Meetup recap: Intro to WordPress

Watch the replay on our Facebook page

Our Intro to WordPress meetup was a grand tour of the WordPress administrator back-end. We used our group site (WPDurham.ca) as the example.

This was our second meetup of the rebooted series; it’s also the first meetup we’ve recorded and streamed through our new Facebook group.

Thanks to the Whitby Public Library for providing a great venue with fast wifi and an AirCast-enabled smart TV. We’ll try our best to make the library our go-to space for future meetups.

And special thanks to GoDaddy Pro for covering our venue costs again this month. They just published a new resource collection to help folks start and grow a web design business.

Here’s a quick recap of what we covered during the meetup.

For a deep dive into learning WordPress, see the WordPress Lessons from WordPress.org.

Installing WordPress

We skipped the installation process for this session because there are so many different ways to install WordPress, depending on the hosting provider that you’re using.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

WordPress.org refers to the WordPress software.

WordPress.com is a freemium service built with the WordPress software.

It’s all WordPress under the hood, but the WordPress.com service has a different UI for managing sites.

You can access the normal WordPress admin area — what we’re covering in this session — but it’s harder to get to on WordPress.com.

Navigating the WordPress admin area

The WordPress admin login

To access the admin area, append “/wp-admin/” to your site’s URL. For WP Durham, our admin area lives at wpdurham.ca/wp-admin/.

If you’re logged in, the WordPress admin area will appear. If you’re not logged in, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your WordPress username and password. (You can also use your email address to log in.)

The WordPress admin area is sometimes called the WordPress back-end, WordPress dashboard, or “wp admin”. This is where you’ll do all the work on your site: publishing content, changing settings, installing & managing your plugins and themes, and managing your users.

The WordPress admin toolbar

The toolbar runs along the top of both the back-end and front-end of your WordPress site. When you’re in the admin area, you can click your site’s name to access the front-end of the site. When you’re on the front-end, you can click your site’s name to access the admin area.

Other useful shortcuts include:

  • Adding new posts, pages, forms, and other post types
  • Accessing your profile settings
  • Logging out of WordPress
The WordPress admin sidebar navigation

The admin sidebar navigation is how you find your way around the WordPress admin area. The available items vary depending on your user role (what permissions you have), or what theme and plugins your site is running.

The rest of our session walks through the default sections — “admin screens” — in a basic WordPress installation.

The WordPress dashboard

The WordPress Dashboard screen

While some people refer to the entire WordPress admin area as “the dashboard”, the dashboard is actually one screen that provides an overview of your WordPress site.

The boxes on this screen vary depending on the theme and plugins you’re using. By default, you’ll see:

  • At a Glance: How many posts, pages, and comments; which version of WordPress you’re running, and which theme you’re using.
  • Quick Draft: Create a draft post.
  • Activity: Scheduled + recently published posts and comments.
  • WordPress Events and News: Upcoming WordPress meetups and WordCamps near you, along with recent posts from notable WordPress sites and blogs.

You can organize these boxes by dragging and dropping them into place. To enable or disable these boxes, you can toggle them in the screen options tab at the top of your screen. (This tab appears on many admin screens in the WordPress back-end.)

WordPress updates

The WordPress Updates screen

WordPress gets regular updates with new feature and security enhancements. The same goes for WordPress themes and plugins.

When new updates are available, you’ll find them in two places:

  • In the toolbar, you’ll see a “cycle” icon with the number of available updates.
  • On the admin sidebar, under Dashboard, you can get to the Updates screen.

Your installed themes and plugins can also be updated through Appearance > Themes and Plugins > Installed Plugins, respectively.

Posts

The WordPress Posts screen

In the admin sidebar, click Posts. This’ll take you to the All Posts screen. Every post you’ve made on your site is listed here with accompanying details. You can control the visible details within the screen options tab.

You can edit posts by clicking on the post name. To modify details without editing the full post, mouse over the post name, then click Quick Edit.

To update multiple posts simultaneously, check them off. Then, under Bulk Actions, choose what you want to do. Click Apply to save the changes.

Posts are timely articles. They have a publish date and time, an author, and are organized by categories and tags. How this information appears on your site depends on the theme you’re using.

You can use categories and tags however you want. A common practice: Use categories to organize your posts into sections, and use tags to label related posts across sections. For example, use tags for proper nouns.

To manage your categories, under the admin sidebar, go to Posts > Categories.

To manage your tags, under the admin sidebar, go to Posts > Tags.

Media

The WordPress Media Library screen

In the admin sidebar, click Media. This takes you to the Media Library.

The Media Library is where all your media uploads — images, video, audio, files — get stored. By default, the Media Library isn’t very intuitive. The search doesn’t work very well, and there are no categories or tags for organizing your uploads.

Thankfully there are plugins, like Media Library Assistant, that can help.

To add a file to the Media Library directly, click Add New. You can also upload media files through posts and pages. Media uploaded through a post or page will have an “Uploaded to” detail in the list view.

The WordPress Media Library, in list view

Pages

The WordPress Pages screen

In the admin sidebar, click Pages. This takes you to the All Pages screen. Every post you’ve made on your site is listed here with accompanying details.

