Wordpress Guide for Beginners

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A Beginners' Guide to Using Wordpress and Its Features

Wordpress is the most used content management system in the world powering more than 43% of all the websites. The popularity of the CMS can be attributed to mainly ease of use, beginner friendliness, SEO and the flexibility to build just any kind of website including blog, ecommerce, portfolio sites and even a forum. Its use does not require any prior technical knowledge and you can start creating content since most hosts offer free wordpress installation and migration. All that you need is a suitable host and the desire to create something new.

Wordpress guide for beginners

Despite its simplicity, some areas in Wordpress can be a bit technical and deceptive for beginners. It is why new Wordpress users need to familiarize themselves with things like SEO, caching, post editor, child themes, plugins and widgets to efficiently publish content and give the front end of their blog the desired look.

Wordpress offers a lot of free and premium themes. Beginners can select a suitable theme based on SEO, speed and simplicity. Designing a blog is easy since most of the design elements including the fonts are managed by the theme requiring little to no coding knowledge for configuration. Plugins and widgets can be used to expand usability and make the website look more attractive. Wordpress plugin repository has more than 59,000 plugins for managing each aspect of Wordpress installation like SEO, caching, speed, user management, social sharing and more including those required to run an ecommerce website. These plugins expand the functionality of Wordpress and you do not need to be a coder to use them.

Learning Wordpress can be beneficial since apart from ease of use and maintenance, you can offer your readers a superior experience. Some critical things you need to be aware of from the outset include using the post editor with efficiency, dividing your content using heading and subheadings and including elements like tables, images and lists to make your post informative and attractive. You can upload media and insert it into Wordpress posts using the Gutenberg image block. For people, who do not like the Gutenberg block or find it a bit complex, can revert to the classic editor with the classic editor plugin.

The Wordpress themes and plugins affect the look and feel of the front end of your wordpress blog. However, all these things are controlled from the backend or an advanced yet user friendly dashboard. It is important for you to fully familiarize yourself with the wp-admin dashboard and a few other important files and folders to reduce the chances of errors and unwanted complexities.

Everything that you see on the wp-admin dashboard is based on scripts stored inside the wp-admin folder of your wordpress installation from the posts editor to the health info screen and Wordpress tools and settings.

Wordpress is made using php and mysql. The wp-admin folder includes php files like admin-ajax.php, editor.php and so on to control every aspect of the Wordpress dashboard’s functioning including updates. However, the content you post on Wordpress is stored inside the mysql database. You do not need to know php or mysql to use Wordpress and yet, some understanding of mysql can help you troubleshoot several types of database related problems as well as change and update information like user passwords etc. You can use the phpmyadmin to look inside the mysql database. The database host, user name and password are stored inside a configuration file called wp-config.php, which can be found inside your root folder (the folder inside which wordpress is installed on your server). The wp-config.php is a critical file that includes the database information like host, database username and password which are critical to running Wordpress. You may sometimes need to edit this file to change some variables. However, you must first take a backup before making any changes in the wp-config.php file.

Familiarize yourself with the wordpress dashboard and important features

Now, let’s come to the Wordpress dashboard, the most important interface you will be using for managing various tasks like editing and updating content, uploading media, moderating comments, fixing url structure, installing and changing themes, installing plugins and for other tasks.

When you have just started using Wordpress, you are most concerned about site management. You want a site that loads fast, offers a good user experience and then you want to add content and be found in searches. Site management with Wordpress can be simple since you have themes and plugins to extend wordpress functionality and help you create an aweseome blog.

The Wordpress dashboard includes a brief overview of your blog including the number of published posts, recent user activity and Wordpress news.

You can also access various other panels from the wordpress dashboard including the ones for editing posts and uploading media. From here, you can also add, remove and manage plugins or themes, add or remove users, manage comments and so much more including changing the look of your website.

Here are the main tasks you can perform from the Wordpress dashboard:

Wordpress guide

Creating content and uploading media:

Wordpress provides an attractive and easy to use dashboard adn an advanced post editor to create new posts and edit existing ones. To add a new post, go to the wordpress dashboard - posts, and click on the add new button at the top. It will open a new page for creating a new post.

