I come from a non-tech background so I still get a kick out of the things “tech natives” take for granted as obvious. For me when I first started, nothing much was obvious…other than my total ineptidude that is.
The first thing I tried to do was to establish a hosting account and get a domain. Then I manually downloaded, uploaded, unzipped, and installed WordPress. That was all pretty intense for a guy who a few days before had litterally uttered the words “what’s a blog?”.
So when I finally got WordPress installed (it’s much easier now), I figured I was home free. Then I found the WordPress dashboard. No instructions were provided because, duh, it’s obvious. Well, it wasn’t for me. (in fairness to WordPress, there were instructions via the WordPress Codex, I just didn’t know where or what that was at the time)
If it’s not so obvious for you, here’s a quick little rundown. The first picture below shows the overall screen of a typical WordPress admin area. Below, I’ll go through each of the major options and help you know what’s behind doors #1 through 412.
The Typical WordPress Dashboard
Rather than go through this visually based on what you see, I think I’ll go in a more experiental order, based on what you’ll end up using the most.
It all starts with posts.
The Posts and Pages Menu Items
Posts are the most common form of content generation on most WordPress site. Pages are very similar, but posts are the ones that get sent out to RSS and email subscribers and they are the articles you’ll see in your blog “loop” which generally appears in reverse chronological order.
- All Posts – Takes you to your full list of posts, both published and un-published. From here you can choose to edit something you’ve already started or even a post that you previously published. You can also delete posts and use the “quick edit” tool to add or change categories, make a post sticky, and more.
- Add New – Takes you directly to the post creation screen, which will default to the visual editor. The visual post editor works much like standard word processing software. You’ll see familiar tools for bold text, italics, and changing colors. You’ll also find tools for uploading media such as pictures and putting links in your content. Lots of links in your content is good.
- Categories – This is one of the places where you can go to add a new category. Categories are very useful for organizing your WordPress site into understandable sections. The better you think out your categories at the beginning the better your site will be down the road. It’s a good practice to create your categories first and then start creating content to “populate” each category.
- Tags – Tags have fallen out of favor with me. They seem redundant, but they do have some usefulness in increasing pageviews much later when your site is ginormous. I find it much easier to create tags in the post creation screen, but for finding posts later that have a certain tag, this menu option can be useful.
- Same as posts – The options on the pages menu do exactly the same things as the posts menu option, but there are no categories or tags. Pages are usually not in a category (though you can make it so using a plugin, which is sometimes useful). Pages are used for “static” content that you don’t want to appear in the blog loop. Things like “About Us”, “Contact Us”, “Resources”, “Services”, etc. are often put on pages rather than in a post.
The Settings Menu
As someone who sets up blogs all the time, I probably would go to settings first. I listed posts and pages first because I remember the thrill of writing that first content and including those first pictures, then hitting publish and seeing it online right away. That was cool. Settings, not so much. At least not to the untrained eye.
In reality the options under the settings menu are pretty awesome. I’ll give you a little insight as to what’s behind each click, but I probably should write another post just about settings.
- General – Things like time zones, date format, and what email address you want notifications to go to are here. (you can also set an email address for each “user” which is where the comments from their posts will be sent, that’s done under “users”) The most important settings under “general” are Site Title and Tagline.
- Site Title – Your site title is probably obvious, but you might want to skip the “.com” part and you might want to break up the words into regular language. The idea is all about SEO. How will people type your site name into Google after you’re famous? That’s what you want here.
- Tag Line – The tag line may not be as obvious, but it’s very important. In terms of SEO this will be part of your “page title” for your homepage. It should include keywords if possible. If you hope to sell Jewelry made from silver and freshwater pearls it might say: Freshwater Pearl Jewelry – Handmade with care. Most important keywords first as much as is possible while still making human sense.
- Writing – I very rarely make many changes on to the writing options. The “press this” bookmarklet looks cool, but I’ve never tried it so can’t comment. The only setting I personally use here is to enable xml-rpc publishing so that I can write my blog posts in a desktop app, rather than within WordPress. I use BlogDesk (which may no longer be available) and Kim uses Microsoft LiveWriter which is a very commonly used blogging software. This setting allows thos apps to log-in and post on your blog.
- Reading – Reading, on the other hand, is an important group of options including how many posts you want to show on your blog page (will impact how “long” the page is) and whether or not you wish to show full text in your RSS feed. (not showing full text prevents content scaping but forces your RSS readers to click through to your blog, which ticks Google Reader lovers off big-time, you decide priorities)
- Front Page Displays – The most important setting under this option is deciding what will be shown on the “home” page of your site (yoursite.com). You can choose for it to show your blog, as we do at EverythingEtsy.com, or you can choose to show a static page, as we do here at CrazyTreeMedia.com
- Discussion – This is all about comments. Comments can be the most wonderful thing about WordPress and the most frustrating too. Comment spam is an issue so you should have an anti-spam plugin such as Akismet installed. But you’ll still want to adjust your comment settings from time to time as you progress. All the settings are here and are fairly self-explanatory.
- Media – Mostly advanced settings I rarely have to change. You may want to play with the standard media sizes (small, medium, large) if you blog mostly from the WordPress built-in post editor. That could save you some time in image sizing. Other than that, default is usually fine.
- Privacy – This is important to check for SEO purposes. For the most part you want search engines to access your site. But if you want your site to be pretty much secret to you while you build it you might turn this off until your site is “ready to present”, but be sure to fix it when you actually want search traffic! To turn off all access to your site to everyone you need a plugin such as WP-MembersOnly
- Permalinks – This is another important setting for SEO purposes. By default, WordPress uses a number to identify your post and that number is appended to your site URL. You can change this via permalinks to include the post title in the URL. It looks like this when you’ve set it to show post title only: http://etsypreneur.com/etsy-as-your-door-to-a-connected-future/ (without setting permalinks, the same post URL would look like this: http://etsypreneur.com/?p=1068 )
More Dashboard Options Explained in Part 2 (coming soon)
Be sure to check out the next part of this post series for more explanation of the WordPress Dashboard. You can also get in-depth details about anything WordPress at the WordPress Codex. The Dashboard section is here.