Getting Started with WordPress–my thoughts

By Michael Krigline, EFLsuccess.com; updated Feb 2015 after starting this website in mid 2014 ⇔ 

Are you new to WordPress, hoping to make a multi-page website, and looking for help in getting started? I know how you feel. I started working with WordPress in mid 2014 (after working with MS FrontPage since 1999), and found it very intimidating.

I’ve posted this with my advice–in part to myself as I start up a second website. After my comments on Getting Started, I’ve pasted in an article adapted from and responding to “Laura(in purple)–who was herself commenting about the process of starting to use WordPress (in 2011).

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Getting Started with WordPress

Getting Help. First, when you “google” looking for help, be sure you limit the result to the past year. WordPress is constantly changing. Older advice might be helpful, but they may have moved or improved whatever the writer is talking about. Other advice: One “first step” I recommend is to get onto the mailing list of wpbeginner.com (which seems to be blocked in China–where I live), so you get the WPBeginner Weekly. I haven’t read a lot of their articles, but when my Vee-Pea-En is working, what I’ve read seems useful. Their list of the plugins they actually use (www.wpbeginner.com/blueprint/) also looks insightful. I will list the plugins I use at the bottom of this post. Slingshot (http://www.sling-shot.co.za/) also looks very helpful, though it sometimes seems to be blocked here too unless you have a V…

WordPress Basics. Once you decide to have an on line presence, you should choose between various software platforms (Joomla, DreamWeaver, WordPress, etc.). You can find info about them on line. I used Microsoft Frontpage until they stopped supporting it; I noticed that Apple had a platform they stopped supporting too. I didn’t want that to happen to me again. Since WordPress powers about 23% of all websites (as of 2014), I figured it was safe and chose that. You can play around with a blog at WordPress.com (if you don’t live in a blocked country), even before you settle on a name. You’ll need to create a login name at WordPress.com. “WordPress.org” has links to help you download and install WordPress, and “read the documentation” that tells you how to get started–though I don’t remember doing either. I think I just clicked an “install WordPress” button at my host (see below). The next thing is to select a Theme. There are many free ones, but most seem to offer little flexibility. You can also pay for many more, or hire a web designer. If you are a company, I think you’ll want to go the professional route (write to me and I’ll connect you to a great one); but if you are like me (“a financially-challenged teacher in the third world”) or if you just aren’t sure where this idea is heading, just start by using a free Theme on the WordPress site. If you like what you see in their sample, go for it; if you are like me, reaching-for-the-moon_058j7always reaching for the moon, you’ll want a flexible theme like “Frontier” (there’s a link on the bottom of every page; and Frontier is free). Another thing you’ll want your theme to be is “responsive”–that means it automatically adjusts itself down from website/computer view down to phone-size view (trust me, you’ll want that!).

Child Themes. You’ll also want to look into and create a “child theme.” At first, I thought that referred to “themes suitable for children” but I was very wrong! Basically, a child theme is a special “style sheet” that lets you make all sorts of minor changes (to color, font, etc) without affecting the original “parent” theme, and the “parent” can be any theme you like. If I understand it correctly, without a child-theme, when the theme’s creator updates things, you will find all your tweaks gone! But if you use a child-theme, the creator can make changes that won’t mess your site up. At least, that’s the theory. Once installed, you do not have to keep updating the child-theme, even if the parent is updated; pretty sweet. My theme-of-choice Pioneer has a button right on the creator’s site that lets you download a child-theme, plus instructions on how to do it. You can’t get simpler than that. Otherwise, google it (and be sure you set the date to within a year). This is “step two” before you choose any options or make any changes; someday you’ll find that this is very important.

Names and Hosts. The-sooner-the-better, you should buy yourself a domain name (that is, the actual official name for your real estate on the web–in this case, “EFLsuccess.com”). I think the best way to do this is to first decide who will host your site–that is, which company will you pay to store all the files and take care of the technical end. You can see my choice (Web Host Hub) at the bottom, and even link to it. Most such providers also have a service to register your website’s name with the appropriate authorities. The cost of a host or “service provider” can vary greatly, and so can what you get for those dollars. The cost of a domain name is not expensive, so you might want to buy several; for example, I’ve bought both EFLsuccess.com and EFL-success.com, with the latter simply pointing to the former. Another good thing about buying the domain name through a reputable host is that they will automatically renew your registration at annual renewal time; this is more important than it sounds.

