Type Setting

WordPress 101: Part 3 – Configuring WordPress

Type Setting

Courtesy Joana Croft via www.sxc.hu

It’s been awhile coming, but welcome to part three of my WordPress 101 series of tutorials. In the first two parts we talked about what WordPress is, its place in the world of Content Management Systems (CMS), how to install it, and had a brief overview of the administration panel also known as the Dashboard. In today’s installment we’re going to dig into the base configuration within the Settings Panel to get you up and running in no time!

Settings: The Nuts and Bolts

We’ll begin by having a look at the “Settings” menu. To get a basic blog site running we’re really only concerned with two menus initially… “General” and “Reading”. The other menus contain options for handling comments, and formatting time and date stamps. While you should look into them at some point they aren’t strictly necessary for getting your site going.

The first step is to go to the “General Settings” tab. Starting from the top you’ll enter your site title and tagline, this is the name of your blog and a short description that shows up underneath it on most templates.  Next you’ll see a field for the WordPress address and Site Address. WordPress uses these fields to complete links in its internal code. For example let’s say you have a website at “http://www.mysite.com” and your blog sits at “http://www.mysite.com/blog”. You would enter the “mysite.com/blog” address in the “WordPress Address” field and the “mysite.com” address in the “Site Address”. It is important you include the correct addresses here because this is information WordPress uses in its internal code. Next enter the email address you want to use for administrator messages . These will include things like new user registrations, trackback/pingback notifications, and notices for comment moderation. Finally, set the timezone to your local time zone, save your changes, and you’re done!

Once you configure the general settings it is time to draw your attention to the settings at the top of the Reading menu. This is where you get your first taste of WordPress’ flexibility. You can decide if the front page is a static page or your blog posts. If you want a traditional blog format you don’t have to do anything. If you want a static page  as your front page select the “A static page…” option under the “Front page displays” heading. From there you select which page you want as your front page in the “Front page” drop down menu, and which page you want your blog posts displayed on in the “Posts page” drop down. You will need to go to the Pages tab and actually create the pages first (more on this in a later tutorial), but the point is WordPress grants you flexibility in choosing your own layout. Once you’ve finished here you have all the basic settings to get your blog up and running.

A Note About Permalinks

I’m going to leave you with a side note about permalinks. By default WordPress configures links to your pages and posts in a way that makes sense to WordPress. In other words, the links contain the syntax to query the database and pull up your post. A typical link will look something like this:

http://www.myseite.com/index.php?post_id=23&category=4

Not very friendly is it?

Permalinks allow you to create links to your content that are much more friendly to your users. You can choose exactly how to format the links but the basic idea is instead of the above you get something more like this:

http://www.mysite.com/mypostname

Much better, no?

Conclusion:

There you have it, a basic configuration for your shiny new WordPress installation. So go post something already!

 

Little Ones Christian Preschool is Live!

I just wanted to post a quick note to say the website for the new preschool is now live. I’m actually rather pleased with how it turned out. There’s still some information that needs fleshing out which I would normally like to have had done before going live, but the client felt it was more important to get up and running.

Check it out… http://www.littleoneschristianpreschool.org

On Change, New Beginnings, and Endings

I’ll be honest. I haven’t been nearly as active on this blog as I’d hoped I would be. I still haven’t finished the WP Tutorial I’ve been working on and the projects just seem to keep piling up. I’ve decided to take a step back and re-evaluate what I’m doing and what this site is all about. To that end I decided to shift the focus of this site away from WordPress and Web Design and make it more of a central hub for all of my projects. This will result in a kind of redesign for the site along with some new information and a much less formal tone. I want people to come here and see what I’m doing from a professional perspective.

With that in mind, here is a short list of the things I’m working on:

  • Designing a new website for my wife’s new venture. She and my mother-in-law are opening a new preschool in Wilsonville, Oregon and have asked me to set them up with a web site. The URL is live (http://www.littleoneschristianpreschool.org) but the site is not.  I’ve only just begun work on it so it might be a little while before the full site is up.
  • On a related note, I just finished creating a logo for the new preschool. I’ll post a copy here in my portfolio soon.
  • I’m working out the details for a new store that will sell games and game accessories. It will focus on board, tabletop RPG, and Trading Card games. More details later.
  • I’m debating expanding my client base for my freelance computer support business or eliminating it altogether. I only have one client, but with a day job it’s hard to offer the kind of service I would like to. The debate is mostly if I want to get out of Desktop Support or embrace it and take it to the next level.
  • I’m letting inhishandspreschool.org go. It’s looking like the preschool will be closing and the committee decided not to renew the domain. It’s a little sad because the preschool has been a part of my life for so long, but it’s time to let go and so we shall.

