Getting Started In WordPress - Part I

WordPress can be pretty daunting, especially for a beginner, so I thought it might be a good idea to write an article to show how easy it is to get started in WordPress and to design a custom theme.  The first step is to check with your hosting company and see if they support WordPress.  If they do, then they should be able to assist you in uploading and setting up WordPress on your server.   It is not absolutely necessary to understand everything about WordPress’ setup at this point.  The important thing is to just ensure that WordPress is installed right, and that you can see WordPress’ default theme when you access your url.  All this can be handled by working with your hosting company.

WordPress Dashboard

Next, I would like to take a moment to introduce you to the powerful WordPress Dashboard.  This is a fully customizable dashboard that gives you complete control over just about every aspect of your site.  To access the Dashboard, simply type the url of your site followed by “/wp-admin/”.  For example, if your site was “”, you would access the Dashboard at “”.

When you access this url, you will see the WordPress login page.  Type in the username and password you used to set up WordPress with your host.

After you have logged in, you will see WordPress’ administrative Dashboard.  I’ve included a screenshot of what this looks like in WordPress version 3.2.1 below:

  WordPress Dashboard
As you can see, the screen is divided into two main sections, the section on the right contains the “screen” for each of the links found in the column on the left.

The links in the column on the left are divided into three groups.  The first group contains the Dashboard and Updates links, the second group of links are for links which control content (posts, media, links, pages and comments), the third group of links control system features.  These include links for appearance, plugins, users, tools and settings.

Briefly, I will go over the links you find in each group so that you can become familiar with them:

Dashboard – This is the first screen you see after logging in to the administrative backend.  The screen itself contains various sections (these may change from version to version).  In the version 3.2.1, the sections are as follows:

The first section contains statistics on your site content: the number of posts (WordPress was originally made for blogs), pages, categories and tags as well as the number of comments and their status.

The next section (labeled “QuickPress”) allows you to post something very quickly to your blog.

The section labeled “Recent Comments” shows all the recent comments on your posts.

The section labeled “Recent Drafts” shows your recent works in progress.

The section labeled “Incoming Links” shows other blogs that have linked to yours.

The section labeled “WordPress Development Blog” keeps you up-to-date with the latest changes to WordPress.

The section labeled “Plugins” keeps you up-to-date with the latest plugins.

Finally “Other WordPress News” keeps you up-to-date with other sources of WordPress news.

When you are on the Dashboard screen, you will see a link in the left hand column just under the Dashboard link that says “Updates”.  Clicking on this link will take you to the Updates screen where you can update your site to the latest WordPress versions, plugins and themes.

Posts – The next link in the left hand column under the Dashboard link opens up the Posts section.  Posts are articles that are placed on a blog.  If you are not setting up a blog, you can usually ignore this section.

The Posts link has four sublinks:

All Posts – This will provide a screen of all the posts on your site.
Add New – This will provide access to the WordPress visual and HTML editor.  The icons next to the words “Upload/Insert” allow you to insert audio, visual and other multi-media formats into your post.

  WordPress Add New Post
The box labeled “Publish” let you control the status of your post.  You can work on your post and save it as a draft, you can preview it, you can view and change the status, visibility and publish date, you can trash it, or, if everything is to your satisfaction, you can publish it.

The box labeled “Categories” allows you to select the categories in which you want your post to appear.

The box labeled “Post Tags” allows you to add specific tags to your post to make them easier to find.

Categories – This link allows you to add, edit and delete the categories for your posts.
Post Tags – This link allows you to add, edit and delete the tags for your posts.

Media – The next link in the left hand column under the Posts link gives access to the Media Library.  The Media Library stores multi-media components that can be attached to your pages and posts.  This link has two sublinks:

Library - allows you to view, edit or delete any media stored within the Media Library.
Add New – allows you to upload new media to the Media Library.

Links – The next link in the left hand column under the Media link gives access to the database of links that you can store and display through the WordPress Links widget.  This link has three sublinks below it:

All Links – displays and gives access to all links for viewing, editing and deleting.
Add New – allows you to add a new link to the database.

Pages – The next link in the left hand column under the Links link is the Pages link.  For most web development applications, this link will be quite useful.  This link gives access to WordPress pages (which differ from posts in that a post is meant to show on the same page with other posts, whereas a page will always show its content in the absence of any other page content.  A page can be set up to display posts.)  Pages display content for the most part between the contents of the header.php and footer.php files, howbeit page display can be customized in any way the developer desires.  This link has two sublinks:

All Pages - allows you to view, edit or delete any pages stored in the database.
Add New – allows you to add a new page.  See the screenshot below:

  WordPress Add New Page
The Add New page link provides access to the same Visual and HTML editors that the Add New post link does, the only difference is that instead of “Category” and “Post Tags” boxes you will see a “Page Attributes” box where you can do magic!!!

