WordPress Beginner’s Boot Camp – Article 4 – Customizing Your WordPress Site

Posted OnDec 13, 2013     CategoryQuestion & Answer     Comments1 comment

Welcome back!  This is our fourth session in the WordPress Beginner’s Boot Camp series and today we are going to get serious.   If you completed Session Three then you should have a fully functional, but very bare bones, website.  Today, we are going to beef up your site!  Let’s get started!

Appearances:
In our previous session we went over the Appearance option including Themes, Widgets and Menus.  Let’s take a closer look at Menus. Log into your Dashboard and click on the “Menus” option.   You should see all the pages you created listed under the “View All” tab.   Take a closer look at your menu structure.  How did you organize the pages?  Did you consider sub items for different pages?  As an example, the About Us page should have further breakdown items to highlight your services and costs.  Here is an example:

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Now, open up your website in another window.  Take a look at your page organization – does it make sense? Do you need to create a few additional pages to optimize flow?  Take a few minutes and actually work through the menu on your site. Make adjustments as needed until you are happy with the presentation and ease of navigation.

Return to your Dashboard.  Let’s take a look at the Header.   The Header is the first thing your visitors see when reviewing your site. The majority of themes are equipped with a default image in the header.  Click on “Header” in your dashboard.

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Here you can see what your existing Header looks like, and in some cases, there are additional image options included with the theme.  However, if you have a specific image in mind you can upload it from your computer and set as the default.   The image is constrained by space so keep this in mind – you may have to crop or adjust to get the desired view.   Here is a quick example of my revised Header – don’t my daughter’s fingernails look fantastic?

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Your header does not need to remain static.  This means you can actually have multiple images rotating through the header of each page on your site.  To do this, go to “Header”, then “Default Images”, and select the “Random” option.  Pretty cool, huh?

Since we are discussing website look, another important option is Media.  Go ahead and click on the “Media” tab.  Here is where you add images that can then be embedded into your pages and posts.   A word of caution; make sure any images you upload are not restricted or privately owned.  Dreamstime and iStockphoto are just two examples of the many sites on the web that provide free and low cost images.  The last thing you want is to be in copyright violation!

Pages & Posts:
Let’s move away from appearances and move on to content.  Specifically, posts.  As I mentioned in Session Three, this was the hardest part for me to understand while I was building my own site.  I kept confusing posts with pages and thought they were essentially the same thing. However, I was wrong.

A post is essentially content – whether on a blog or a website page.   Posts  appear on the page in reverse chronological order – which means the newest is always showing at the top.  You don’t have to publish posts on your website – but if you intend to offer dynamic content it is a necessity.

Creating a post is very similar to creating a page.   The interface looks almost identical.

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Go ahead and return to your dashboard and click into “Posts.”  Take a few minutes to create a new post.  If you have content readily available please use that.  If not, just enter text that will serve as a placeholder.  The goal is to get comfortable with the process.

Once you have created a post or two, locate “Settings” in your dashboard.  Once there, click on “Reading.”   This screen is where you set up the location and length of your posts.

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On this page, choose the option for a static front page, then determine what page you would like your posts to show up on. Unfortunately, you cannot have a static front page (which technically means it’s unchanging) and then have posts show up on it. Below this section are the options for the number of posts and presentation. Choose the options that work best for your site.

Categories & Tags:
The final topics in this article are “Categories” and “Tags” for posts.  First thing first – categories and tags are both descriptors, but serve slightly different purposes.  All posts MUST have a category affiliation, but tags are optional.  Categories serve the purpose of grouping similar content.   Let’s build some categories together. Return to the dashboard and click on “Posts” then “Categories” to access  the following screen.

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Category creation is highly dependent on your post content. For this example, let’s discuss a website focused on gourmet cooking.  A logical category would be “cuisine.”  Take a few minutes to think about your specific content and what categories would best represent your posts. Do you  have a few together?  Good – let’s create them!

Since you are now quite familiar with the WordPress interface it should be fairly simple.  Go ahead and fill in the blanks on the  “categories” page – the description field is optional.  Once added, the new categories will show up on the right hand side of the page.  An important note – categories can be hierarchical – which means you can have categories with sub-categories.  Look over your categories – would any of them work better as sub categories?  If so – quickly edit to make them children of a “parent” category.  To do this, simply hover over the category, select “edit” and assign a parent from the existing categories.  It’s that easy.

If you have a lot of content and your categories are fairly broad, “tags” might be helpful. Tags are used to group specific topics and streamline the search process.  Let’s go back to our “cuisine” example from above – it’s pretty broad – there are lots of different types of food!  So – to further refine and make the search process more user friendly we could add tags such as “American”, “Indian”, “Mexican” etc.   The process to create “tags” is similar to “categories” except they are NOT hierarchical.

Now that you’ve created both categories and tags, let’s walk through how to add them to existing posts. Return to the dashboard, click “Posts” then “All Posts.”  The screen should look similar to this:

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Find the post you’d like to categorize or tag.  Hover over the title and click “edit.” Scroll down the page until you see the options for “Categories” and “Tags” on the lower right hand side.  Choose at least one category for your post and as many tags as you would like. You can then choose to make the post live by clicking “Publish” or you can set in draft mode – “Save Draft.”  Categories and tags can also be set during the new post process. Once you have reached the “Add New” post page the directions are the same as above.

This marks the end of the fourth session in our WordPress Beginner’s Boot Camp series.  The final fifth session will include tips and tricks to really customize your site so it reflects you and your mission.  Can’t wait!


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