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WordPress for the N00BIE who wants to be the GURU

06 · 18 · 09

By @Pavlina20

WordPress is hands-down the leader for web publishing. It is the Mac-daddy, the best, and the most awesome. I started out my wee home on the internet with blogspot account, then that turned into Blogger (owned by Google) and I just didn’t have the freedom there to do what I wanted very easily. I am no code master. To this day when I need to change my template I have a list of resources that I must go-to for the proper code. Whoa, let me back up. Templates, did I say? Yes. Template. Welcome to the world of WordPress.

What is WordPress? if you go to the WordPress home, it says:

WordPress is a state-of-the-art publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.

More simply, WordPress is what you use when you want to work with your blogging software, not fight it.

I love that. Truer words were never typed. If you want a way to put what you want out there on the internet without having to worry about the backend, WordPress is what you want. At this point, I must assume that you are in agreement with me. You have downloaded and installed WordPress on your host server, you have found a template you like, and now you are staring at the dashboard wondering how what you do here will affect how your blog looks on the other side. If you haven’t done any of those other steps yet, please go do them now. I’ll wait for you.

When you download WordPress there will be many links telling you how to do it, how to upload to your host (FileZilla is your friend), and how to get started using your first theme. There are literally hundreds of sites out there with ready to go themes. Myself, I love Cutline and Cutline is what you will see on my home page. Themes are a bit personal, and I won’t get into how to pick a theme right now, I’ll just have to assume you have found one to your liking and you have also uploaded that theme to your server.

The Dashboard.

I love the new dashboard. I can’t remember which revision gave us the striking view that we see now, but it is lovely and oh so very easy to use. A properly configured dashboard will make the care and feeding of your new home on the internet a pleasure to visit rather than a torture session. The first thing to do after gazing upon its beauty is to go to Appearance and select Themes. This will bring up where you select your new theme. The default WordPress theme will be here, along with the new one you just uploaded. Go ahead and select it. You can also edit your theme by selecting Editor. Now, I did mention I am no code master but I did make some changes to the code of my template. I use cutline and it is a highly customizable theme and it was very easy for me to do this. Even so, there was a lot of back and forth between editing the code of the template then checking my blog so this leads right into the big question, Which plugins should I use? I’ll tell you.

Eight Plugins no one should live without.

  1. Theme Test drive gets the number one position because if you make any changes to your templates files, then theme test drive allows you to view the changes while the rest of the world sees your blog as it is. You can make changes invisibly if you will. This is so important, as anyone who has made a little change such as the width of a border that throws everything out of whack can attest to. If you are going to make any changes to your template, you need this plugin. Period.
  2. Askimet gets number two because if you publish a blog, you will get comment spam. Even if you have a small readership you still don’t want the spammers take your blog over, or you don’t want to wade through dozens to hundreds of comments in moderation. Spam looks bad because new readers to your site will be turned off if they see a lot of comment spam there. It makes a blog look unkempt and dirty.
  3. WordPress database backup Remember how I said I wasn’t a code master? Well, for a time it seemed like every time I logged into the dashboard, it was time to upgrade to a new version of WordPress. When you upgrade, which is like a mini-reinstall of WordPress on your servers, it’s always a good idea to make a backup of your databases because this is the data that makes up your blog. I never liked the cumbersome process of logging into my host, then making the database backup, then exporting and saving it somewhere safe. This plugin will automatically make a backup for you either on demand or on a schedule, then you can also email a copy to yourself. I have mine sent to a gmail account, so unless both my host and gmail go down at the same time, I’m covered. If they do go down at the same time, the Zombie apocalypse has arrived, and I won’t care about my database.
  4. Now for the rest, in no particular order

  5. WordPress.com stats is a nice way to track your traffic on your dashboard. This will require you to get a WordPress.com account. I use this in addition to my Sitemeter account and Google Analytics. You can never have too many ways to track your traffic. This is important as it will tell you things like how people are finding your blog.
  6. Rss Footer I just enabled this on my blog and have not yet realized the fruit of my labors yet. This plugin allows you to add an extra line of whatever you want into your RSS feed.
  7. Google Sitemaps creates a sitemap for Google. I have a sitemap generated by my theme, but I also use this one. Maybe you have gotten the feeling that I appreciate redundancy.
  8. All in one SEO pack is incredibly useful. Since I have enabled this on my blog, I get quite a lot of search hits and I don’t believe it is a coincidence this occurred after I enabled this. It is very easy to use, and adds right onto the post area of the dashboard, then you populate it as you write your post. Nice.
  9. Flickr RSS is really only necessary if you have a Flickr account you want to link to your blog. So while not absolutely necessary, it is very nice. This creates a small, unobtrusive set of images in your sidebar.

