How to Set Up Your WordPress.com Site

 

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.

The Dashboard

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

Wordpress dashboard

Wordpress dashboard

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The section below that has:
    1. 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.
    2. 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:

  • eatrighttoloseweight
  • Just another WordPress.com site

So I’ll change those to…

Setting the title of your site

Setting the title of your site

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:

Wordpress Sharing section

Wordpress Sharing section

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?

What’s next?

Next, you have to start writing!

 

How to Build Your WordPress.com Site

 

If you want a free website, wordpress.com offers an easy way to get one for free with very little effort. You can be up and running in very little time and you can keep your wallet in your pocket. Later on, when you have more experience, or more interest, you can expand outward. If you’re just getting started, though, WordPress.com is a great way to go.

Contents

Did you know that there are two versions of WordPress?

Note: for the purposes of this article, the terms site, website, and blog are completely interchangeable.

  1. WordPress.com is the free online system. You fill out a few blanks and you’ll have your own site named something like YourSiteName.Wordpress.com. Everything you will need for your site is hosted on their system, including site templates and all kinds of stuff.
  2. WordPress.org is where you get the downloadable package that you can install on your own hosting service. The WordPress sutff is free, but you will still need to buy a domain name and hosting. You upload these files to your host, create a database, hook it all up, and you’re good. (This can be automated, and isn’t at all hard anyway.) The advantage to the added work in going this route is that you get a lot more flexibility with plugins, templates, customization, etc. You also don’t use WordPress’ domain name, so it’s better branding for you.

On this page I’ll be writing about the former, WordPress.com. (By the way, the Blogger.com system is very similar.)

The upsides of WordPress.com are:

  • It’s quick and easy to set the thing up, much faster than doing it yourself with your web host. There is no downloading or uploading or files or even working with your hosting service’s control panel (administration area.)
  • The restricted plugins and other stuff make for a very reliable system.
  • Traffic? If you’re capable, now or later, of sending truly server crushing traffic to a site then you will be Ok with WordPress. WP won’t care at all, they can take it. Most paid hosting services will kick you off or make you upgrade to a more expensive setup if you’re sending that much traffic to their systems. Or the server will just crash under the load and the techs will bring it back up. Again, WordPress.com just won’t care about how much traffic you send to your site.
  • Despite what I said above about customizing, there is still a nice selection of site templates to pick from.  You can have a pretty slick site set up within a few minutes. (It’s just that there is a lot more customization available with the WP on your own hosting.)
  • Oh, and did I say this is free?

The downsides are few and these may or may not be an issue for you. For the person just getting started with building their first website these “issues” are not problems.

  • You’re restricted in what customizations you are allowed to do. For security and reliability reasons WordPress.com restricts the availability of third party “plugins” and other customizations. There are some paid options which will allow more customization, but it is still much less than the WP hosted on your own domain.
  • You will be using WordPress’ domain, like this: YourSiteName.Wordpress.com. You can hook up a domain name to your site, and you can even buy that domain name through WordPress.com, but they will charge you $17 (per year) to do that.

So let’s build the thing.

Step 1 – Topic: You will need to have some idea of what you want to write about. This is, I think, the hardest part. I’m going to write about eating right and weight loss. Not that I’m an expert or anything, mind you, but I do have a spare tire and I have a lot of 3rd party content that I can put up.

Step 2 – Signup: Ok, this borders on trivial. Not because of the brilliance of my writing, but because WP now has a video walkthrough that will show how to get going!

  1. Go to WordPress.com and click the orange “sign up now” button to the top right of your screen. (Note the 10-step walk-through guide link. This is a video walk-though, which is pretty cool.)
    Sign up to WordPress.com
  2. On the next page just enter the name of your site. Mine will be EatingRightToLoseWeight.Wordpress.com. (You will be given the chance to buy a domain name here. It’ll be $17 if that’s what you want to do, but you don’t have to do it. )
  3. Enter your login name. This is the name that you will use to log into your WP blog. It does not have to be the same as your site name. I went with gettinglighter, but it can be anything that someone has not already taken. (All of your blog posts will show that name as the author, so it should be something  that isn’t illegal, immoral, or fattening.)
  4. Enter a password and confirm it. I like to use passwords like this: o3289hcdbc83, but I do need to remember to write them down somewhere.
  5. Enter an email address that you will actually look at. WP will send you a confirmation email which will have a subject line something like this:
    [WordPress.com] Activate http://eatrighttoloseweight.wordpress.com/You must be able to read that email to access your new site.
  6. Once you click the link in that email you will be taken to another WP page and your site will be live.
  7. From that page you can either view your new site or login to the control panel. You did remember to write down your user-name and your password, right?

And now, you have a new WordPress.com site to play with.

Part two: How to Setup Your WordPress.com Site