How to Use WordPress
Oooohh, boy. There’s a lot of things going on here. So many things to click on! Luckily, you only need to focus on a few things.
If you followed the steps in the last chapter, How to Install WordPress, you will already logged into your website in what I call “edit mode”. Edit mode is a secret set of pages that only you can see, and they give you the ability to change anything on your website. These pages are called the “admin screen” of WordPress.
Backend vs. Frontend
The admin screen (AKA the backend) of a website is only for the person who runs the website. That’s you.
It’s like being in the back end of a butcher shop: The customer never sees it, and it’s where the sausage is made. You know you are in the admin screen of WordPress if there is a thin black bar along the top, and a larger black bar along the left side. You will also see your name in the upper-right corner, it will say “Howdy, [your name]”.
Frontend is what visitors to your website see. It’s the regular website. If someone doesn’t have special (Administrator) login to a website, all they will ever see if the frontend.
The admin screen’s just for you, the frontend is for everyone else.
But how do you get back to this page? This trips up a lot of people because, unlike every other website on the internet, on yours, there is no log in link for you to click on. In WordPress, you have to go to a certain web page to log in, and you will need to remember it, or create a bookmark on your browser.
To login to WordPress, type in your search bar: yourwebsite.com/wp-admin (replace yourwebsite.com with the domain you purchased earlier). The wp-admin page will take you into the admin screen, or, if you are not logged in, it will take you to the hidden login page.
From there, enter in your Admin Username and Admin Password from Step 3 of the previous chapter, How to Install WordPress. Click the Log In button, and you’re in!
Navigating the WordPress Admin Screen
What you should care about is the black bar along the top and left-hand sides of the page. This is the navigation menu for the admin screen, which is generally know as the “sidebar”. It’s the way you can see all the parts of your website, and customize it. Let’s go through all the sidebar links.
- Click here to see the Dashboard
- Dashboard rearrangeable cards
- Screen Options: Show/hide cards on the dashboard
Right now, and whenever you log in to your admin screen, you are on the dashboard. It’s like the overview of your website. It gives you statistics and news from WordPress. You can click and drag the little boxes around, and sometimes new stuff magically appears. It looks impressive, but it’s kinda pointless. I’ve never used the dashboard, so I recommend ignoring it, but feel free to play around with it. You can add/remove stuff by clicking the little tab on the top-right that says Screen Options.
- Click here to see all blog posts
- Create a new blog post
- See all current blog posts
This is where you make and edit blog posts. If you aren’t doing a blog, newsletter, or regular events or announcements, then you can just ignore it.
A “post” is a regular page that is timestamped. Use a post when your content is time-based, like an announcement (think newspaper article). Blog posts will show up only on the blog page (and maybe on the homepage, depending on your theme).
WordPress gives you a sample post entitled “Hello world!”. You can take a look at it to see how it’s set up, but you should throw it in the trash before launching your website.
A post is almost identical to a page. Posts will show up on the Blog page, and the most recent posts will also show up on the homepage (you can change this behavior in Settings → Reading). They will not show up on the website’s menu, unless you manually add them there from Settings → Menu. A post will also have three extra features pages don’t have: tags and categories, and comments.
Tags are search keywords for a post. You can have as many as you like. For example, if you are writing a blog post about how to wash a puppy, your tags could be: bath, wash, puppy, puppies, dogs, how-to. These optional keywords help people find this post when searching for those keywords.
Categories organize your posts, which is especially helpful if you have many posts. They will organize your posts if a visitor wants to search by category, and will give them an idea of what the article is about before they read it.
Comments are something your website’s visitors can leave on a post. You will find the comment section at the bottom of a blog post. You can require people to sign up for your blog before leaving a comment, which helps keep spam down. If you prefer, you can also make it so no one can leave a comment. Settings for all comments are in the admin screen sidebar, under Settings → Discussion.
