WordPress for Non-Techies

This post is intended as a reference for WordPress beginners, with instructions and screenshots from the self-hosted version of WordPress 3.1.2. Amid thousands of “WordPress for Newbies” posts and videos out there, I can’t find anything that really fits the bill. One more version shouldn’t hurt!

Background, or “What is this WordPress thing?”

WordPress is an online publishing platform. It began as a tool for posting quick blurbs of info to a personal website, but has enough horsepower to manage large, complex websites. The software’s selling point is the simple way WordPress drives your site’s template and navigation, allowing you to focus on content – and customize the nuts & bolts as much or little as you’d like. WordPress comes in two flavors, both free:

  • WordPress.com – Sign up for a free WordPress site. The developers handle all the nerdy details, so all you need to do is choose a web address and username. WordPress.com charges fees for several optional features (such as ad removal) on an annual basis.
  • WordPress.org – Download and install WordPress yourself. Self-hosted WordPress is much more flexible, but requires a web hosting account and some maintenance. Many web hosts (including GoDaddy, home of awful advertising and great prices) will install WordPress for you with no hassle.

The first step to running a WordPress site (after deciding its purpose) is to set the thing up. Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org do a great job of walking you through that, so I won’t belabor the issue. Next step: adding content.

WordPress manages two distinct types of content:

  1. Posts appear in reverse chronological order on your site’s home page; add a new Post, and the others are bumped down automatically. Old Posts that get pushed from the home page are easily accessible through monthly archives – also created automatically by WordPress.
  2. Pages are listed permanently across your site’s home page, generally in a band of navigation links near the top of the screen. Add a new Page, and its title will be listed prominently for users to see and click.

Because of the way Posts and Pages are displayed on a WordPress site, news, reminders, and event recaps are ideal Post content: they will be listed front-and-center when published, but less prominent as time passes. Basic “About Us” content, contact information, major events & initiatives, or other long-term items make for good Page content, as these are all things you’ll want users to be able to find 5 days or 5 years from now.

Publishing Content with WordPress

Once you’ve created your WordPress site and have content to publish, log in to your site (using the instructions provided by WordPress.com or your hosting provider). When you log in to WordPress, the first screen you’ll see is the Dashboard. The WordPress Dashboard provides an overview of your content, lists recent comments, and basically throws a ton of shortcuts on the screen that may or may not be useful. In the top right corner are several important links:

Starting from the left, the New Post button will let you quickly add a new Post. Clicking the link on your WordPress username will bring up a profile screen where you can change how your name is displayed, update your password, or otherwise adjust your WordPress profile. The Log Out link will do exactly what a Log Out link should. Screen Options lets you hide Dashboard items you don’t use, and Help will give detailed instructions for the current screen.

Tip: The Help link is available at the top right on every WordPress administrator screen, and provides some great info for new users.

Click the New Post button, and you’ll see the Add New Post screen. Type a clear, concise title in the field labeled Enter title here:

When you publish your Post, this title will be displayed at the top. Under the title field is an editor box containing a number of buttons:

Next to the Upload/Insert heading at top left are small icons you can click to add photos, video, audio, or other files to your Post. Click any of these icons for a screen that will walk you through inserting multimedia items.

In the gray bar are a number of formatting buttons – these should be familiar to most users, but you can point at any button to see a brief description.

  • To add text, simply click in the editor box and type or paste (Right-click > Paste) your content.
  • To format text, select the text using your mouse and click the appropriate button.
  • To add a web link, select text and click the Insert/edit link button – it’s the one with a picture of a chain link.

To preview and then publish your Post, look for the Publish box on the right side of the screen:

Click the Preview button to see what your Post will look like when published. When you’re ready to display your Post on your website, click Publish.

Once you’ve mastered Posts, you can dig into the other features of WordPress using the left navigation. Of key importance are the buttons in the section immediately below the Dashboard button:

You can edit existing Posts or add new Posts using the Posts button. The Media button will help you manage multimedia files on your site. The Links button allows you to add links that may be of interest to readers. The Pages button will let you create new pages and edit existing Pages, which use an editing screen nearly identical to the Add New Post screen. The Comments button displays a screen where you can approve reader comments and delete comment spam.

For more advanced WordPress information, refer to the WordPress.com or WordPress.org documentation!

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