At the top, you can add a title for your wordpress post.

Wordpress post editor

When you start using Wordpress, you will see a default post included and titled Hello World. You can create a new post, or to start with just edit the hello world post.

Let’s first understand the Wordpress post editor or the Gutenberg editor. The Gutenberg editor, used for creating and editing posts, is made up of various kinds of blocks that you can use to manage and publish content. Each element in the post editor is a separate block. For example, headings block, paragraph block, image block, cover, code, list, tables, you can insert just any of these into your post using one of the Gutenberg blocks.

For example, you want to start your post with an introduction. You can start typing because the default block used in Gutenberg is the paragraph block. However, if you want to insert a heading, you need to select the headings block and you can use one of the headings from h2 to h6. To give your posts an attractive look, please divide it into parts (made up of paragraphs) and give each one a heading or subheading.

Gutenberg Blocks Wordpress

You just need to click on the plus sign inside the Gutenberg editor and you can add any block whether you need to add headings, table, list or an image to your Wordpress post. You can create a great looking post with an attractive cover, images, lists and other elements and publish. You will find some of the controls in the right sidebar of the post editor. Here you can assign a category to your post to organize your posts based on categories.

Creating wordpress categories

For example, create a tech category for technology articles and a separate category for news. The right sidebar also includes additional features like tags, used to tag your posts, excerpt for adding excerpts to posts and a featured image. At the bottom in the sidebar inside the discussion section, you will find the feature to turn off comments and pingbacks for individual posts.

Just like you add new posts in Wordpress, you can also add new categories. From the dashboard, select categories (under posts) and then add new. Add the name for your new category and save. You might also need to add some static pages. These are the pages like about page, contact us page, privacy policy and so on. Adding and editing static pages can also be done in the same manner as you add new posts. However, instead of adding new posts, you will need to click on pages in the left sidebar on the Wordpress dashboard and then add new. Static pages in wordpress can be edited in the same way as the posts, which means you can add images, lists or other elements using Gutenberg blocks to your static pages.

You can add media to individual posts using the image block. However, the images you add to your posts are first uploaded to Wordpress and then added to the posts. To check out the media you have uploaded to Wordpress, go to the media library from the dashboard. Here you will see the uploaded images and other media files. To upload new media, please click on add new. You can later use the uploaded images inside your posts using the image block.

Wordpress media library

Wordpress Media Library

Wordpress themes, plugins, widgets and menus:

How to install, customize and remove themes in Wordpress

The themes affect the look of your website on the front end as well as its speed. There are many themes in the wordpress repository and you can add the ones you need from it. Your wordpress installation comes with the default wordpress themes. However, you can always add a new theme or upload a premium theme in the form of a zip file and install it on your website for use.

Themes affect the appearance of your website and the controls for managing themes are found in the appearance section, which you will find in the left sidebar under the pages and comments button. Click on appearance to expand it and then click on themes. Now, you can see the themes currently installed on your website. To add a new theme, you can click on ‘add new’ button at the top. Now, check out the themes available in the wordpress repository.

Wordpress themes

From here, you can install any of the themes with one click. Hover on the theme you want to install and click on install, following which you can activate the theme and customize or change its appearance including colors, typographical elements, sidebar settings and other elements as per your preference. To uninstall a theme, just go to the themes section in wordpress dashboard and from among the installed things select the one you want to uninstall by hovering over it. Now, click on view details and then ‘delete theme’. The option to customize a theme can be found in the wordpress dashboard inside the appearance section.

Manage widgets and menus in wordpress

Wordpress widget areas

The appearance section in the Wordpress dashboard also includes the controls to add and delete menus as well as manage widgets. Widgets are tools to add content and features to widget areas like header, footer, sidebar and inside the post content. These widget areas allow users to customize their site’s look and functionality. Suppose, you want to add a search to the header area which shows on all pages. You just need to add the search widget from the widgets section in the appearance tab on Wordpress dashboard. With the Gutenberg block editor, widgets can be added to widget areas like you add blocks to your posts. To remove a widget, just click on the widget from the widgets page and then click on the three dots and select delete widget.