That’s all I have for now. As I flesh out this new site I’m sure there will be more to come. It seems there are always new projects. I’m not worried about running out of things to say; I’m more worried about running out of time to say them.

Keep it Simple

I’ve tried to find good ways to test my work in a variety of browsers, especially older versions of Internet Explorer (IE). There are a lot of great solutions available for this kind of testing but I have limited funds and many solutions need a paid subscription or are free but only for a limited trial.

Imagine my delight when I ran into modern.ie, hosted by Microsoft. It offers information on how to test for browser compatibility, but the most valuable thing it provides is a bunch of virtual machines you can download (for free) to run with versions of Internet Explorer from 6 up to 11. They even have a VM for IE 11 on Windows 8.1!

Needless to say I was in geeky heaven and promptly downloaded the various VM’s for testing on, but my excitement was short-lived. I was able to open Internet Explorer in the VM and connect to my development machine, but when I navigated to the WordPress theme I was working on I got the HTML with no styling applied . I fired up the built-in developer tools in IE and determined the problem was that WordPress was passing “localhost” as the server name for the file paths. Obviously this would not do since “localhost” just loops back to the current machine.

My brain started going ten million miles an hour trying to decide how best to implement a local DNS server to point everything to the right place. I started questioning where to host it… do I want to use my regular workstation and take up valuable CPU Cycles and memory to run it, or try to come up with a secondary dedicated server? If so I would need to have the hardware available and the time to configure everything. Then it dawned on me I didn’t have to make everything so complicated. The problem wasn’t DNS, it was the way I had configured WordPress in my development environment. In the settings tab of the WordPress dashboard there are two fields for the WordPress URL and the site URL. Turns out I had both URL’s pointing to “localhost”, so I just switched them to point to the local address of the development box. Once I did that everything worked perfectly.

The lesson here is this, when faced with a challenge it is tempting to leap to a complex solution but often if we take a step back we find the solution is much simpler than we thought. Remember to keep it simple, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress in the long run.

Crazy, Busy, Summer

This summer has proven to be crazy busy. In fact, I’m not sure I recall a busier summer in a very long time. The result has been that I’ve gotten myself woefully behind on a lot of projects, including my tutorial series. Fear not, however, as I have not forgotten about it. I’ve been forced to prioritize and sadly there are other projects that must come first. Still, I have plans for some neat stuff happening to this site and I am looking forward to what’s coming down the line!

Type Setting

WordPress 101: Part 2 – Installation, an Overview of the Dashboard, and User Roles

Type Setting

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:

Installing WordPress is actually pretty simple, in fact there is a great tutorial on WordPress.org . The basic steps are:

  1. Create a database in MySQL
  2. Download the files from WordPress.org
  3. Decompress the files and upload them to your server
  4. Run the configuration script
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The PHP binaries configured to run on your web server.
  3. The MySQL database system.
  4. 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!

Dashboard Overview:

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.

Admin Bar

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 Sidebar

Left Dashboard Sidebar

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Appearance – This is where you select which theme you want to use, create menus, and change the overall look and feel of your site.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

User Roles:

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.

Conclusion:

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?

WordPress 101 Tutorials Being Extended

After careful consideration I have decided to extend my WordPress 101 tutorial series out to 6 parts up from 3. Why? Because I quickly discovered my tutorials are too long to publish in just three parts. There’s just too much information to go over. I am in the process of reorganizing things and this is still a work in progress, but here’s the six tutorials I have in mind at the moment:

  1. WordPress 101: What is WordPress? (Published)
  2. WordPress 101: Installation and an Overview of the Dashboard (in progress)
  3. WordPress 101: Configuring WordPress
  4. WordPress 101: Customizing with Themes, Plugins, and Widgets
  5. WordPress 101: Working with Media
  6. WordPress 101: All About Posts and Pages

I can’t tell you how excited I am to write this for you… Part 2 coming soon!

Type Setting

WordPress 101: Part 1 – What is WordPress?

Type Setting

Courtesy Joana Croft via www.sxc.hu

I am very excited to present the first part in a three-part series of tutorials on one of my favorite subjects, WordPress. I decided to begin this series after a conversation with my sister in which she indicated an interest in working with WordPress, but felt a little overwhelmed by it. Talking with her got me thinking about first starting out and how confusing everything was. The questions my sister was asking echoed a lot of my own early questions about what WordPress was exactly and what it could do for me. My goal with these tutorials is to help novice users like my sister break into the world of WordPress and get started quickly and easily.

What is WordPress?

