In this guide, we will take a closer look at managing your WordPress blog. You will learn how to customize your blog, make design and layout changes, create your first post or page and much more.
WordPress was first released on May 27 in 2003 by its founders Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little under licensed GPLv2 with released version was 0.7. Currently the version has reached the number of 4.5.2 which was released on May 6, 2016
The WordPress platform consists of two areas: your blog's front end and back end. The front end is what your visitors will see when they come to your blog. Many of the tasks performed in the back end will be visible on the front end, such as theme customizations, plugin functionality enhancements and content publication. There are also actions that can be performed by you and your visitors directly from the front end of the blog, including commenting and social sharing.
The back end, known as the WordPress dashboard, allows you to fully manage your blog's content, community, functionality and design. It is accessible only by users who you designate and assign an account on your blog. In order to access your WordPress dashboard, you need to type: example.com/wp-admin in the address bar of your browser and log in using your WordPress username and password.
The Dashboard is the center of blog administration. It consists of three main parts: left side menu, top toolbar and middle section.
The left-hand column of your WordPress dashboard is where you’ll find all of your admin options and where most of your creative effort will be focused. This column includes menu options for each of the following functional areas:
WordPress, like any popular CMS, releases both minor and major updates to their platform in order to introduce new features, fix bugs and increase security. In the past, you would be given the choice to update to the latest version of WordPress through your Dashboard using a one-click install process or by downloading the latest version and installing it yourself.
For anyone who has WordPress 4.3 or above, updates to the core WordPress platform are automatically installed on your website. You are still responsible for updating your plugins and themes when updates become available. If you don’t want WordPress to automatically update the core of their platform, you can find directions on how to configure automatic updates in the WordPress Codex.
The Posts menu allows you to control the new content you add to your blog. Blog posts are published on your blog in descending order (newest first). In the Posts menu, you will find the following options:
Your WordPress installation comes with a unique media manager. With it, you can upload rich media content and assign it to posts, pages, sidebars and headers—anything from photos and videos to audio files. Media can be previewed, added, edited or deleted. In the Media menu, you will find the following options:
Pages provide static content or information to the readers. Standard pages that WordPress bloggers use include: About, Contact, Advertise, Products, Services and Resources. The following options are available on the Pages menu, you will find the following options:
Your blog content will be displayed in pages and posts. While they have similarities, they serve different purposes and have different behaviors.
They both have the following in common:
The Comments feature is the best way to manage reader interaction. It allows readers to add comments on the topic, ask questions and provide feedback. It allows you and your readers to stay engaged with the community and interact around your specific niche market. Both blog posts and pages can accept comments. Most WordPress themes come equipped with comment layout functionality. However, it is up to you to engage with your readers and encourage them to leave comments on your blog. Check for new comments regularly. Approve them promptly and reply to them as needed.
In the Comments section, you will have the ability to moderate comments, including approving them, marking them as spam or deleting them entirely.
This menu is where most of the activity of changing the design and layout of your blog will take place. Here you can search for and install new themes and make additional customizations to your blog's header image, colors and background.
In the Appearance menu, you will find the following options: (We're presenting options that are commonly available. Keep in mind that options will vary, depending on the theme you choose.)
Themes - This is where you can search for themes on the WordPress network or install themes you have downloaded from elsewhere. We will talk about theme selection momentarily.
Customize - Depending on the theme you have chosen, you will be able to use the Customize section to make changes to the theme's design in a visual editor. Things that can be customized include: Title and Tagline, Color, Background Image, Static Front Page, and Featured Content.Watch a quick demo (1:51)
Widgets - Widgets are boxes you can add to various areas of your WordPress blog. Depending on the theme you have chosen, this can include the homepage, header, sidebar and footer. Adding widgets is a simple task, and it works using a drag & drop building experience. Widgets can showcase a social media links, a search bar, subscription links, about text for the blog, most recent posts, most recent comments, links to other blogs you like, and more.Watch a quick demo (2:09)
Menus - Depending on the theme you have chosen, you can create one or more menus that will appear horizontally in your header.
Header - Depending on the theme you have chosen, you can upload a graphic at a specific size (determined by your theme) which will be displayed at the top of your blog.Watch a quick demo (1:18)
Background - Depending on the theme you have chosen, you can change background colors or upload your own background image.
