, and first and last name as well as to pick a display name.
Note: your admin username cannot be changed. If you want a new username, you’ll have to create yourself a new user with ‘Administrator’ as its role.
A bio info or description about yourself.
Click ‘Update Profile’ when you’re done.
The ‘Tools’ option mainly performs two functions – exporting (backup) and importing (restore).
Sub-panels under ‘Tools’:
– Available Tools
The export tool lets you backup your site. You can export posts only, pages only, or all content.
It’ll be saved as an XML file and you can import and restore your backup using the Import tool.
Another important option, ‘Settings’, controls how your site works; from your blog name and title, to how comments are moderated in your blog, to link structures.
Sub-panels under ‘Posts’:
WordPress Address and Site Address: let’s you change the URL of your site if you’re moving your site to a new directory or a new domain name. Unless you’re changing your site address, you leave these boxes untouched.
When finished, click “Save Changes”.
‘Settings’ > ‘Writing’ controls the settings you use when writing content in your site.
On the writing screen, there are the following options/sections:
(1) Convert emoticons to graphical ones in your content.
(2) To tell WordPress to attempt to correct bad xhtml markup, for those who use xhtml in your content.
When creating a new post, if you don’t pick a category for it, the default category you select here will be used.
If you don’t want to use the standard post format as your default format, you can change it here.
As discussed earlier, blogroll is a list of links to other websites which appears at the sidebar on most sites.
The default link category is titled “Blogroll”. If you want to use a different category than the default one, you can pick from other categories from the drop-down menu. So when you add a new blogroll, it will be titled the name that you specify here.
WordPress lets you publish posts remotely from within your email account.
In order to be able to use the “Post via e-mail” feature, you must have an email account that uses your own domain name. You can create one in your hosting account.
In “Mail Server”, enter your mail server name. Check with your hosting provider to find out what your mail server is. Enter your email address and password in “Login Name and “Password”. Then pick a default mail category.
This feature notifies major update services and search engines whenever you publish a new post. Doing this helps search engines to index or find your content faster.
You can find a list of update services on the net. WordPress codex also has a list of update services you can use.
Enter one URL per line in the box. Then click “Save Changes”.
‘Settings’ > ‘Reading’ controls how your site is viewed or read by visitors.
The Reading screen has the following options/sections:
Typically, blogs show on their home pages a list of their latest posts in a chronological order.
But you can set yours to display a static page rather than blog posts on the homepage.
The ‘Front page displays’ section on the ‘Reading’ screen allows you to specify what you want to show on your home page.
You can pick either of the two check-boxes:
“Your latest posts”: for your homepage to display the regular blog posts in chronological order.
“A static page”: for your homepage to display a static page.
… and another one to serve as your posts page in the ‘Posts page’ drop-down menu.
For instance, let’s say you select a page titled “articles” or “blog” as your ‘Posts page’. In this case, your homepage will be accessed on http://yoursite.com/
And your ‘posts page’ (blog posts) will be accessed on:
Pick how many blog posts to display per page so visitors can view older posts by clicking on the “Next page” link at the bottom of each page.
How many posts to show per page on RSS feeds when people read your site using RSS services.
To display either the full text or a summary of your blog posts. For example, if your blog displays 10 posts per page, visitors will see a summary of each of the 10 posts on a page; they can load the full content by clicking on the “Continue reading” link at the bottom of each post.
If you don’t want to be listed on search engines, turn this option off.
When done, click “Save Changes”.
10.4. Discussion sub-panel
The ‘Discussion’ screen has the following sections:
(1) To enable sending pingbacks and trackbacks
(2) To enable receiving pingbacks and trackbacks
(3) Enable or disable comments on new posts and pages (can be changed per each individual post).
Side note: pingbacks and trackbacks are features in WordPress that notify you whenever someone links to your site, and vice-versa.
(1) To determine if email and name are required fields when commenting
(2) To allow either everyone, or registered users only to comment
(3) If you set the number of days to, say, ‘14’ in this box, comments will be disabled on new posts automatically 14 days after they’re published
(4 ) Whether or not to enable threaded comments and how deep
(5) How many comments to display on a page, so visitors can load more comments by clicking on the “More comments” link at the end of the page
(6) Which comments to display first on the comments section of your site – older ones or newer ones
Side note: Threaded comments allow users to reply to comments on a post. The replies will appear under the comment in a hierarchical fashion.
Receive email notifications either whenever a comment is made, or whenever a comment is held for moderation, or both.
Manually approve all comments, or automatically if a user has a previously approved comment.
If the automatic comment approval is on, you can use this setting to combat spam comments. Comments containing a certain number of links, words, URLs, email IDs etc. that you specify here, will be held for moderation before appearing on your site.
Comments containing certain words, email IDs, URLs, IPs etc. that you specify here will be marked spam.
(1) Whether or not to show avatars
(2) Avatars with ratings above the maximum rating you specify here won’t appear on your blog
(3) If a user doesn’t have an avatar, the default avatar you pick here will be used
Click ‘Save Change’ to finish.
10.5. Media sub-panel
In WordPress, there are three default image sizes you can pick from when inserting images into posts or pages – Thumbnail, Medium and Large.
Finish by clicking ‘Save Changes’.
10.6. Permalinks sub-panel
In plain words, Permalinks is the way links look in your site, whether they are posts, pages, archives etc.
The default Permalink structure looks peculiar with a string of characters and numbers that don’t make sense. An example is: http://yoursite.com/?p=123.
You can pick either from “Day and name”, “Month and name”, “Post name“, which are all “pretty” permalinks. In other words, they’re easier to view for your readers.
‘Category base’ and ‘Tag base’ boxes: are for URL structures of your categories and tags. Let’s say, your blog has two categories named “category1” and “category2”, their default URL structure looks like this:
If you enter, say “topics” as your category base, your link structure will look like this:
However, this is optional, so leave the boxes blank if you don’t want to change your category and tag URL structures.
I am sure you must be clear now on what WordPress is about from these steps on how to learn WordPress. So let me now take you to the next level in which I’ll teach you how you can start blogging. Yes, I know you were waiting for this. So, here goes…