The “Page Attributes” allows you to set a parent if this new page is to be a child of another page as well as set its order in the page sequence.

But the real “magic” occurs with that wonderful selector labeled “Template”.  This selector allows you to choose which template this new page will use to display.  You can create custom templates and upload them to your server, then select that template from this drop down selector.

Another “magical” thing you can do with pages is to set the page through use of a shortcode (See my article Creating A Really Dynamic WordPress Page for an explanation and an example of its use.)

Comments – The next link below the Pages link is the Comments link.  This link allows you to view, edit and delete the comments made on your posts.

The links in the third (system) group are as follows:

Appearance – This first link in the last link group controls the theme, widgets, menus and any other features your theme and plugins allow.  The number of sublinks can vary (as it could on any main link item) depending on the current theme and currently running plugins.

The sublinks I will describe are as follows:

Themes – This screen allows you to see, activate and deactivate any available themes uploaded to your themes folder on the server.
Widgets – This screen allows you to select and activate theme widgets by simply dragging and dropping the widget into the dynamic sidebar.  The dynamic sidebar availability, location, and number varies from theme to theme.
Menus – If your theme allows it, you can add custom menus to your site.
Editor – This powerful (but potentially dangerous) feature allows you direct access to the programming code used in your theme.  I say, “potentially dangerous” because if you are not extremely careful, and make NO mistakes, you could end up with the famous WordPress “white screen of death” which means you will NOT be able to access the Dashboard again to see if you could fix what you messed up.  I always recommend that you make changes through a web design editor like Dreamweaver and do your downloading and uploading from there, and never touch this particular feature of your Dashboard.

Plugins – This next link of the system links group allows you to view, activate, edit (very dangerous, see notes on “Editor” above), add, and deactivate your plugins.  Plugins are scripts that add to the functionality of your site.  There are three sublinks under this link:

Installed Plugins – View, activate, edit (dangerous), and deactivate your plugins.
Add New – access a whole world of available plugins based on your needs.
Editor – Dangerous, please see notes on the Editor sublink under the Appearance main link.

Users – The next link in the system links group allows you (if you are the administrator) to view, add, edit and delete the user settings for each of the registered users of your site.  There are three sublinks below this link:

All Users – View, edit user settings and delete users from your site.
Add New – Add a new user to your site.
Your Profile – Quicklink to your user settings screen.

Tools – This next link in the system links group gives access to tools that could be useful if you are heavy into blogging.  There are three sublinks under this link item:

Available Tools – This screen will list available tools that can be used with WordPress.
Import – You can import posts and comments into your site from another site.
Export – in the same vein, you can export your posts and comments to another site.

Settings – The last link in the system links group gives you access to all the settings for your site.  It consists of at least seven sublinks:

General – General information about your site: its name, url, timezone, etc.  It is recommended when you first set up your site that you check over this information and make sure it is correct, and update the timezone.
Writing – The writing settings sublink gives access to features that affect your posts and their display, plus other writing tools and services.
Reading – This sublink gives access to the settings that affect the front page display, posts per page, and other page and feed settings.  The default for WordPress is for it to display recent posts on its home page.  For normal (non-blog) websites I usually recommend creating a Home page in the Pages link and selecting that for the front page and clicking on the “A static page (select below)” radio button.
Discussion – This sublink controls comments and comment moderation.  In an effort to prevent spam from making it to my site, I usually check off “An administrator must always approve the comment”.
Media – This sublink controls media sizes and upload paths.
Privacy – This setting controls whether your site is visible to the search engines or not.
Permalinks – This sublink is very important if you want your site to be SEO friendly.  WordPress by default sets up cryptic, nonsensical (at least to the search engines) urls with formats like “” or “”.  Search engines like formats like “” much better.  You can set this up by setting your permalinks.  I usually select “Custom Structure” and use “/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/ %category% /%postname %/” as the permalink code.

As mentioned earlier, the above list only gives the links available in the default theme of WordPress.  Many themes and plugins add to or modify this list and order of links, so your setup may be different than this.

This article is by no means meant to give you a comprehensive description of each and every feature within the WordPress backend.  I have left that to your exploration.  My hopes in writing this article is simply to familiarize you to the features available and demystify the controls so that you have an idea of what you already have access to through the backend, and what it is that you will probably have to either program or find a plugin or theme for.

In Part II, I will be writing about the WordPress default theme to familiarize you to exactly what a WordPress theme consists of, how to activate it and how to modify it and use it.

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