Quick Guide to Using WordPress

This is a quick guide to using WordPress after it has been installed. It has tried to focus on the essentials so there’s much more to WordPress than in this guide, but we hope it will help you to get to know the basics.

The Dashboard

WordPress has an administration area known as a dashboard. This is the page you go to when you log in and it is where you control most of your site’s features and content. When you first log in to your site, you will see a big blue box suggesting you customise your site with various other suggestions to get started.

Before doing this it is perhaps worth familiarising yourself a bit more with how WordPress works. On the left hand side, there is a menu with various items. This menu comprises of the main features and controls of WordPress. Click on each item for a full menu for that item or hover over each item to get the main options for that item such as ‘add new’.

You also have various options running along the top of the page including comment and update notifications, and a quick facility to add new content. On the top right hand side, you can change what is displayed on your page by clicking on Screen Options (each administration page has its ownscreen options to modify what is displayed). On the top left side, if you hover over the site name, the option to click on Visit Site appears. This is useful to keep track of your changes, and if you open this in a new tab, you can see the changes you make by refreshing the page after each change.

wordpress dashboard screen


This is where you add your blog posts. WordPress began as a blogging platform and posts still feature prominently on the site. To create a new blog post, simply click on ‘Add New’. You are then taken to a text editor where you can add a title, text, photos and other media. You can group posts together by choosing a category for each one.

To add a photo or other media into a post (or a page), click on ‘insert media’, and upload a photo or choose a photo from your media library (see below).
Once uploaded, insert into the page – you can align it to the right, centre or left, and there are size options too. The positioning of photos does not always look as it will on the screen in the editor – to double check, you can view your live site at any time by hovering on the name of your site on the top left hand side and then clicking ‘view site’.

Once you have finished your entry, click on preview, save draft or publish if you are ready.


This is where you create your site’s pages. Click on ‘Add New’ and you are taken to the editor, just like in posts. Pages can have parent pages so a page of Windsor Castle might have a parent page ‘Castles’ and you can reflect this in the menu settings (see below) – you can set this under page attributes on the right hand side.

wordpress edit page screen

The front page of the site is set as the blog by default but you can change this. Create a page and then on the right hand side, look for Page Attributes, and choose ‘blog’. Each new blog entry is then automatically added to that page. You also need to go to settings, then ‘reading’ where you can choose which content will appear on your front page and which page is for your posts (blog).

Appearance – themes, widgets, menus

Depending on your theme, you will have a number of options to help you modify and customise your site’s appearance.

  • Theme
    Your site’s appearance is largely controlled by your choice of theme. You can customise and modify themes to achieve a better look and feel, and you
    can change themes. WordPress comes with two default themes, currently Twenty Eleven and Twenty Twelve. These are quite good but many people are using
    them. You can find a new theme on the web or search from the themes menu page. Once you have found a theme, you download it as a zip file but there is
    no need to unzip it yourself. From the Theme menu in WordPress, choose install theme, upload it and then preview and/or activate it. If you do change a
    theme, and then want to go back to your original theme, bear in mind that you may lose any changes you have made to the theme’s appearance including
    backgrounds, colour changes, widgets (see below) and headers for example. It’s therefore best to preview a new theme before activating it. You can
    manage, search and install new themes from the themes menu.
  • Widgets
    Most themes come with a number of widgets (small apps) that you can display in certain locations according to the theme (e.g. the sidebar). This
    usually includes items such as recent posts and a search box but might also include a Follow Me or Flickr widgets. To use a widget, you simply drag it
    from ‘available widgets’ to the desired location on the right hand side.
  • Menus
    Your menu options depend on your theme, but you can configure which pages or categories appear on the main menu, and other menus if available, and
    adjust the order. On the left hand side, click on the post, category of page you want, then on ‘add to menu’. Once added to the menu, you can drag it
    to the menu position you want. Most themes allow for sub-menu items under a main menu item – simply drag an item to the space below a main menu item
    where it will then be indented a little.

wordpress menu screen

  • Header, background and theme options
    Provide various ways to customise the look of your site e.g. by changing the background colour, the layout or uploading an image to use as the
    background. Again, the choices available will depend on the theme.
  • Editor
    This enables further customisation but is best left to people who understand code!