You can control the visible details within the screen options tab. Edit a page by clicking the page title. Add a page by clicking Add New. (Sound familiar?)

Pages are a lot like posts. They use the same editor, they have an author, and they have a publish date. But unlike posts, pages aren’t categorized or tagged. Instead, they’re organized by hierarchy: they can have child pages (sub-pages).

Comments

The WordPress Comments screen

In the admin sidebar, click Comments. This takes you to the Comments screen, where you can manage all of the comments on your site.

You can quickly moderate a comment by mousing over the comment text and choosing an option: Approve/Unapprove, Reply, Quick Edit, Edit, Spam, and Trash.

Aside: We’ve found that, aside from news sites, comments aren’t as popular as they used to be. Add the volume of comment spam that hits blogs and many sites — especially small business sites — disable comments entirely.

Appearance

The WordPress Themes screen, under Appearance

In the admin sidebar, click Appearance. This takes you to the Themes screen, where you can manage all the themes you’ve installed on your site.

To add a new theme, click Add New. This’ll bring up the Add Themes screen. The themes listed here are the same as what you’ll find in the WordPress.org Theme Directory. You can search by keyword or browse by feature.

Adding a theme in WordPress

To upload a theme you got elsewhere — e.g. a theme you downloaded from another site — from the Add Themes screen, click Upload Theme. Drag n’ drop or browse for the theme .zip file to upload it to your site.

Uploading a theme in WordPress

The Customizer

The WordPress Customizer

To customize your site, go to Appearance > Customize. This opens the Customizer. The Customizer lets you modify your site settings and theme settings alongside a live preview of your site.

Depending on your theme, you can click the blue shortcut icons in the preview to jump directly to the corresponding Customizer settings.

Use the responsive design shortcuts at the bottom of the Customizer settings panel to preview your changes on desktop, tablet, and mobile views.

Save your changes by clicking the Publish button. To save your changes without publishing, or schedule your changes to go live at a future time, click the gear icon next to Publish.

Widgets and menus are easily managed through the Customizer, but you can also manage them through dedicated admin screens. Find them under Appearance on the admin sidebar.

Plugins

The WordPress Plugins screen

In the admin sidebar, click Plugins. This takes you to the Installed Plugins screen. You’ll find all of your plugins listed here alongside details: a description, author name, and links to activate/deactivate the plugin, or access the plugin settings (depending on the plugin).

If a plugin update is available, you can update the plugin directly on this screen.

To add a new plugin, click Add New. This’ll bring you to the Add Plugins screen. The plugins listed here match the plugins you’ll find on the WordPress.org Plugin Directory.

To upload a plugin you got elsewhere, click Upload Plugin. Upload the plugin .zip file to install and activate the plugin.

Users

The WordPress Users screen

In the admin sidebar, click Users. This takes you to the All Users screen. Every user on your site is listed here along with details about their account, including their user role.

User Roles determine what level of access a user has. By default, WordPress has five roles:

  • Administrator: Full access to everything
  • Editor: Manages content, can’t manage settings
  • Author: Can publish their own posts
  • Contributor: Can create posts and save posts for review
  • Subscriber: Has a profile, no access to anything else

Tip: Don’t share credentials! Every person — every user — should have their own account associated with their own email address. It’s more secure and better for accountability.

Tools

Site Health, a new tool in WordPress

There are three very useful tools built into WordPress:

  • Import: Import content from other places, including other WordPress sites.
  • Export: Export your content for backups or moving content to another site.
  • Health Check: Audits your WordPress site for technical issues.

The latest versions of WordPress put a lot of focus on performance and helping users improve their sites through the Site Health tool.

Settings

The General Settings screen

In the admin sidebar, go to Settings. This’ll take you to the General Settings screen. You’ll rarely need to change these settings. Important note: Changing the WordPress or site URL settings can break your site, so proceed with caution.

You can also update your site title and tagline through the Customizer.

On the admin sidebar, under Settings, you’ll also find:

  • Writing Settings: Change your default post category
  • Reading Settings: Choose what your site’s homepage displays
  • Discussion Settings: Change how WordPress handles comments
  • Media Settings: Change how WordPress handles media uploads
  • Permalinks: Change your website’s URL setup for posts
  • Privacy: Details on setting up a Privacy Policy for your website

Depending on the plugins you’ve installed, other settings may be visible under the Settings menu item. For example, on WP Durham, we have settings for:

  • Duplicate Post: A plugin for duplicating posts and pages
  • WP Super Cache: A caching plugin
  • iThemes Licensing: For the iThemes Security plugin
  • SSL: For configuring the Really Simple SSL plugin

Check out our recent post for more free resources on learning WordPress.

What next? Diving into WordPress plugins

Our next WordPress meetup in November will focus on WordPress plugins. We’ll cover:

  • Choosing & reviewing plugins
  • Favourite plugins from the group
  • Plugin recommendations from the group

Plus: We’ll start adding plugins to transform wpdurham.ca into a membership site for our group members.

If you’re an experienced WordPress user, come ready to share some of your favourite go-to plugins. If you’re new to WordPress, come ready to ask for recommendations from experienced members of the group.

Check out our Meetup.com group to view & RSVP to upcoming meetups.

On Facebook? Join our Facebook group to catch up with other members.

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