- Click here to see the all website images
- List of images. May not be visible on site
- Add new image. It’s better to do this on a post or page edit screen
Where your pictures live. Generally, you won’t need to visit this page. You will add images when you are creating a page or post.
- Click here to see all pages
- Create a new page
- See all current page
The web pages of your website. You will need at least one of these, but you can have as many as you like. Many people create an About Me page, Contact page, or pages about certain topics. It’s up to you what pages you have.
Making a Page
If you click on the Pages link in the sidebar, you will see you can make a new page at the top with the Add New button. You can also edit existing pages by clicking on their name from the list below.
Every page comes with basic text controls like underlines, heading text, etc. Make sure every page has a title. When you are ready to make the page live on your website, click the Publish button on the right. Once it’s published, you can see what it looks like on your website by clicking View Page in the black bar on the top of the page.
If the tools are too confusing or limited for you, check out the WYSIWYG section in the next chapter.
- Click here to see all comments
- List of all comments
- Which blog post the comment was made on
If you have a blog, on the bottom of every published post, readers of your blog have the opportunity to add a comment. Comments are a mixed blessing: they add a community element to your site, and help your page rank on Google and other search engines. However, they are often spam. Use the Comments page to read through, and if necessary, delete comments. You can also respond to them from this page, opening up a public dialog with your readers.
You can control who can post and other details from Settings → Discussion. From there you can set it so you have to manually approve all comments before they go live on the site, which I would recommend. Spam comments are much more sophisticated nowadays, so read each message completely, and make sure there are no weird links. You can also activate an anti-spam plugin like Akismet to help reduce the bogus comments.
- Click here to see all installed themes
- Theme you are currently using
- Add new theme
This is where you edit the way your website looks. You don’t need to go in here if you like the way your website looks. More on this in the upcoming chapter, Customizing Your WordPress Theme.
- Click here to see all installed plugins
- Options for individual plugins
- Add new plugin
One of the great things about WordPress is the thousands of free plugins you can add to your website. A plugin is a little upgrade, and they do all sorts of stuff. They can add a Facebook button, change all the fonts on your website, add extra levels of security and so many other things.
You don’t need any plugins. Whether you use plugins is up to you. More on this in the upcoming chapter, All About Plugins.
- Click here to see all users
- List of users
- The role, or “level of power” this user has
Want to invite other people to edit your website? Click on Users, then press the Add New button at the top. Fill out the information on the user, and let WordPress generate a password for you (they can change it later). Make sure to check the box that says “Send the new user an email about their account.” This will send them an email with everything they need to login. Make sure you choose the Role wisely. A user’s role dictates how much they can change on your website. It’s how much power you are giving them.
WordPress User Roles
- Administrator: somebody who can do anything. This is the level of power you have.
- Editor: somebody who can make, edit, and delete pages and posts (even ones other people make). They can not change the way the website looks, just the content on it.
- Author: somebody who can make, edit, and delete their own pages and posts, but not anyone else’s.
- Contributor: somebody who can make, edit, and delete their own pages and posts, but cannot publish them. Someone with more power must approve their content.
- Subscriber: somebody who can only manage their profile. They have no access to the admin screen. Usually used only on blogs, for making blog comments.
From the Users link, you can also change user accounts and delete them. If you click on your own name, you can change your details, and most importantly, the colors of the admin screen! This color scheme has no effect on your website, it’s just for you 🙂
If you made any changes to a user, remember to press the save button way down at the bottom of the page.
- Click here to see all tools
Not very interesting. Miscellaneous website tools that you will probably never use.
- Click here to see the Settings page
- Name of your website
- Optional slogan (may not show on your theme)
Various setting for how the website works. Take a look through these options, and make any changes you like, but you don’t need to do anything in here.
A notice about links in this course
Some links in this course are "affiliate links". This means if you click on the link and purchase the thing, I get a commission for purchases made through links in this post. It costs you nothing extra, and enables me to work toward my dream of making a garden program to help kids and people with anxiety and depression learn and heal by interacting with the natural world. Thank you for making this dream a reality!