Ok, you’ve decided to set up a WordPress.com site (because you’re smart) and so far you’ve gone through the initial procedures to get the thing started. Now comes the set-up part. It’s not at all hard, but there are a few details to pay attention to and a couple more boxes to check off.
While this page describes the setup of a WordPress.com site, much of it also applies to the self-hosted WordPress.org setup. You can find the first part of this article, here: How to Build a WordPress.com Site. So now you have your site, WhateverYourSiteNameIs.Wordpress.org. You log in and see the “dreaded” dashboard. Well, it’s dreaded if you are new to this, there’s a lot there.
A new feature of WordPress.com is that there is a video right in the dashboard area which tells you a little about what’s going on.The various sections that you will see on that page are (and I’ll expand on them below:)
- A menu-bar at the very top of the page.
- A bar under that which shows the name of your blog on the left and “are you new here” on the right
- A menu-bar in the left column
- A Welcome area in the main section of the page, with some helpful links and the video
- An Announcements bar under the Welcome area
- A Right Now section that tracks your total posts, comments that have been made on those posts, and so on.
- Quick Press which is just for making a quick post about something.
- A few sections are below that one.
Here’s what you should see on your dashboard: click the image to see a larger version
So how about some details?
The topmost bar is WordPress’ navbar. It let’s you access your WordPress.com account, your blog, and some other stuff. You will see this bar any time you visit any WordPress.com site as long as you haven’t logged out of your site. Huh?
All that means is this. If you log into your site you will remain logged in for a while, even if you visit other sites. So you log in, make a post, browse to the WordPress home page, and visit some of those other blogs. You will continue to see that bar. This is handy if you see a post that you want to comment about, on your blog. You’ll be able to use the bar to quickly get to your post editor.
You can also use the search area, on the right side of the navbar, to search for something within all WordPress.com blogs.
The next bar shows your site name. This is clickable and will take you to the home page of your blog. Hit the “back button” on your browser to get back to the dashboard.On the right side of this bar you will see a link: “Are You New Here?” Click this and you will see the Welcome area, below, disappear. Click it again and it will come back.
The left menu bar is a list of links that will take you to all of the administrative sections of your new blog. You can ignore most of these for now, though we will be paying attention to the Appearance and Settings sections.
The Welcome Area is a nice feature. You’ll see the video in the center and, on the left, you will see a link to WordPress’ own help page: Visit our zero-to-hero guide. You will also see, on the right side:
- Links to your settings, profile, themes, and the store.
- Settings we’ll get to below, but it lets you tweak a number of features of your blog
- Profile lets you say a few things about yourself, add contact info, hook up to Gravatar, and let’s you connect to other blogging systems and facebook. At this point just skip any part of that page which doesn’t apply or that you’re not clear about.
- Theme will let you adjust the overall look of your blog. With over a hundred themes to pick from you should be able to find something you like.
- Upgrades has a number of features that might be of interest later on. One of these is the domain name feature. If you decide on a domain name for your site all you have to do is enter the name in the blank and, if the name is actually available, pay your money and WordPress will do everything else. The process will likely take a day or two to complete, but then your site will be MySiteName.com instead of MySiteName.Wordpress.com.
- The section below that has:
- WordPress.tv which is WordPress’ video site. On that page you will find a bunch of videos covering everything from basics to coding to how to get the search engines, such as Google, to rank your site better.
- Support and another link to their help site.
Now let’s hit that Settings link
Note: You can change any of the settings at any time, and then change them again.
Click Settings, either from the left menu or the welcome area. You’ll see a page with a bunch of blanks that you can fill out. The first two are the name of your blog and your tagline, which is just a short description of what your blog is about. On mine, those two lines say:
- Just another WordPress.com site
So I’ll change those to…
Next, you’ll want to set the time. I’m on Pacific time, so my setting was UTC -7. Adjust the date, time, week, and language settings to your taste. You will have to hit that “save changes” button, at the bottom of the page, to save your changes. You can always come back and change things later, even the site title.
Writing: click writing in the left menu, under Settings.
For now the only item of interest is the first one, Size of the post box. I like to set this to 2o. This is the size of the box in the WordPress editor, 20 lines high, which is where you’ll be making all of your posts. Feel free to change this to a number that’s better for you.
Reading is the next setting. Leave all of these unchanged.
Discussion has a bunch of settings for your comments. For now all of these settings are fine. Later on you might want to adjust a few things, so I’ll just touch on them here:
- Default article settings:All WordPress blogs, and many others, attempt to notify each other when links are made between them.
- The other setting are for comment moderation. You will get spammed at some point, spam being junk comments that are intended only to get links back to the spammer’s page. A moderated comment is one that will need your approval before it’s posted. You will get spammed. If you adjust the settings to allow all comments then you’ll get a fair amount of junk.
- Note the comment moderation and comment blacklist boxes below. As an example, if you have a blog all about cats and someone insists about talking about human vegetarian diets, then you might want to put vegetarian diet in the moderation box. If you get comments from people who you never want to see again then put names or IP addresses or certain words in the blacklist box. Any comment with these words will then be automatically destroyed.
- Below the blacklist section you will see some stuff about Gravatars. A Gravatar is just an image that can be associated with your email address. You can go to the Gravatar site if you want more info on how to do that.
- Make sure you hit “save changes,” at the bottom, if you made any changes that you want to save.
Media – we can skip this section for now.
Privacy – make sure the top setting is on, you do want the search engines to be able to find your site. Why wouldn’t you? Maybe if it’s a private site among friends or co-workers.
OpenID – skip this for now
Text Messaging – skip this for now
Sharing – as you may know the web is getting very social these days. All kinds of connections can be made between friends and various sites, such as Facebook. WordPress.com is joining in the fun. You can use this section to set up icons that will show beneath each post on your site. Visitors can then use these icons to “share” your cool posts with their friends. The amount of shares that you will actually get depends on a lot of things, including how cool, unique, fun, and interesting your post is. You can see something similar at the bottom of every post on this blog (and most others.)
Here’s how I’ve set up my eatingright site:
Icons from the Available line can be dragged down to the Enabled line. The Live Preview shows what you will see at the bottom of every post. It looks like this:
Note the “like this” rating, highlighted at the bottom. People who like your posts can click 1 to 5 stars. You can do the some on other blogs. Guess we’d better be writing some decent stuff, hmmm?
Next, you have to start writing!