Courtesy Joana Croft via www.sxc.hu
Welcome to part 2 of my WordPress 101 tutorial series. In part one we discussed what WordPress is, the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, and how WordPress fits into the world of Content Management Systems. You needn’t have read part one to climb into today’s tutorial, however I do recommend reading it at some point.
Today we’re going to get into some of the nuts and bolts of WordPress installation then offer a brief overview of the WordPress Dashboard. Once you’ve finished reading this tutorial you’ll be able to download a copy of WordPress, install it with all the basic settings, and have a basic blog up and running in no time!
Installing WordPress is actually pretty simple, in fact there is a great tutorial on WordPress.org . The basic steps are:
- Create a database in MySQL
- Download the files from WordPress.org
- Decompress the files and upload them to your server
- Run the configuration script
- Start blogging!
That’s it…. pretty simple, huh?
Some web hosts pretty much take care of all of this for you (WordPress.com, for example). Others don’t install the WordPress core by default, but offer a simple script that does it for you. If you’re running your own server you’ll have to install everything yourself and will need four things:
- A web server running IIS, Apache, or some other web server program. The major server Operating Systems like Windows and Linux tend to include this, but you do have to activate and configure them.
- The PHP binaries configured to run on your web server.
- The MySQL database system.
- The WordPress core files (of course).
Once you have all of those components together and run through the setup guide, you’ll be ready to start blogging!
The Dashboard is the heart of WordPress and is the gateway to all the administrative menus you’ll use to control everything. I’ll be going over some of the options in more detail in later tutorials, but this will get you started. At the very top or your screen is the WordPress Admin Bar. This will display after you log into your site. Random visitors (or non-logged in users) will not see it. From the Admin Bar you can quickly access information about WordPress, get back to your dashboard, add a new post, or edit the current page. At the far right you will see your username and Gravatar (if you’ve set one up). Clicking your username will allow you to log out or go to the profile editing screen.
WordPress Admin Bar
If your site does not have the log in option directly on the site, just navigate your browser to http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin (replace “yoursite.com” with your own website). Enter the username and password you created when you configured WordPress to log into the Dashboard.
Once logged in, you will see the main Dashboard page. This will give you some basic information about your site, a list of recent comments, the “Quick Press” option, and a feed to the official WordPress blog. Along the left side of the screen you’ll see a menu listing the basic categories of things you can do. For example the “Posts” menu takes you to post related options. If you hover your mouse over the menu title a fly out menu will pop out and allow you to quickly select one of the sub menus. Otherwise, if you click on the menu it will expand and allow you to select one of the sub menus and present the contents of the top menu item. Here is a list of what you’ll see from top to bottom and a brief explanation of what each menu does. What you actually see may vary somewhat depending on your role (more on roles later) and what plugins and/or theme you have running.
From top down:
Left Dashboard Sidebar
- Dashboard – This is the default selection you’ll see when you first log in. It provides you with some basic information about your site and shows you what themes and/or plugins have updates available.
- Posts – This is the meat of WordPress because this is where you’ll handle all tasks post related. Posts are your blog entries displayed in reverse chronological order on your site. In addition you can manage categories and tags from here as well.
- Media – This menu will display the images, video, and audio you have uploaded into your blog. From here you can change their attributes, add captions and descriptions, and do other media related tasks.
- Links – This is where the links you create end up. This menu is similar to the Media menu except it deals with links to other sites. If you have it enabled, this is where the Blogroll widget pulls its information.
- Pages - The Pages menu is similar to the Posts menu, and for good reason. Pages are essentially static posts. I have a whole tutorial planned on this topic so more on this later.
- Comments - This is where you go to administer the comments people leave on your site. From here you can approve, delete, or mark comments as spam. I highly recommend activating the Akismet plugin as it does a really good job of automatically filtering out spam comments. Akismet comes with WordPress by default, all you need to do is sign up for an API key and activate the plugin, Akismet will do the rest.
- Appearance – This is where you select which theme you want to use, create menus, and change the overall look and feel of your site.
- Plugins – Plugins are essentially snippets of code that… well… plug into your WordPress site to add or change the default functionality. This is part of what makes WordPress so powerful. If you need a calendar or an image slide show you can add them via plugins. The built-in plugin mechanism will insert the code where you want it automatically. Pretty cool, huh?
- Users – The exact content you can see under this menu will depend on your role, but this is the menu you’d use to create and/or change user information. Administrators can create new users, and everyone can change their own profile from here.
- Tools - This is where you’ll find certain administrative tools for importing and exporting content as well as other tools that might be added by various plugins. You can also get a “Press This” bookmarklet to add to your browser that will allow you to quickly create a post with a link to whatever content you are browsing.
- Settings – Finally, we get to the Settings menu. This is where you’ll go to control things like your site title, how many posts display on the blog, what the date format looks like, and how to format permalinks. This is pretty important stuff so there will be another tutorial on this later, for now just understand this is where you pretty much control everything on your site. If something isn’t displaying correctly or there is some other problem with the site, chances are this is where the problem lies.
Since I’ve mentioned them a couple of times now, I want to touch briefly on user roles. Every WordPress user has a role with each bearing a different level of ability. The available roles from least capable to most capable are:
- Subscriber – basically read only, subscribers can read articles and change their own profile but can’t do anything else on the site.
- Contributor – Contributors can create posts, but cannot publish them. They must have an editor or administrator publish the post for them.
- Author – Authors can create and publish their own posts but can’t do anything with other users’ content.
- Editor – Editors can edit and post other people’s content in addition to their own.
- Administrator – an administrator has full access to a single site, they can change settings, edit and publish other users’ content, create new users, or promote/demote existing users’ roles.
- Super Admin – A Super Admin is a special kind of role that is only available if you have multiple sites on your network. Super Admins can have full access to all sites on the network.
All roles can change their own profiles, but only Administrators and Super Administrators can change settings on the site, add widgets and plugins, or change the site’s theme. When you first set up WordPress the first user you create is an administrator, it is then up to that user to create other users and assign roles to them. You can think of user roles as a way to describe user permissions within the context of WordPress.
Installing WordPress is pretty simple, especially if you use a web host that has everything configured for you. We’ve also touched on the Dashboard and user roles. At this point you are ready to log into your WordPress Dashboard and at least have a vague idea of what each section is for. In part 3 of this series, we’ll go over the Settings menu in-depth and talk about configuring your site.
In case you missed it… here is a link to part 1 of the series… WordPress 101: Part 1 – What is WordPress?