Your First Blog and Photo. WordPress gives you a button that gets you started with your first blog. Go ahead and click it, and say something profound–you can change it later! This sounds like a stupid thing to have to write, but it was confusing at first. At the top of a post, whatever you put in the main block shows up as a title for your article, just like you wrote it. THEN, however you “edit” the permalink is what people type to find your article. You want the latter to be short but not cryptic; you want the former to be complete, if not elegant. However, I think that if someone likes your post, highlights the content, copies, and then pastes it somewhere (like into Word, to reproduce for a class), then they’ll have no idea later where they got it. So I like to add “EFLsuccess.com” and my name as a subtitle, in the first or second line of the actual post. Adding photos is easy enough; just click “add media,” then “upload new” and drag-n-drop the picture into the window; then click “insert into post.” BUT, I advise that BEFORE you drop in that photo, you first resize it and add a watermark with your website’s name embedded into it. (Google and other search engines will offer your photos to the world; don’t you want people to know where they got it?) I do this editing with Photoshop; all of my photos have a resolution of 72 dpi, and my new default sizes are 850×568 (for big), or 390×261 pixels (for small). My websites also contain many photos that are 373×249 pixels at 72dpi (this is a “left-over” setting from the early days of limited bandwidth when I created most of my photos). One “photo factor” is the width of your main column; the Frontier theme lets you change this, but many themes do not. I set my main column width to be about 860px, which works well for computers and tablets. 

I found a basic article on “image optimization” at http://en.support.wordpress.com/media/image-optimization/. Among other things, it described the types of images: “JPG works best for images with gradients such as photographs. GIF are best for blocks of repetitive color including logos, line art, and illustrations with type. PNG should be used to preserve partial transparency and a large amount of colors. PNG images often take up more space, so try the GIF format first to see if it works well for your image.” Jetpack offers the choice to use tiled galleries, which I use at wp.krigline.com; but they looked awful on my EFL blogs because my old 373×249 photos are not big enough.

Consistency. This is huge. My old website evolved over 15 years, and I was determined not to end up with the same jumble of formats, colors, font sizes and all the rest. So CREATE a sample post that includes about any type of content you might ever want to use (heading sizes {I like heading 4}, subheads, highlights, colors, pictures, charts, bulleted lists, a consistent footer/disclaimer; and the whole works–and don’t be afraid to use the same few sentences or “ipsen lorim garbage”). DECIDE early what you want things to look like (don’t feel bad if you have to play with this for a few weeks). Then do all of your posts the same way. I’ve found the “Duplicate Post” plugin to be invaluable in this regard! I created just such a detailed sample post (called http://wp.krigline.com/title_goes_here/); it is password protected but it is always there so I (and those who help me) can refer to it.

Colors. Decide early on what colors you want to use. You don’t want to use a lot of colors, and you want to be consistent. The default for text is gray–no idea why, but I can’t find a way to change it. I have decided to use orange for highlighting (I think unclicked links are also orange, while hover links are blue); blue for headings, subheadings, key dialogs (for students); dark red for Bible verses, and purple for “special things” like “a second color content”, and notes to myself or to those who help me in the pre-publish process. Use whatever colors you like, but be consistent.

Pages, Categories, Posts, Sliders. It took a long time to figure out, but I really don’t need any “pages” in WordPress except maybe “HOME” and “The Latest.” (My theme allows HOME to be a static page, and allowed me to create a second Page as a blog page–it is called “The Latest” and the first bit of my latest posts is automatically added to “The Latest” page; “Sticky” posts are on the “home” page, in yellow.) I created some other pages, and added/deleted them to the menu, but I can add “posts” to the menu as well, so why bother with “pages”? You cannot assign “categories” to a page, so they are useless when choosing slider images (explained below). “Categories” seem to be there to help you organize; I have put “categories” into the menu, but when you click there all you see is the first bit of the posts in that “category.” I find this useful, so I’ve left it alone. My “posts” in that category are then under the “category” item in the menu. My “Frontier” theme allows me to use a “category” (I called it “Home”; which in retrospect might not have been the best choice) that when added to a post automatically puts the “featured image” for that category on the “Home” page and “Latest” page sliders. (A “slider” is a group of photos that automatically follow each other.) So, I’ve added the “home” category to my “Overview” posts, and put these at the top of the menu structure, after the “category” choice. [Yes, I know this makes little sense if you are really just starting out, but come back in a day or two after messing around and it should help!]

Misc. One more key thing to remember when you are writing is that you need a blank line after any block of text that you plan to manipulate. Otherwise, if you highlight the block, and then click “italics” or a color, it will change the highlighted block AND the block after it. Very frustrating. And don’t forget to SAVE (“update”) your work a lot! Once you work with your new site a bit, you’ll run into limitations; don’t worry, there’s probably a “PlugIn” for that! “Plugins” is a broader topic than I want to get into, but you can see the ones I use below. If you plan to have a multi-page/post website, you’re going to need to figure out how to manipulate menus. You’ll find that under “appearance.” I got help here (http://blog.kjodle.net/2011/08/25/how-to-create-and-use-custom-menus-in-wordpress/); it was dated, but helpful; I hope it is still on line when you are looking!


