Getting Started With WordPress

Posted by: In: Computers, Full Versions, Software 23 Jan 2013 Comments: 2 Tags: , ,

Way back a while, I talked about how you could set up your own website using WordPress. I stopped at the part where you’ve got WordPress installed and left it there.

This is a follow up post to that, so if you need to find out how to install WordPress, or how to go about getting setup with a domain name and hosting then you need to read this first.

WordPress: Posts and Pages

WordPress is made up of Posts and Pages. Both are designed so that you can put galleries on them, pictures, videos, text and many other things, but they really differ in a few aspects.

Pages are static parts of your website. Their content rarely changes. Pages like “About Me” or “Contact Me” are easy examples of Pages. Pages can easily be linked from drop down menus. As a photographer, a gallery would likely be a Page with a Gallery embedded in it. Or it might be a Page with four galleries embedded in it that link off to four other Pages that go into great detail about each gallery. A Home page is another example of a Page. It might have a greeting on it, a flashy photo gallery, and an excerpt from your blog.

Posts are dynamic pages on your website. They are designed to roll on and off your site. “Latest News”, or “My Blog” are examples of Post type pages. “Latest Posts” for example might show the last four posts you put up. Posts are used generally when you have content that is being added every day. Posts generally have such things automatically embedded in them like “This post was published on x date by y”.

That is not to say that you can’t have Posts as Pages, or Pages as Posts. This is just a general definition here for the new user to WordPress.

Beyond that, and having read through the WordPress help files there’s not a lot more I can add other than get cracking! The WordPress Codex is an excellent resource if you’re just starting out, but here are a few more tips that I would have liked when I got going…

Site Framework

Before you begin, it’s always worth knowing what you want from your site. Here are some examples…

A Vanity Site

A “vanity” site is simply a bit of your personal space on the web. You’re not trying to sell your images or photographic services (wedding photographer for example), you just want a bit of “you” on the web. Maybe it will be part blog, part photographic showcase. You don’t care too much about Google search rankings, you don’t need a shop front to sell your images. You might have a link to another site that might sell images for you (stock image sites for example, or something like 500px or RedBubble). You probably want a connection to Facebook and/or Twitter to interlink your online identity. You can more than capably manage with WordPress and your own tinkering ability. You’ll have a mix of Posts, pages and Galleries.

A Working Photographer Site

Photography is your living (or maybe it’s about to be!) and you need a site that showcases your work as well as giving details for people to contact you. It’s likely that you want heavy integration with social networking and you want to be high up on the Google search rankings. Other search engine rankings are also a concern. Blogging is something you probably only want to do to keep traffic coming to your site, and to keep your search engine rankings high. Achieving all this is possible on your own, but it requires a fair bit of work to keep on top of. You’ll need to do research on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to keep your site ranking high.

An Image Selling Site

You want to sell your images. Your site is likely to be image heavy with lots of galleries and will probably need an online shop to allow customers to buy prints of your work. You may want to put the “purchase” point on someone else’s shoulders (see 500px and/orRedbubble above) or may decide to go “halfway” and use a site builder that specialises in selling images (such as the excellent Photium). You may just decide to shoot stock photos. Your blog may likely be just a “Latest News” feed to let customers know you’ve added more images.

A Blog Site

A blog site is more about your writing skills than photography. You want to show some images (and may have a separate vanity site like me) but this site is mainly about the writing. You’re likely to have lots of Post pages but not many “Page” pages.

One way of putting this all together would be to use some software to plan things out. A very simple way of doing this would be to use something like Text 2 Mindmap (free) to draw a quick plan of how the pages will all link together. A very quick example shown below…

Text2MindMap (1)

 

Once you have an idea what you want the site to do for you, and you have a rough plan of how it’s all going to sit together, you can start to think about appearance. But before we go there, let’s take a quick look at some useful plugins.

Plugins

Plugins are little bits of software that add functionality to your site. Want to add a Flickr feed like I have in the footer of this site? Want to see who’s visiting your site and where they come from? Worried about spam comments cluttering up your blog? How about a three dimensional tag cloud?

