Lesson 3: Configure WordPress

Here’s a very quick run-down of the things you need to know about WordPress:

Posts

Posts are exactly what the name implies. These are your blog posts that contain your content. These are the main thing you’ll be posting. With WordPress, you simply create a new post for each piece of content and it handles all the display stuff for you.

Categories

Again, self-explanatory. You can create categories to help organize your content. For example, on my blog I have a “PHP” category and any posts I create related to PHP I put in that category and WordPress displays them accordingly.

Pages

Pages sometimes confuse people because they look an awful lot like posts. The main difference is that pages will NOT show up in your regular post listings. So, for example your homepage that lists all your posts will NOT show pages. Pages also don’t get categorized. Pages are meant for “administration” type stuff like your “Contact” page or a “Support” page.

Themes

Themes control the look and feel of your site. They are what control how your content is displayed. Different themes will have different colors, layouts, options and so on. It’s worth taking some time and browsing the free themes available and finding one you like.

Plugins

Plugins add functionality to your site. For example, a plugin like Contact Form 7 will let you add contact forms to your site. Or a plugin like WishList Member will help turn your blog into a membership site. Just don’t overdo it. Generally speaking, more plugins means more overhead. You want to keep your site lean and fast.

On a side note, if you want to dive all the way into learning WordPress, I recommend this WordPress course from Shawn Hesketh. It’s the gold standard for WordPress courses.

Step #1: Configure WordPress Settings

So, with that basic understanding let’s run through setting up WordPress so you can start blogging. Let’s start with the general settings. On the left side of the WordPress Dashboard, click on the “Settings” tab. This will take you to the General Settings page:

wp-settings-general

Set your site title, site tagline, timezone, date format and time format. These are used in various places on both the front and back end of WordPress.

Next, click on the Settings > Permalinks tab:

wp-settings-permalink

99.9999999999% of the time you’ll select the “Post Name” option. The only time you won’t is if you know something I don’t and one of the other options is somehow better. But, you’ll already know that and you’re smarter than me so have at it.

Step #2 : Create Your WordPress Menu

Next up is your menus. This is the menu bar that displays across the top of your site. You can specify what links appear there.

To do this, we’ll need to create a couple pages to display in our menu. So, go to Pages > Add New:

wp-pages-add-new

For now, we’ll create two pages: About and Contact. You can simply just enter the title for each page and save them. You can come back and edit them later. We just need them created so we can add them to your menu.

Once those two pages are created, head over to Appearance > Menus:

wp-appearance-menus

Here, there’s a few things to look at. First, you have Menus and you have Theme Locations. On this page, you’re essentially accomplishing two things:

  1. Creating menus with your desired menu items
  2. Associating menus to theme locations

So, each theme will have different “locations” where you can add menus. Most will have a menu bar at the top which is usually the Primary Navigation Menu. But, there could be many others.

You can create multiple menus and associate different menus with different locations. So for example, you could have one menu with one set of items at the top of your blog and another menu with a different set of items in your footer.

This screen does all that.

For now, we’re worried about the Primary theme location.

wp-appearance-menus-add-item

Create a new menu and name it Primary.

Then, on the left side under “Pages” check the boxes next to “Home”, “About” and “Contact” (the two pages we just created) and select “Add to Menu”.

Then, at the bottom select the “Primary Navigation Menu” checkbox under the “Theme Locations” section.

Then, hit “Save Menu”. This will add those items to your menu and associate that menu with the primary theme location. If you go to the front end of your site, you should now see those menu items at the top of your blog.

Step #3: Configure Your Widgets

Now, we can move onto widgets. Go to Appearance > Widgets. This is where you can add items to the sidebar of your blog.

wp-appearance-widgets

Again, different themes will have different Sidebars where you can add widgets. However, most will have a Primary or Default sidebar.

For now, simply drag the Recent Posts and the Categories widget from the left side of the screen over to the Primary Sidebar and drop them there.

This will add these widgets to your sidebar.

Finally, click the home icon on the top left of WordPress. This will take you to the front end of your site so you can see how it looks. You should now have set up site with your menu, widgets, logo and all the basic stuff set up:

wp-visit-site

To get back to the “back end” of WordPress you can click the “Dashboard” link in the top menu bar:

wp-visit-admin

Ok, so now we have WordPress configured. There are a lot more options, but these are the standard ones I set on every site. With that done, it’s time to talk plugins. So, if you’re ready to jump into that, let’s continue to the next lesson:

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JOHN MORRIS

I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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