WordPress has two flavors, WordPress.com (the free hosted version — like example.wordpress.com) and WordPress.org (the self-hosted version — like www.minterest.com).
WordPress.com is a version of WordPress.org that is hosted by Automattic. WordPress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress which means that when we install the WordPress software on our web server, we own it and manage it.
I will be focusing on WordPress.org, and yes, this blog is powered by WordPress.org and is an example of the self-hosted version of WordPress.
When it comes to WordPress installation and setup, I (probably you too) have noticed a ton of WordPress tutorials and guides that says how to start a WordPress blog in 10 minutes or even 5 minutes.
Basically, it’s all about how to buy a domain name, web hosting plan, and install WordPress. The reality is that it doesn’t work that way as there are a lot of other things that you should know and do after installing WordPress.
It’s not really true if someone tells you that blogging on WordPress is easy, and not complicated. Because starting and maintaining a blog takes time, effort, and some money too.
Today, I’m going to explore all the basic features and settings in WordPress that you should know as a beginner. And it will be a 3-part series as I wanted to make it more readable and organize features according to its level of complexity. Here you go:
When you install WordPress on your server, you get a chance to set a username and password of your choice and you get an admin URL that looks like — http://www.example.com/wp-admin/.
So, when you login successfully to WordPress, what you see first is the WordPress Dashboard (or simply the Dashboard). It gives you a quick glance of what’s happening on your blog — like the total number of blog posts and pages, comments, recently published posts, recent comments, etc.
In other words, the Dashboard is the backend of your WordPress site and it’s the place from where you can manage everything on your blog. Here different options are available — to publish a new blog post, create a new page, approve a comment, change settings, etc.
And you can also see the different WordPress menus (Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Appearance, Plugins, Users, Tools, Settings) and its submenus on the left sidebar.
2. Screen Options
“Screen Options” are context-specific and it lets you customize the WordPress screen that you are looking at. That is, you can use the Screen Options tab (located at the upper right corner of your screen) to personalize the WordPress Dashboard pages.
So, if there are options that you don’t use, you can disable them. And you can always bring them back later, if needed. For instance, on the Dashboard, you can remove the items you don’t use, like ‘Welcome’, “WordPress News’, or ‘Quick Drafts’. That way, the screen can be made to look less cluttered and more in line with what you need to focus.
There’s also a context-specific “Help” tab (beside Screen Options) available on all WordPress pages so that you can get help for the current screen.
Now let’s just explore the different menus and submenus.
“Updates” takes you to the WordPress Updates page. It checks whether you have installed the latest version of WordPress and it also shows whether your Themes or Plugins are up-to-date or not.
If there’s an update available for your WordPress site, then you will see a notification in the Toolbar and navigation menu as well.
WordPress upgradation is a simple one-click process. All you need to do is click “Update Now” when you see a new version and WordPress will automatically do it for you. And to update themes and plugins, you can select all the plugins or themes that you want to do update, and then click “Update Plugins” or “Update Themes” button.
If you’re really serious about blogging then “Posts” will be the most-visited section of your blog. That’s right! “Posts” lists all the blog posts (published, scheduled, private, drafts) on your blog in a reverse chronological order so that the latest blog post is always at the top. And there’s also a Trash available, so that you can recover deleted blog posts or permanently delete it.
When you enter “Posts”, you can see a sample blog posted titled “Hello world!”. And if you hover your mouse over it, it will display the following quick actions: Edit, Quick Edit, Trash, View. As always, you can use the “Help” tab to explore the related features and functions.
5. WordPress Editor
When you want to create a new blog post, simply click the “Add New” submenu under “Posts” and it will take you to the WordPress WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) editor.
You can write content on a WordPress editor just like you do it on a Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. And you can use the “Add Media” button to upload files from your computer or from another URL.
You can start writing a blog post by entering a title in the title field and the actual content in the post editing area.
Apart from that, you can also see a lot of other widgets called Publish, Format, Categories, Tags, Featured Image, etc.
You can easily minimize or expand widgets by clicking on its title bar and can reposition them using drag and drop (except the title and post editing area). Also, you can add/remove widgets using the “Screen Options” of the WordPress editor page.
For instance, if you have multiple authors on your blog then you can enable the “Author” widget so that you can change the authorship of the blog post that you’re currently editing.
The WordPress editor gives you a handful of formatting options and you can enable even more options by clicking on the “Toolbar Toggle” button (the last button in the row of formatting options).
Again, the WordPress editor offers two modes of editing: Visual and Text. You can click the appropriate tab to switch between the two. Visual mode gives you a WYSIWYG editor (similar to Microsoft Word) and you can format your blog post using the row of formatting options.
Text mode lets you add HTML code along with regular text and you can switch modes accordingly.