Laura’s thoughts (in purple), that really resonated with my thoughts at the beginning:

If you are relatively new to WordPress and to the concept of themes…it’s really time consuming and frustrating to figure out where to start, which kind of theme to use, which options matter and which don’t for what you’re trying to do. [I tried about a dozen themes, and found most gave me very little control; I ended up with “Frontier” because it offered more control than most. I’m now using it for two sites. But if someone out there wants to do the world a favor, create a theme with even more control, or maybe a simple, flexible theme that people can pay to “unlock” giving them a lot more customization options.] [Laura] ended up using and Elegant Theme “Envisioned” for my portfolio site but it took me two weeks to sort that out, and I’m a web designer by profession. But I hadn’t had much WP experience. So it seems to me that someone should blog on “how to know what you need” and “if you use x theme start here and do these 20 steps”–with FAQs for the common stuff you see asked. Also a massive FAQ list would be great. It sure seems like the same issues get asked all the time…”how do I do x or y or z?” A tutorial of “common modifications” would be nice, with simple step by step how tos.

And in that broad view theory, for example, I had no idea I should have started with a child theme. Now I have to back up and redo a bunch of stuff. Sure I could have read the WordPress tutorial on child themes, but I didn’t know I needed to even read it until it was too late. [When I first read about “child themes” I thought they were for kids whose parents were getting them to blog! My design-student son said he didn’t know what they were either. But I’ve come to believe that they ARE still important–though the Web and WP both change almost daily! But just in case, I downloaded the “child theme” of my Frontier Theme. I’m not sure if that will help me, but it was worth a try. I believe the idea is that a “child theme” lets you customize your theme, so that when the author updates it, it doesn’t screw everything up.]

I could see a fun map kind of thing..”You are here”.
What kind of site do you want?
> EBiz, Portfolio, Blog etc. with branches going from each with a few popular sample themes from each and why they are popular.
I just chose blind both times having no idea what I was really choosing between.

For my portfolio site I was horrified to realize how hard it is to make good galleries in the theme (Envisioned/Elegant Themes). I’m used to things like Jalbum where you easily populate a gallery with tons of photos. This whole “post one photo at a time as a post then dress it up to pretend its not a post” is totally counterintuitive to me. So…something from a broad view to give you the lay of the land before you choose a theme or even decide if the WP path is the right path would be really helpful.

I know that’s all asking for a lot…that’s just my two cents after now spending about a month getting three sites figured out, using two different themes, and still not knowing if I made quite the right choices for what I wanted to accomplish.

Also, as I mentioned…I think a basic tutorial on explaining what’s WP stuff vs what’s theme stuff would be very helpful.

Thanks for all your help and energy in the Graphene forum…it’s really very much appreciated!


I use the following PlugIns (as of Feb 2015): 

–Admin Management Xtended (it allows you to chg publication date, add tags, and do other organizational things)
–Breadcrumb NavXT (works better than Breadcrumb trail, but not great)
–Duplicate Post (allows to copy posts and pages for easier manipulation; I really like this)
–Image Widget (allows a simple image widget; that is, it lets me put my picture in the sidebar)
–Jetpack by WordPress.com (not sure it is useful, but it kept coming up, so I added it)
–Limit Login Attempts (a recommended security feature)
–Media File Manager (better–a little–than Media File Manager Advanced; lets me put pictures in folders, sort of)
–RefTagger (supposed to transform Bible references into links to the full text–not sure I’ve tried this yet)
–Scheduled Announcements Widget (allows monthly and weekly quotes/testimonials to alternate; I really like this)
–Widget Logic (allows me to put the Schedule Widget and others on specific pages; seems helpful, though it also seems not to work with Jetpack widgets [like the Jetpack “image widget”, so I’ve gone back to “Image Widget”])
–UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore (bup to Dropbox or Googledrive, I believe; I’ve been using the free version since about “day one,” and hopefully, I’ll never need to find out if it has been working! My only other bup is a bup of Dropbox onto an external HD once a month.)

There or not there?
–Google Publisher Plugin (manages Google ads; this isn’t listed in the plugin page anymore, but there’s still a control panel under “settings”; the ads were gone for a while, but I clicked a few buttons yesterday and I think they are back [one’s ads do not appear in one’s own computer–I guess so you can’t click them yourself in contradiction to the AdSense contract]; “Google” is a bad word in China, so I avoid Google-fonts and Google-powered feeds [like a nice dictionary I used to use from LDOCE], but I’ve decided to stay with AdSense because it is easier than starting over with someone else.)

