Welcome to this new series – WordPress for Beginners. The idea for it came when I realised that I personally knew several people who are struggling to get to grips with WordPress. Some are fellow bloggers who wish to switch from another platform (such as Blogger), others are business owners who have outgrown the free sites offered by Weebly and Wix. All of them are finding the steep learning curve that comes when you first start with WordPress challenging, and so I decided to create a series for them.
wordpress for beginners: a step-by-step guide
I remember my own feeling of overwhelm when I first started using this platform, even though I’d been blogging for around 8 years by that point. It isn’t that WordPress is overly complicated – once you know how it works, it’s really very simple to use. No, the problem is that there is just so much to it. WordPress is such a powerful platform – there really are no limits to what you can achieve with it. But first, you have to find your way around.
Which is why I’ve decided to create this series with annotated screenshots and step-by-step instructions to help you get to grips with WordPress as quickly as possible. I hope to take the frustration away and replace it with a sense of satisfaction as you begin to discover the joys of using WordPress.
A series of 10 tutorials
As there is so much to learn when you first start using WordPress, I have broken it down into 10 easy to follow tutorials. This is the first, and the others will follow shortly.
- The Dashboard – Finding Your Way Around WordPress
- Themes – How to Choose and Customise A Theme
- The Page & Post Editor – Creating Your Content
- Plugins – How to Choose and Install Plugins
- Back-Ups and Updates – Keep Your Site Secure
- SEO and Yoast – Optimise Your Site with Help
- Widgets & Menus – Create Your Sidebar and Footer
- Settings – Fine Tune Your WordPress Experience
- Jetpack – Advantages of this WordPress Plugin
- Troubleshooting – Finding Support When You Need It
So, are you ready to get started with WordPress?
first things first…
This post relates to using the self-hosted wordpress.org rather than the free wordpress.com platform. It also assumes that you have already sorted out hosting and installed WordPress. If you haven’t already done this, you might like to try Salt and Light Solutions for your web hosting. They helped me to switch to WordPress back in 2014 and I have been very happy with their service ever since.
why start with the dashboard?
When I started to plan this series I realised that many of the WordPress for Beginner posts available on the web assume that you already know your way around WordPress. But unless you are familiar with the layout of the dashboard, telling you to “create a new post” will leave you wasting valuable time trying to find the right place. So I decided to start right at the beginning.
how to access the dashboard
To access the dashboard (which is the name given to the back end of your website), you need to log in first. To do this you need to visit yourURL/wp-admin or yourURL/login. You will see the following screen.
You will have chosen (or been sent) your username and password when WordPress was first installed on your web host. It is likely that this will have been emailed to you, however if not you can access it by logging into your web host, or contacting them for help finding it. Once you have it, I suggest using a system such as LastPass to securely save and remember your username and password, avoiding the need to re-enter it each time.
the three parts of the dashboard
Once you have logged in, you will see the dashboard. It is split into three distinct parts – the main screen, the sidebar, and the notification bar at the top of the screen. These are highlighted below.
The simplest way to describe this is that the main screen is where most of your work happens, whilst the sidebar acts like a menu allowing you to choose what shows in the main screen. The notification bar is pretty much what it says – a bar where you get notified of updates and comments that may need your attention. Let’s look at all three sections in turn.
the main screen
When you log in to WordPress for the very first time, you will most likely be welcomed by a section on the main screen helping you to create your first pieces of content and start setting your preferences, as shown below.
You could, simply work your way through those links and create the beginnings of your website. However, I’ve always preferred to understand where everything is right from the start (which probably explains why the welcome message is still showing on my screen years after I started using WordPress – I’ve ignored it so much that I’ve never thought to remove it!)
If you’re like me and want to find everything on the dashboard itself, rather than following the quick links offered on this front page, then keep reading. I’ll cover each section shortly.
But before we move completely from this main screen, I want to point out a few helpful shortcuts that you can find on this first page when you log in…
at a glance
This section highlighted here shows you a snapshot of your website as it currently stands. It’s a helpful little “at a glance” view of how many posts, pages, and comments you currently have published, as well as how many comments are currently waiting in moderation.
Another helpful little section is this one, which allows you to quickly type in a post title and ideas for a post and save it as a draft. I’ve never actually used this, as I tend to go straight to the post editor, but if you’ve logged in just to make some quick notes for future posts then this could be quite useful.
updates and messages
Finally, as you begin adding more content and plugins to your site, you will begin to see updates and messages on the main screen when you first log in. These are often from plugin creators asking for access to something, feedback from you as a user, or even offering you the chance to sign up to their newsletter.
Most of them I simply dismiss, but it’s always worth reading them properly before dismissing, as sometimes they are really important – such as when WordPress rolls out an update (more on this in part 5 of this series).
You may have noticed that in the image above there is a little blue box around the bottom part of the sidebar. This is because, as I was mentioning plugins in that image, I wanted to show you where access to most of the plugins you install will show up.
But what else is in the sidebar?
access to pages, posts, comments, and feedback
Near the top of the sidebar is a section which provides access to the main content on your site. This is how you access the page and post editors, which allow you to create new content or edit content already published or in drafts. You can also access the comments left by your audience and, if you have a contact form installed, you can access submissions using the “feedback” link.
You’ll notice that my sidebar has lots of orange circles with numbers in them – this is how WordPress lets you know that there is something which needs your attention. When I took this screenshot I had 4 comments which needed moderating and a submission to my contact form.
access to site settings and tools
Slightly further down the sidebar is a section with links to you site’s appearance, plugins, users, tools, and settings. Appearance is where you change theme and customise your chosen theme. Plugins are additional bits of software which enhance your experience of WordPress (more on this in part 4 of this series). And users is where you can add people as authors and editors to the site, if you want others to be able to access your site and upload content.
Tools and settings are both really important in helping you to get your site to run exactly as you want it to. We’ll cover these more in part 7 of this series. For now, just have a look – a lot of it is self-explanatory.
The notification bar
Finally we have the notification bar at the top of the screen. It is a really helpful overview of the key things within WordPress.
From left to right you have:
The W sign – click on this to access WordPress support
Your Site Name – click on this to view your site
Arrows + Number – this is the number of updates you need to do, click on it to access them
Comment + Number – this is the number of comments awaiting moderation, click to access them
+ New – this is a shortcut to create a new page or post
(When you are in the page or post editor, you will also see a “view post” option, which you can click to see a preview of the post. Certain plugins, such as Yoast, will also show notifications on this bar).
Front End View
If you click to view your site, you’ll notice that the notification bar will still be visible, as shown below.
Click on your website name again to go back to the dashboard. Or click on the paintbrush and “customise” link to go directly to the theme customiser (more on this in part 2 of this series).
Finally, on the right hand side of the notification bar you’ll see your name and another comment box. Clicking on your name enables you to edit your profile or log out. The comment box let’s you know when someone has replied to a comment you have left on their site, if you have done so using your WordPress login (usually via having a WordPress.com account and linking it to your WordPress.org account via Jetpack – more on this in part 9 of this series).
To be perfectly honest with you, I tend to ignore the right hand side of the notification bar, so don’t worry too much about this.
and that’s it…
Congratulations – you now know your way around the WordPress dashboard. I hope that this has been a helpful introduction, and that you’ve had chance to click on different sections to explore them a bit. I’ll cover each of the main sections in more detail in the rest of the WordPress for Beginners series. If you’d like to be notified when a new post is published, you can subscribe to the blog via email using the link in my sidebar (to the right) or by adding my URL to your blog reader.
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