This is your media manager where you can view your media files or upload files ready to insert into posts, pages or galleries.


wordpress plugin screen

WordPress has a huge range of plug-ins to increase your site’s functionality or features. Make sure you have the Tiny MCE Advanced plug-in installed and
activated – a much better editor than the standard one. Other good plug-ins include the essential Akismet which blocks spammy comments on your
blog (ensure you get your ‘key’ to activate it), the All In One SEO plug-in to help optimise your site for search engines, back up tool BackWPup and social media plug-ins such as AddThis.

The easiest way to search and install a plug-in is from the plugins menu. Click on Add New and search the WordPress Plugin Directory.


This provides various options to manage and moderate comments on your posts and pages.


You can add users to the site with varying rights, roles and capabilities – Administrator, contributor, subscriber, editor or author.

(see http://codex.wordpress.org/Roles_and_Capabilities).


There are a large number of options under settings and you can change various things such as what appears on your front page and how many blog posts are displayed though many of these you won’t necessarily need to touch. Settings for plug-ins also appear here including the All in One SEO Pack and TinyMCE Advanced and you may want to tweak these.

It’s a good idea to change the settings for permalinks – this is how your site’s url (internet) addresses will be displayed for each page or post as soon as you start your site. The WordPress default settings are not very friendly. It is probably best to change to ‘day and name’ or ‘month and name’ if your website is heavily blog based or ‘post name’ if it is more of a static website.

Other Features

Some themes come with extra options such as:

  • Portfolio – some themes include a portfolio. To create a portfolio page, you first need to add a new page in the pages menu, and set the template to portfolio. Once the page has been created, to upload a photo, go to Portfolio, and select ‘add new’ and then select ‘Set featured Image’. This takes you to the media manager where you can choose an image to add or upload to the portfolio. As with other posts, portfolio items can be placed into categories. You can also add text in the text editor to describe the photo. If some of your photos do not display, you may need to go to settings, permalinks and then just click on save changes – this resets your site’s internal links.
  • Home Slides – for use on a photo slideshow. This option helps you add photos for the slider – bear in mind most sliders work best with photos cropped to an optimum
    scale for that slider. Adding a slide is the same as adding a portfolio post but you also have the option to link at an external photo hosted on
    another site.
  • Highlights – small snippets to highlight content that you can place on the front page. This option allows you to add and edit your highlights.

Updates and back-ups

WordPress is updated fairly regularly, and so are its plug-ins and themes. This usually increases security or fixes a bug, but be aware that updating WordPress and its plug-ins can have an impact on your site and so it’s a good idea to back your site up regularly. In particular, you may lose any customisations you have made, and  some plug-ins can cause problems if they are not compatible with the latest version of WordPress. WordPress will notify you on your dashboard or plugins page when you have updates available, and normally, it is just a matter of clicking on update to do so. Note that if you’re with 1&1 hosting and you installed WordPress via the one-click application, you will not be able to upgrade WordPress automatically, only manually.

See also: http://codex.wordpress.org/Updating_WordPress

Theme Providers

There are many readymade WordPress themes out there for many purposes – for hotels, artists, estate agents, bands, newspapers – anything really. Good premium themes come at a price (from $40ish or you can sometimes subscribe to access a number) but there are some good free themes available too. If you install a free theme, make sure it’s from a reputable source as free themes often contain malicious code.

wordpress theme options

For good theme providers, check out:

Theme Forest – leading and established theme provider

Elegant Themes – clean and, indeed, elegant themes

Woothemes – good range of free and premium themes

Wp-Explorer – good range of free and premium themes

Suffusion – highly rated premium-like free responsive theme with ‘power-packed’ set of options

MintThemes – impressive range of niche themes though not the cheapest


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