Editor - The editor is for advanced users and involves code knowledge. It gives you the option of editing theme code for specific functionality and design changes. Because visitors will be able to immediately see any changes that you save in your theme's code, it's usually safer to edit copies of your files offline, test, and upload your changes when they are verified. If you are going to use editor, always make sure you backup current version of your blog before editing your files. If there is a problem, you can always upload a previous version of the code to fix it.Watch a quick demo (1:16)
The first thing your blog's front end needs is a face (design and layout). You want to create an environment that is both eye-catching and practical. In the long run, you want your visitors to easily find information on your blog. You don't want visitors to be discouraged by the colors you choose or the non-intuitive and unpractical way in which information is displayed. Your design can cause instant distrust of your blog or instant acceptance.
Start your search for a theme as soon as your WordPress platform is installed. The look and feel of your blog relies on the theme you choose. Your readers will first notice the overall appearance of the blog, before even taking a look at the content. Choose a theme that looks great, but also works for your unique content needs. The default theme that comes with your WordPress blog installed is Twenty Sixteen—while it's a good starter theme, you’ll want to choose a theme that is more unique to your blog and compatible with your niche.
Here's a quick checklist for choosing your theme by searching within blog dashboard:
Most themes come with a short description of features and functionality. By reading it, you should have a rough idea if the theme matches your needs and how customizable it is.
Preview the theme to get an idea of the overall look and layout.
Popular themes will have star ratings that are visible in the preview and under theme details. They should give you a clear idea how good the theme is.
Aim for a responsive design that will work on desktop browsers and mobile devices. This is recommended by Google.
If you find a theme that takes your breath away, cool down. Once you install a theme you like, don't be surprised if it doesn't look quite right. Your theme is just a skeleton of your blog.To make it appealing, you’ll have to fill in content (text, photos, videos, etc.). Earlier, we showed you how to add content to your blog.
For many visionary novice bloggers, the world is not enough. The stash of free themes (more than two thousand themes are available on wordpress.org) does not satisfy their particular desire for look and feel. There are two other options you can take a look at, premium and custom themes. But they incur a cost, sometimes a tiny one, at other times a huge amount.
For the most part, it's hard to choose the right theme from such a wide variety. At FirstSiteGuide, we’re doing our best to make that process easier for you.
Premium themes are created by both single developers and dedicated showcase websites. Top sources for premium themes that are worth checking include StudioPress, Elegant Themes, Themefuse, Thesis, WooThemes, Cssigniter Themes and ThemeForest. The price range for a single-use licenses ranges from $30 to $500, depending on which premium theme you choose.
Prospective revenue from usage of a Wordpress theme from ThemeForest
Breakdown by amount earned
Custom themes are created by an individual developer (coder and designer, or agency) who will either customize an existing theme or create a brand new theme for you. While coming with clear-cut advantages, they are not the ideal choice for beginner bloggers due to their high cost. Prices to customize a theme range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the features you want.
Based on our experience, we recommend the following free and premium themes for new bloggers.
You can find different premium themes online from the resources mentioned earlier. We recommend you to check the themes series from StudioPress. Their services and support are top notch and all of their themes are highly customizable. Here are three themes that are suited for the blog:
Now, let's look at the areas in your WordPress dashboard where you can do most of your customizations.
Plugins are bundled pieces of code which affect the way your blog looks or feels. They can add new functionality to your blog, extend your theme's capabilities, and customize your blog as a whole or in part.
While a majority of plugins are free, there are plenty that are offered for a fee based on their unique functionality.
To save you time, we’ve selected some important plugins for your immediate blogging needs. They cover many aspects of your blogging experience, enhance the functionality of your blog and make it more professional and attractive to your readers.
Google Analytics - The top choice when it comes to monitoring and analyzing your website traffic.
Contact Form 7 - A contact form with flexible email options.
Digg Digg - A floating or static palette of social media and sharing options.
Disqus Commenting System - An alternative to the basic WordPress comment system with advanced administrative and comment capabilities.
Yoast SEO - A comprehensive SEO plugin for your blog. The best out there for free.
WP Super Cache - Helps with the load time of your WordPress blog.
Akismet - Protection from comment spam (you won't need this if you go with Disqus for comments).
YARPP - Creates a related posts list at the end of each of your posts automatically to encourage people to continue browsing your site.
Authors Widget - A great way to display multiple authors and their activity on-site.
This section allows you to add new users to your WordPress blog, customize your own user profile, and edit users you have added to your WordPress blog. You can assign each user the following roles:
With tools you are able to execute some extended tasks on your WordPress blog.
This menu contains all of the settings options for your WordPress site.
Remember you will need to visit and learn about each section of your Dashboard and get comfortable with the management options. Doing so will allow you to improve your blog's design, functionality, and personality. Once you know what it takes to customize your blog, make the necessary tweaks to make it stand out and please your readers.