Tutorial Series: WordPress Basics for Beginners (Intro)

Every once in a while I receive an email or comment, or I notice someone on one of the groups or forums to which I belong asking simple questions about WordPress.  It seems like many Blogger bloggers are afraid to make the switch because of the unknown platform of WordPress.  Instead of being intimidated by it, I will show you how easy WordPress can eventually be.  The learning curve is definitely bigger, but the end result is worth it in most cases.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not going to show you how to migrate into WP from Blogger without losing your followers, posts, ranking, feed and traffic.  Though I know a few things, I’m not exactly qualified for that one and don’t want to be held responsible for any erroneous back-end codes that fail.  If you need help with that, Harriet at CreativeBlogMe is extremely knowledgeable and did an excellent (and super fast) job for us in mid-2010.  What I am going to do is show you the basics to WordPress and how easy it will be to make the switch if and when you make the decision.

Let me begin by saying that there are several differences between the limiting but free version of WP and the highly customizable self-hosted WP.  Since I would assume most of you would be moving to a self-hosted situation, that’s what we’ll focus on.

Keep in mind that when you look at my screenshots, you will also be looking at a few things that my particular professional WP theme has (there are free themes you can use as well).  If you don’t have this particular theme, these elements may not pertain to you, but it might be helpful for you to see your options out there.  That is, if you are still deciding on a theme. (FYI, themes are just another fancy way of saying templates.) Choose a theme that suits your personality and is easily customizable and easy on the eyes.  Same goes for your color scheme.  Black lettering on a white background has been proven best, but of course you can do as you please on your own blog! :)

I encourage you to leave comments about WordPress elements you’d like addressed in future posts in this series.  I will try my best to answer all the questions asked to the best of my ability.  I am by no means an expert, but I am willing to try to help as many people as I can.

If you are waivering on whether or not to go the self-hosted route, I have this piece of advice for you.  You can do it pretty cheaply.  Hosting can cost a couple of dollars per month, plus with my particular host provider, Just Host, you get a free domain for life.  That means you won’t have to purchase a domain from a place such as GoDaddy.  I’ll talk more about the benefits of and how much I have enjoyed working with Just Host in a future post, but for now, I encourage you check them out for yourself if you are looking for a host provider.

If you don’t plan on going the self-hosted route, I wouldn’t bother making the switch to WordPress.  The free version is so limiting that Blogger is your best bet.  However, the self-hosted version is oodles better than what you can do with Blogger.  The options are limitless if you have the time and patience.  Trust me, a few months into and you’ll find the time to search for more gadgets and plug-ins that you can add to make life easier, or in some cases more complicated!  By complicated I mean that you just find such cool applications to use that you won’t mind adding to your “workload” just to use them.

Good things to have on your front page (aka home page, landing page) and sidebar:

  • A streamlined and attractive header.  Go ahead and pay for a professional one – it’s the first thing people see upon entering your blog, and thus the attention grabber.  It shouldn’t be so big and too busy.  Please ignore that I don’t always follow my own suggestions.  Do as I say, not as I do, right?
  • Have easily seen social media icons for things like subscribing via feed or email, your contact email, your Twitter page and your FaceBook fanpage.  This should be close to the top.
  • This is mostly a preference, but I also like seeing a blog whose search button is near the top as well.
  • Reserve some spots for your biggest advertisers near the top.  Maybe you don’t have any now, but in time, you may just have a few.  You don’t want your sidebar to be too cluttered as to detract from your actual blog content or to deter potential advertising customers.
  • Easy to navigate pages.  Include an “About” page, a link to your “Home” page and even if you don’t do product reviews and giveaways, have a page outlining your policies and disclaimers.  You can see examples of these on this blog-azine to use as references.  The rest of the pages are up to you.  I do recommend, however, having some sort of Table of Contents (sitemap) and/or a section of your best posts of all time.
  • I wouldn’t publish your advertising rates or even your Media Kit or Quick Sheet (if you don’t know what these are, feel free to ask and I can help you out with them), as these things change on such a constant basis that it is best not to publish them.  However, I would suggest providing a request link for things of this nature.  Then you can field through the requests and email them directly.
  • A clean view of your posts.  Now this may just be my own preference, but I really don’t like to see the entire post.  I like to be able to scroll down minimally and see a whole host of posts, and then I can choose which ones I want to click on and read.  It makes the blog look a bit messy and cluttered to see the entire post. But maybe that’s just because I am a bit obsessive about clutter and keeping things organized.  My professional WP theme has the ability to just show thumbnail images with an excerpt of each post, which I love. But even if your theme doesn’t have this option, you can at least use WordPress’s “Insert more tag” feature to cut off posts at a teaser paragraph or two.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.
  • Any credits to the designer and anyone else you need to thank.
  • Your blog button for others to grab.
  • If you do Google Friend Connect, then you would also include that on your sidebar.
  • I wouldn’t put a section of the blogs you read, follow or like on your sidebar.  Again, too much clutter and time to load your page (which deters readers).  You can have a dedicated “page” just  for those “shout-outs.”

On my next post in this series, I will focus solely on all aspects of drafting and publish a post.  This includes:

  • adding a new post
  • uploading images and documents to the media library for immediate and future use
  • setting a featured image (if applicable)
  • the importance of adding categories and tags (and how to do so)
  • setting a status, visibility and publish date (and even making a post password-protected)
  • resizing/editing your uploaded photos including positioning them
  • editing the slug
  • prohibiting comments and pings
  • making a post sticky
  • changing or setting the author (if applicable)
  • inserting a “more tag”
  • how to hyperlink and a few suggestions on the subject (for your blog and for sponsors)
  • how to get YouTube videos to be embedded into your posts (this also requires a plug-in that I love)

In future posts in this series, I will address or touch on:

  • how to set up your Pages (navigation menu, drop down menu) and even have some of them point to certain groups or categories of posts
  • the glory of (free) plug-ins (plus some helpful ones you might want to use and some I have found useless) and how to upload them in 2 different ways
  • setting up a contact form
  • changing your general settings
  • using a featured gallery
  • the advantages of adrotate
  • setting up your widgets for your sidebar
  • setting up and using templates
  • adding more users (such as authors, contributors, administrators)
  • backups
  • changing/installing and customizing a theme
  • making a blog button
  • and some minor html tweaking and help

Again, if there is any other topic you’d like to see on here, please let me know in the comments section or via email.  But keep in mind that there is SO much you can do on WordPress, so I won’t be able to go into everything or this series might never end!


  1. 1

    Totally awesome. Thank you! 😀


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