Not active:
–Akismet (security??; don’t really know what this is, but if you want to allow “comments”–which I don’t–they say Akismet is very important)
–Responsive Column Widgets (I don’t think this is useful; should delete it)
–Responsive Grid Gallery (I think something similar is included in Jetpack, so this plug in isn’t needed)
–Weaver II Theme Extras (it was my “second choice” for a theme, and I keep it just in case Frontier ever stops working)

Removed:
–Breadcrumb Trail (deleted because it doesn’t seem to be working!!)
–Instant Breadcrumbs (didn’t work)


Here’s my menu structure. 页-means page; §-category; others are posts

页-Home (a static page you see when you type EFLsuccess.com into a browser)

<sub> 页-The Latest (a page that automatically shows a piece of my most recently added content)

§-Resources

<sub> Resources (overview)

<sub> Abbreviations & Vocabulary

<sub> §-For Class

<sub><sub> Welcome

<sub><sub> Abbreviations & Punctuation

<sub><sub> Syllabus

<sub><sub> (etc)

<sub> §-Writing

<sub><sub> Punctuation

<sub><sub> Narnia—News Sample

<sub><sub> (etc)

§-EFL Movie Study Guides

<sub> EFL Movie Guides (overview)

<sub> Air Bud 3

<sub> An American Tail

<sub> Ben-Hur

<sub> (etc)

§-Links

<sub> EFL Links (overview)

<sub> Links for Learners

About Us (an “overview”–and thus has a sticky image–even though I’ve not labeled it that way)

<sub> Standards & Use Policy

<sub> Getting Started with WordPress-my thoughts

<sub><sub> Plan (protected)

<sub><sub> Style Guide for helpers (protected)

 

See the password protected subpage “plans” for an outline of where I’d like this site to go.
As I said above, I’ve finally figured out that I don’t need “pages”–only “posts”. But I’ve kept (for now) an early “page” attempt [marked X页 in the index] because I created it as a place to experiment.

Finally, below is where I write my questions and “wants” (mostly to myself). Perhaps someday I’ll find answers!

  • This site backs itself up due to a plugin, but how do I manually back up (esp now that I have two sites, and the other isn’t connected to the plugin)?
  • The site works OK on my computer, but on my iPad or phone, it is hard to click and go where I want to go. Is that a Theme problem? Can it be fixed?
  • I want to add photo pages, but I’ve not been able to configure the “galleries” to look good. Is that something Jetpack can help with? I also want to move my “Wallpaper” files (http://www.krigline.com/wallpaper.htm) to my other WP site–do I need a “gallery” or something else? Here is a friend’s gallery. I didn’t like the way “tiled mosaics” looked on my own site because it blew up my tiny photos in ugly ways. Adding one photo at a time just puts them in a vertical column–yuck. On my movie-overview (http://eflsuccess.com/movies_overview/), I settled on a “gallery” that looks OK–I guess [settings: two columns; “full size”].
  • Jetpack is also supposed to make it possible to run both of my sites from a single dashboard; I’d like to figure out how to do that, too.
  • How do I add a “print” or “email to a friend” button? What would be the effect of connecting to Facebook or Weechat?
  • I’d like to see how it would look if the “boxes” around each section are removed, and the “white area” behind each box becomes “off white” instead. How do I accomplish this?
  • What is “post order”? It seems to be irrelevant.
  • I don’t know why the text has to be gray instead of black, and would love to change it.
  • I would also like to see more space between paragraphs, or perhaps indentation.
  • Is is possible to make photo captions a different color, or at least italics? They sometimes seem “too much like” my text.
  • Why can’t I “sort” by “most recently edited”? That would be very helpful. And is there a way to see the posts listed by “slug”?
  • Eventually, I’d like a site map like my old one; in FP it was created automatically; how do I accomplish this in WP?
  • People are telling me to offer “premium content” to those who subscribe and/or pay an annual membership fee. I want most things on my sites to be free, but I’m not opposed to this idea. What sort of “premium content” would be worthwhile, and what would it cost? I’ve considered making the movie dialogs “premium”, as they require a lot of time to get them right. If I revise my Better English Guide (already revised in my book), I could make it “premium.” Most of my songs are already for sale via CD Baby. I’d rather have a small annual fee, I think, than charging for each thing. Perhaps I should consider this further.

 


©2015 Michael Krigline. See our Website Standards and Use Policy.
Updated: March 30, 2016 — 1:34 am

Monthly English Corner & Weekly Quote

  • Sep 19

    “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helps you.” —Althea Gibson (1927-2003; female athlete, and first black person to win a Grand Slam tennis event, 1956 French Open)


    Note: A quote’s original source is not always known, and authenticity has not been verified. To find out about an author, type the name into a search engine (like Google or Baidu). One of my favorite quotations websites is: www.quotationspage.com. 5

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