Managing menus is also very easy in wordpress. The menu generally goes into the header. However, if you like you can show a menu in the sidebar as well. First, you will need to create a menu that includes the main categories of posts on your blog or only the categories you want to show to users. The menus allow users to browse your website and check out articles and posts in different categories. In Wordpress you can add dropdown menus that can also help you showcase the categories you publish content in. A well designed menu also makes your website look better. Several websites use floating menus that stick to the header as you scroll down. Some themes offer this feature and to others you can add the functionality with the help of a plugin.

Wordpress create new menu

To create a menu, go to the appearance section in the wordpress dashboard and then click on create a new menu. Give the new menu a name and then click on create. Once you have created a menu, you can start editing it and add categories or special pages like contact page to it. Following that, you can assign the newly created menu a desired position like header, footer, sidebar, above header, below header etc. You can also add submenu items to your menu to denote subcategories from the menu editor.

Manage plugins in Wordpress:

Without plugins, you will not be able to enjoy the potential of wordpress to the fullest. Whether for speed or SEO or several other critical functionalities, these plugins help you improve the functioning of your wordpress installation and add amazing features for your readers.

Some of the common areas where you need to use a plugin includes SEO management, caching, and wordpress security. Apart from it, you can use plugins for many more functions like social media sharing, show related posts and similar more features.

To add a new plugin, go to the plugins section of the Wordpress dashboard. Expand the plugins section and click on add new. This will take you to the wordpress plugin repository where you can search for plugins. You can add any to your website by clicking on install. Following the installation, you can activate the plugin and then start using it on your website. Basically, you will need at least one caching plugin, one seo plugins and one security plugin on your website. If you need more functionalities, you can use dedicated plugins from the repository.

To remove a plugin from your website, click on plugins and then installed plugins.

Wordpress plugins

Now, under the plugin that you want to uninstall, you will find the delete button. Click on it to delete the plugin. You can also use FTP to upload and delete plugins and themes. Plugins can also be installed by uploading to your website as zip folders and then activating. To upload a plugin, click on add new plugin and then upload.

To configure a plugin according to your need, you will need to change the plugin settings after activation. Most plugins do not come preconfigured. Click on settings under the plugin to configure the plugins and change the configurations. However, be careful while using plugins and use only reliable ones on your website. Do not use more plugins than you really need. You must have only one dedicated plugin for any functionality like caching, SEO or security.

Wordpress settings:

The Wordpress settings can be found on the wordpress dashboard in the left sidebar. It includes seven types of settings - general, reading, writing, discussion, media, permalinks and privacy.

Wordpress settings

The general settings include the site name, tag line, admin email as well as the site url, home url and some more settings like site language.

The writing settings include the default post category and format as well as the settings to post via email.

Wordpress settings

The reading settings are related to the front end of your website and have several choices including what would be the look of your homepage. For example, whether you will make a static page your home page or just include your latest posts on it like most blogs do. You can also select the number of posts to show on your archives pages and blog page as well as the number of items to be included in syndication feeds.

You can also select to show excerpts in archives instead of the full post.

The discussion settings are related to pingbacks and comments. Here, you can change the settings for pingbacks and trackbacks (link notifications from other blogs when they link to a post on yours) as well as comments. You can set how long a post will remain open for commenting and other settings to moderate comments on your blog.

The media settings include the three sizes for the media you upload to the media library including thumbnails, medium size and large size images. Thumbnails are sized 150 x 150 pixels. Apart from that you can select if you want your media to be organized in month based folders or not. If you select to organize it into month and year based folders, Wordpress will create folders inside the wp-content folder to organize your media like 2023/08, 2023/10 and so on.

The permalink settings are very critical and can be changed only once at the outset. You will set a permalink structure that the entire blog will follow. If you change these settings, you will need to create appropriate redirects, otherwise you will lose rankings and traffic. Changing permalink structure on an old blog with several posts is not advisable. However, when you are starting a blog, you can set a preferred structure right at the outset.