When you finish composing a blog post, you can optionally select tags and categories to associate with the post. And if you do not wish to publish the blog post immediately then you can save it as a draft and can even publish it as a private post by changing the settings in the “Publish” widget.
Posts can also be scheduled to be published at a future time by clicking on the “Edit” next to “Publish Immediately” and selecting a future date and time. When you choose a future date and time, the “Publish” button changes to “Schedule” and you can click on it to schedule the blog post.
Categories as the name sounds helps to keep your blog posts organized, and also improves the user experience. You can create as many categories as you want and a blog post can be assigned to more than one category.
Categories can have a hierarchy as well. It means you can create categories and its subcategories if you want to. If you haven’t created any categories, then all blog posts will automatically be added under a default category called “Uncategorized”.
Tags are like keywords, and you can optionally assign tags to your blog posts (to self-explain what your blog post is about). Unlike categories, tags do not support a hierarchy. It means, there’s no relation between one tag and the other.
So, what’s the difference between a category and a tag? Well, tags are more specific while categories are typically more general in nature.
For instance, if I have a tech blog then I can organize the categories and tags like this:
- Apple (Subcategory)
- iPhone (tags)
- OS X
- Google (Subcategory)
- Android (tags)
- Microsoft (Subcategory)
- Lumia (tags)
- Windows Phone
Of course, I can create as many categories as I want but if I do that then the blog will have uncountable number of categories and it results in a poor user experience.
“Media” menu takes you to the Media Library. It shows all the media files — images, videos, etc. — that you have uploaded while creating blog posts and pages (recent uploads are listed first).
You can click individual items to view/edit its details or to get its direct link. You generally do not need to access the Media Library unless you want to manage a previously uploaded file or want to upload another file manually.
Pages are similar to posts in a sense that they can also have a title, body, media, metadata, comments, etc. but they’re different from blog posts as they’re not part of chronological blog posts.
Pages do not support categories or tags but it can have a hierarchy. That is, you can create nested pages by making one page a parent of another page. And just like the Posts, you can customize the Pages screen using Screen Options.
Also, you can add a date and time and adjust the visibility and privacy of a Page just like you do on a Post page.
Bloggers usually prfer a Page over a Post when they want to publish a static page like About Me, Contact, Sitemap, etc. and it’s also relevant when you want to create a web page that requires continuous updation.
For instance, when you republish an old blog post it will appear on your homepage and all your blog subscribers will be notified (RSS and Email) — even if you didn’t want to.
But when you update a Page, your blog subscribers won’t notice it unless you are linking to it as Pages don’t appear in a blog’s RSS feed.
Comments section lets you manage all the comments that you have received on your WordPress site.
It shows the comments in a reverse chronological order and when you hover the cursor over a comment, it shows some quick actions that lets you approve, reply, edit, spam, or even trash it.
You can also moderate multiple comments at the same time by using the “Bulk Actions” menu at the top.
“Users” lists all the existing users of your WordPress site. WordPress users can be Administrators, Editors Authors, Contributors, or Subscribers — depending upon the roles and permissions associated with each one.
When you create new users, you can define their roles as well.
Simply click the “Add New” submenu to create a new users and you can set their user roles, password, and email id when you do so.
Here’s a quick glance of user roles:
- Administrators have access to all administration features in the site and can manage other users as well.
- Editors can write and publish their own posts as well as manage those of other users.
- Authors can write and publish their own posts, and are able to upload files as well.
- Contributors can write and manage their posts but cannot publish them or upload files.
- Subscribers can only manage their own profiles in the system.
12. Your Profile
Your Profile is your personal profile and it contains information about you and your account. When you create new users, you can set their basic information like username, email, name, website, password, and user role.
So if users want to edit their profile information then they can go to their respective “Your Profile” page on their WordPress dashboard and can change the dashboard theme color, password, bio, email, display name, etc. by themselves.
When you visit your own WordPress site while you are logged in, you will see a toolbar at the top of all blog posts and pages.
It gives immediate access to your WordPress dashboard and some of its features (Dashboard, Profile, Themes, etc.) and even shows the number of available WordPress Updates and Comments awaiting moderation.
So if you want to hide it then you can do it from “Your Profile”. Simply uncheck the “Show Toolbar when viewing site” option on “Your Profile” settings page.
Additionally, if you are a coder then you might want to disable the visual editor and you can do it from the “Your Profile” page. Just check the “Disable the visual editor when writing” option and you will only see the text view (or HTML view) of posts and pages when writing or editing one.
I have tried to explain each setting and feature in a comprehensive way but it’s possible that I might have missed mentioning a thing or two. As I’ve already mentioned, you can always make use of the “Help” pull down tab available on each WordPress admin page to get additional information.
I have tried to avoid as many jargons as possible but if you do have a query or is finding difficult to understand something then let me know as a comment below and I’ll be happy to add more clarity.
Happy Blogging! :)