Wikipedia defines WordPress as “…a free and open source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL

Yeah, ok, so what does that mean? At its core, WordPress is a blogging tool comparable to Blogger.com or any number of other blogging platforms available on the web. That’s how it got its start and is still the bread and butter of the system today. Over the years, the extensibility and open source nature of WordPress has allowed it to be customized by users so much it has evolved into a blogging platform with Content Management System (CMS) capabilities. It is possible to create an entire website with WordPress and not have a blog anywhere on the site.

That said, at its roots WordPress is a blogging tool and it excels at that. A blog is a series of entries posted in chronological order, usually starting at the top with the most recent entry and progressing backward in time to the oldest entry. This is what you get if you install WordPress with no changes, but don’t get too hung up on the term “blog”. Note I said “in chronological order”, this means you can use the blogging function for other things where the order of your posts matters… for example daily news summaries, or product updates. While these things are not traditionally “blog” entries, the underlying concept is the same, so don’t get hung up on semantics, your WordPress site can be pretty much whatever you want. Even if you don’t delve into modifying the underlying code there are literally hundreds of plugins and themes (which we’ll cover in some detail in a later tutorial) that can add functionality or change the look and feel of WordPress.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

So now that we have a basic understanding of what WordPress is, lets touch briefly on another source of confusion many novice users meet, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Both of these sites are officially affiliated with WordPress but WordPress.org is targeted more for developers and system administrators. There you will find links to download your own copy of WordPress to install on your server along with the official Codex which has style guides and how to’s for developing your own custom plugins and themes. The average user will want to use WordPress.com where you can create a basic WordPress blog for free, just sign up and go. You can also pay for extra services like having your own custom domain and the ability to upload your own theme files, but the key difference is that you don’t have to worry about installing anything. WordPress.com takes care of all that for you. Which site you go to will depend on the choices you make in how you want to manage your WordPress site. If you want to be relatively hands off with the technical details of running the site, WordPress.com is a good solution. If you have your own servers, or have hosting somewhere that doesn’t include WordPress as a pre-installed package, you’ll need to go to WordPress.org to get the core files to install on your server. There will be more on that in the next tutorial, for now the lesson to take away is that WordPress.org is for system admins and developers and WordPress.com is for… well, pretty much everyone else.

WordPress vs. Other Platforms

I will readily admit to being biased toward WordPress, but even I have to admit there are some instances where a different solution might be better. If you’re looking for a blog WordPress is, hands down, the best option available. It is powerful and tries to maintain a user friendly interface. It is one of the oldest platforms around so it is extremely stable. On the other hand it doesn’t work as well as an eCommerce application so if you’re looking to open an online store you might be better off going with something like Drupal or Joomla. Unlike WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are full fledged Content Management Systems with the ability to be extended in pretty powerful ways. Like WordPress, they are both open source and can be modified and extended to meet your needs. The down side is they aren’t as user friendly as WordPress and require a bit more technical knowledge to implement. There are many other options as well and they all have their place. I would highly recommend doing your homework to decide what will be the best fit for your needs.

Conclusion:

There it is, WordPress in a nutshell. This tutorial barely scratches the surface, but hopefully you now have a better understanding of what WordPress is and how it fits into the world of blogs and/or Content Mnagement Systems. The next part of this tutorial will begin to delve into the nuts and bolts of getting up and  running along with an overview of the WordPress dashboard.

sepia keyboard

New Host New Chapter

sepia keyboard

Image (c) PDXChambers, All Rights Reserved

I had a recent conversation with my sister because she is getting started with WordPress and was feeling overwhelmed. She had tried it out a few years back and found it to be extremely confusing, but now she’s giving it a shot again and wanted some advice and pointers.

Talking with my sister got me thinking about my first experiences with WordPress and how lost I felt in the beginning as I tried to navigate my way through it. The dashboard seemed overwhelming because there were so many options and settings available. I had come from Blogger and was used to a much simpler interface. After talking with my sister  I decided to write some tutorials aimed at beginners. We’ll begin with the basics of what WordPress is and how it compares to other blogging platforms and CMS solutions. Part 2 will venture into the dashboard and talk about basic configuration along with the installation process. Finally we’ll head into plugins and themes and how to customize your WordPress to fit your needs.

I am very much looking forward to writing these tutorials for you and having the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the years with new users. It is the beginning of a new chapter in the life of PDXChambers.com and I am very excited for the future.

Pardon my Mess

I’m switching web host and things are a little messy with the site right now. I’m also moving into a new living space so life is insanely busy right now. Things should start getting back to normal next week and I’ll be able to spend some time getting the site back up and running.

Thanks for your patience and understanding in this time of extreme transition.

Design, Develop, Inspire!