Installing a plugin from inside WordPress is extremely easy. Just navigate to the Plugin menu on the left, click on “Add Plugin” at the top of the screen and then do a search for what you’re looking for. Here are some “essential” ones to get started…

Jetpack : For me, it’s the stats and the social networking bits of Jetpack that sell it (it is free!) but as you can see from the WordPress site, there’s a lot of goodies available here.

WordPress SEO : This will add Search Engine Optimisation functionality to your pages, allowing you to describe to the search engine just what your page is all about. Every Post/Page should have a drop down box allowing you to add search engine friendly descriptions, terms and keywords to your content.

Google Analyticator : You need a Google Analytics account for this, but when you add your tracking code to your website, it allows Google to start to build up some comprehensive stats surrounding visitors to your site. To see these stats (which are more detailed than Jetpack) you need to log on to your Analytics account.

Bulletproof Security : This adds a degree of security to your website and ensures that you are better protected against hacking and unauthorised messing about with your WordPress installation.

Askimet : If you intend to allow comments on your blog, you might want to check that what people are saying is legitimate. Some bots and humans will go around blog sites and just post a comment in order to leave a link to their site in your comment. This potentially increases web traffic to their site and their links may not be something you want on your site. If you decide to pre-approve all comments, you will quickly find that as your site becomes more popular, these bots will visit more and more often, vastly increasing your housekeeping. Askimet checks all comments against its database and if it looks like spam, it will automatically move it out of the way – giving you the time to moderate comments that are written specifically for your blog.

Appearance

Once you’ve got the basic plugins sorted, and a map of the pages you want to have, it’s then best to look for a nice theme for your site. A theme is basically a collection of scripts that tell the web browser how to display your content. These scripts are easy to find and hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the language. Fortunately, there are some very talented scripters out there who have written some very swanky looking themes.

There are several ways to get hold of themes for your site.

1. Search for “free wordpress themes” in your favourite search engine. This will throw up a lot of results and will require a lot of work to dig through the chaff to find your wheat. Free themes are great for adding a bit of style to a site for no additional cost.

2. Use a WordPress themebuilder tool. This usually provides a front end user interface so you can build your theme without knowing any code. these tools are often paid for software, although it is possible to download free trials to see if it’s for you. There are many out there – just search for “WordPress Theme Builder”. Be sure to read the fine print though as some reviews indicate that they are not perfect.

3. Buy a theme. Some sites (for example Theme Forest) allow you to purchase themes for a one off fee. Searching for “just the right” theme can be a pain and there are several things to bear in mind when buying an “off the shelf” theme. It can be easy to be swayed by flashy animated things when looking at demos, however the ones that you browse through have been built to show off that particular theme. The ease with which you can make your site look like this is directly proportional to the quality of the documentation and the “user friendliness” of the back end as well as your bravery in modifying other people’s code. I have downloaded a few premium themes over time and intend to review those and some others in a follow up post.

WordPress Content

Lastly, content is the key to your site. If you want people to find you, you need to have something to allow them to find you if they are searching the internet. Search engines – like Google – will trawl web pages and pull off what they think is relevant information. This information is ranked, and your site is catalogued ready to be displayed when someone types something relevant to you in the search bar. People who link to your content increase this ranking (other people find you interesting enough to link to). Making your content search engine friendly is an art form in itself and a full time job to some people. But how can you compete with this?

The simple answer is that you don’t – but you do use relevant words in your articles. If you’re that interested, you could buy a book on SEO, or hire someone to improve your website, and if your website is your main source of income you may have to do this. Writing unique content though will get you through if you write articles that people find interesting.

Some tips from me:

  • DO Use headings to break up your content into smaller articles, much like you would sections of a document, or chapters of a book.
  • DO “bolden” important content.
  • If your site is mainly images, make sure you use all the information available in the Caption/Alt Text/Description boxes. These are considered “content”.
  • Think about what someone might use to search for your article. Use those words in the article itself.
  • DON’T copy and rehash other people’s work.
  • DO consider different ways of getting your article out into the world. Social buttons (Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc.) are there for a reason. Not only do they create links back to your site, but they raise visibility of your article to others.

Content is what drives people to your site.

Have a good week!

Ian.

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