You can set the post name permalink structure which is the most preferred structure or the month and name structure. In the post name structure, the post slug comes after the site url. However, in the month name structure, you will have the year and month in the url before the post slug like example.com/2023/06/post-name/.

So, you can choose which way you want your post urls to look.

In the privacy policy settings, you can set the privacy policy page of your blog.

Wordpress tools:

A wordpress installation also includes some tools that will help you import and export blog data in the form of an xls file or to convert categories to tags and vice versa. The site health info tab is included in the wordpress tools. All these tools can be accessed from the Wordpress dashboard.

The site health tab in the tools section includes all the critical information regarding the operational static of your wordpress installation, server and database. It may include information related to server modules depending on the type of server you are using - Apache or Nginx. It also includes warnings regarding features that you might need to check and which can help you manage the performance of your wordpress blog including issues related to plugins, themes, ssl and the database. Sometimes, you may be able to find out an issue affecting your wordpress installation, just by checking the site health info tab. You can contact your host for the more technical things and some of the issues can also be sorted out from inside the dashboard.

Adding or removing users in Wordpress:

Wordpress add new user

In your wordpress blog, you may need to add or remove users. Whether as a new author or subscriber, sometimes there is a need to have extra users. However, all the users do not have the same right and same level of access to wordpress features. As an admin you8 have all the privileges. Adding a new user is quite easy and straightforward.

The settings to add and remove users are all included on the Wordpress dashboard in the left sidebar under the plugin settings. If you click on all new users, it will show you all the existing users and you can check out the profiles of the existing users. For creating a new user, please click on add new and fill in the details including user’s name, nickname and other things like email and password. Then you can assign a user role like subscriber, author, administrator, editor or contributor. Once done, please click on add new user at the bottom, and you will have a new user added to your system. To remove the user, check out all users and then select the user you want to edit. You can now change the user’s role, delete the user or send a password change request.

Wordpress dashboard features

A few last words:

Wordpress can be a great option for building a large range of websites. For bloggers, it offers so many features that can make publishing content very easy for them. Not just individual bloggers but businesses also use Wordpress. Why Wordpress is the first choice of so many bloggers and businesses is because of the flexibility, features and performance. As a beginner with no coding knowledge or prior experience, you can start blogging in Wordpress since it has an easy to use and simple dashboard.

The inbuilt media library in Wordpress makes uploading images and adding them to posts and pages easier. You can use the inbuilt commenting system to receive feedback from users. Themes like Astra or Generatepress can be used to create highly attractive websites. These themes have plenty of customization options to give your website the desired look without having to use any html, css or js.

However, there are also some critical things that you cannot overlook while using Wordpress. Don’t worry since you have some excellent plugins to help you manage these tasks. One of the most important issues is Wordpress security. Since Wordpress is the most popular CMS, Wordpress websites are among the ones that are a constant target for hackers. Using a plugin like Wordfence, All in One Security, or Sucuri, you can address these vulnerabilities and keep your wordpress blog safe from hackers.

You also need to have a backup plugin so that you can always keep a backup ready and bring your site back online under any circumstances. It is always safe to have a backup of the entire site since sometimes technical issues can also cause your website to go offline and if you have a backup, you can bring your site back online in minutes. An SEO plugin and a caching plugin are also a must have for Wordpress Website, so that the site runs fast and ranks well in searches.

Otherwise, even beginners would not face any major difficulty in running a wordpress blog. Most features in Wordpress are easily manageable. Familiarize yourself with files like wp-config.php, .htaccess file (Apache servers) and some others like Robots.txt and it will be a lot easier for you to manage Wordpress efficiently.

Suggested Reading

Wordpress Guide for Beginners

Submit Your Site to Google Search Console

Five Best SEO Plugins for Wordpress

Install and Configure the WP-CLI

How to Start A New Wordpress Blog

Sitemap for Your Wordpress Blog