Welcome back! This is the second part in our series starting from HERE. In our last article, we covered the value of using WordPress for your website, as well as where to get business-class hosting. This time, we cover the task of installing wordpress, and picking themes and plugins!
Installing WordPress varies from host to host, but at Nuova Webs (and many others), a tool called “Softaculous” is used to install it. Some hosts offer WordPress installation right out of the box as well. I won’t cover the procedure so as to avoid confusing folks on a different host, but you can check with your host’s support or knowledge base for specific instructions.
Plan Your Website! Stop and Read!
So you have WordPress installed, or you are at least about to. I hope by now you’ve thought about what you want your site to look like and do. Things to think about:
- Color scheme you want. Colors are important and speak all on their own!
- Subject matter. Very important to know what you want to write about!
- Competitor sites that have design elements you like or don’t like.
- Any particular visions you have for how you want it to look.
- Keywords you want to rank in search engines for.
Here’s where DIY is a pain- if you’re not particularly experienced in building sites, you may not get the results you’re looking for. Don’t get discouraged! Try and try again, your first attempt at a site doesn’t have to be perfect. If you get stuck, a professional developer can help you out. Also, the WordPress Codex is one of the best sources of information out there, and it’s free.
Welcome to Your Dashboard
The WordPress dashboard is where all the magic happens! Think of it as mission control for your website. When you installed your WordPress site, you were given the option to pick a username and password, make sure not to lose this!
Security Tip: Softaculous, by default, uses the username admin and password of pass. If you log in with admin/pass, you will need to change this immediately! Depending on your skill level, it may just be easier to reinstall your site with better credentials.
First, log into your WordPress Dashboard, which is usually in the format of yourdomain.com/wp-admin
Once you’ve logged in, you should see something like this:
Your menu options are on the left, and as you can see there are a lot of them you need to explore. However, here are a few common ones we will use right off the bat:
- Home – The page you go to when you log in
- Updates- WordPress Updates are so very important, make sure you visit this often and regularly
- Posts – This is where you make new blog posts.
- Media – Usually images, but you can also upload other file types such as PDF and videos.
- Comments – Keep an eye here, you will start seeing spam as your site gets more traffic
- Appearance – This is where you manage themes and the code for them
- Plugins – This is where you manage plugins.
- Settings – This is where you go when you need to change settings for your blog or your user.
Please note that in this screenshot, you see two menu options that you won’t have on a plain vanilla installation of WordPress, Contact Form and Email Marketing. These were added by plugins.
Let’s Pick a Theme!
The first part of picking a theme is to make sure it is responsive, or mobile-friendly. The easiest way to test a site if it responsive is to open it from your smartphone and make sure the elements resize. Please note that a “mobile version” is NOT a responsive website written using Bootstrap, it is just an older-style HTML site modified to fit a smaller format. This hasn’t been fashionable since 2012.
No, you won’t have to learn how to work with Bootstrap, but it’s important to know about it. So let’s pick a theme! To do this, click on Appearance in your dashboard, then click Add New at the top.
My best advice at this point is to point and click until you find one you like. You can look at screenshots and even get a live preview of your site! Once you find one, make sure to click Install on the tile for the theme, and then Activate it.
While this is great for free themes, there are many sources for paid themes that include commercial support, ranging from $5 to over $100. Some sources I recommend:
Think of plugins like pieces to an erector set; you’re not fabricating anything, there are already parts out there you can just “plug in” and now you’ve got new features without any coding. The process of installing plugins is very similar to the one for installing themes. In fact, if you can install a theme, you can install a plugin.
Once a plugin is installed, you may notice new menu options on the dashboard, and some are more obvious than others. For example, the vast majority of plugins add their own root-level menu like in my first screenshot of inside the dashboard from earlier. Others, might stick things in weird places, like under the settings menu:
Everything listed below “Permalinks” was added by plugins. You can also consider this as a short list of plugins I highly recommend:
- Postman SMTP
- Really Simple SSL
- EWWW Image Optimizer
- Limit Login Attempts
- SNAP Social Networks Auto Poster
Just like with themes, there are commercial plugins, some of which even are part of subscriptions. For example, there is a cloud version of the EWWW Image Optimizer that requires a monthly fee. For commercial plugins, I highly recommend looking to CodeCanyon for amazing plugins. You can also search on Google for more.
Shortcodes are a really handy feature of WordPress employed by many themes and plugins (mostly plugins). They are enclosed in brackets and you insert them in posts or pages, and when the page is loaded by a browser, you see the output of the plugin instead of your shortcode. They look something like this:
So, after convincing you not to use other website builders, don’t fret! You still have page builders available in WordPress! There are quite a few.
It won’t be possible to teach you how to use all of them, but I will list a few here that I’ve used personally that have worked well, or that get great reviews.
So these are free, but there are 2 commercial page builders you should know about as well:
It’s really important to be aware that some of the page builders work best with developer-provided blank themes. How to find and install them, will be provided in the plugin’s instructions.