Once you download these, you then put them in the plugins directory of your server. When you log into the dashboard, they should all be there waiting for you under Plugins. Any settings you need to make can be done here. The other very nice thing is when it comes time to upgrade your plugins, WordPress will let you know. When you log into the dashboard, there will be a circled number letting you know how many plugins need attention. You open your plugins, and you can automatically upgrade just like that. Plugins give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to tweaking your site. Most themes come ready for this type of tweaking, so even if your theme doesn’t support Gravatars for example, you can get a plug in to add Gravatar support to your theme. Let me know when you find it.

So now you have your tweaked theme, you have some plugins, now you should adjust your widgets. Widgets are also under Appearance, widgets are built right into the WordPress. This would allows for rudimentary tweaking to the site. The widgets will populate the sidebar in your theme, so choose wisely. If you select them all you will have a sidebar a mile long, a personal pet-peeve of mine. Just say no. You can also get rid of that freshman meta log-in. Bookmark (or memorize) the URL of your site. Some plugins will add as a widget, such as Askimet and FlickrRSS. I personally think many of these widgets can be handled more elagantly through a good template and plugin use. Widgets have their place and allow for some easy ways to add say, text at the top of your sidebar without having to go into the actual code of the theme. It’s your choice.

Okay, so now that I’ve talked about the Dashboard and why you should love it, the difference between plugins and widgets, the last thing I want to mention are Permalinks. A permalink is the line that shows up in the browser’s address bar, it’s usually something like http://www.blog.com/why-I-love-cake/’. Permalinks are the permanent URL of your blog post, thus you really want something a search engine can grab hold of and send out to the masses, so to speak. In other words, you really want your permalinks to be ‘pretty’, like my example above, instead of http://www.blog.com/3274672ccxdn78/” which is a hot mess. This is so very easy to do in WordPress. Simply go to your dashboard, select Permalinks under the Settings. This will bring your permalinks section, then what I do is link my permalinks to my blog title, but you can also use keywords, tags, categories or whatever you want. I use the Custom Structure radio button and in the filed I have “/%postname%/” which pulls my title and drops it into the permalink. As soon as I type my blog title into the post filed, this permalink is populated. Now, a word of warning. If for whatever reason you do not put a title in right away, but start typing your blog entry, the permalink will populate with a generic number that you will then have to go back and fix. Otherwise, I find this an incredibly useful way of both assigning your permalinks while increasing your blog traffic.

So hopefully that is enough to get you started on the way to getting a pimped out blog. If you find this interesting at all, please drop me a line and let me know. I’ll be more than happy to share my Power to the people, from the people, for the people philosophy of WordPress.

Resources:

  • Css Cheat Sheat
  • html kit for heavy duty CSS work
  • HTML resource, the W3 schools is also a great resource for CSS, XML, PHP, Javascript, etc. Consider it your go-to home for all things web related.
  • Cutline Theme, the greated them ever. nuff’ said.
  • Sitemeter, for basic traffic analysis
  • Google analyticsis the best place for traffic analysis, and if you are like most of use, you already have the Google account you’ll need to get started.
  • WordPress Codex, for all your WordPress questions.
  • last but not least, The WordPress forums, in case yor questions weren’t answered by any of the above.
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2 comments

  1. […] Read at : HERE […]


    • help! i’m a new new newbie, and everywhere i read it says to change my permalinks by going to settings then permalinks. am i going crazy or is that no longer how to get to permalinks?? i’ve tried basically every setting category and nothing looks like “permalinks” please help.



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