When you log into your new WordPress blog, the first place you’ll be taken is the Dashboard. It has a little house icon next to the title because this is the “home” page of your administration area. This post will be an overview of your blog’s items. We’ll discuss each item in depth in a future series.
The left sidebar contains a list of your blog’s elements. Clicking on any of those will produce a drop-down list with several other items. Let’s go through these quickly:
- Posts — your choices are Add New, Post Tags, and Categories. When I help a new blogger get started, the first thing I explain about posts is that Categories are broad, and Tags are specific. Some of my old blogs have gazillions of categories, which makes it impossible for a reader to find something specific. This entire series is tagged “Start a Blog,” so if a new reader wants that information, she can click that tag in the tag cloud (located in my blog’s right sidebar) and see all the posts. The category is titled Fundamentals, which will have more posts than just those about getting started. You can add new tags and categories by clicking those words and going to the Tag or Category management pages or you can create new ones directly on the New Post page.
- Media — This item gives you access to your media library. Like Tags & Categories, you can upload new media from the Media management page or you can add images, audio, and video directly from the New Post page.
- Links — The default Link category is “Blogroll,” but you can create new categories, such as Resources, etc., by going to the Links management area. You can even edit existing Links. For instance, I changed the name of my Blogroll category to “Recommended Blogs,” as that title better fits the purpose of the Link list on my blog.
- Page — This is where you’ll create new pages. Most blogs have several pages, such as About, Contact, Archives, etc. We’ll discuss Pages in a future post.
- Comments — This link takes you directly to the Comment management area. You can edit, delete, approve, unapprove, or mark a comment as spam. The Comment management area will give you a lot of information about the commenter, such as the IP address, their email address, website URL, and the date/time the comment was posted. WordPress starts off your blog with a default comment to let you know what a comment will look like on your blog.
- Appearance — You have several choices here, and each one is a separate blog element, so we’ll go through these briefly.
- Themes — Your new blog comes loaded with two themes. You can click on a theme’s screenshot to see a preview of what your blog would look like should you choose that theme. You’ll also notice an Add New Themes choice under Appearance. That link will take you to a page that offers several theme features to choose from. You might want to play around with that to see what types of themes are available. These themes are from WordPress’s free themes collection, which is where many theme developers “donate” themes.
- Widgets — Your new WordPress blog comes with a variety of widgets. You can upload more later from a variety of places. If you look at your site, you’ll see the active widgets in the right sidebar — Search, Pages, Archives, Categories, Blogroll, and Meta (administration access). To change your widgets around, drag and drop the desired widget into the space below the word Sidebar. I hope to have many more future posts about Widgets — probably an entire series.
- Editor — This link takes you to the coding pages of your blog. If you aren’t familiar with .php, HTML, or CSS, it’s best to not venture into this area. There will be times it’s necessary to change a bit of code for a theme or plugin, but the developer will give specific instructions in those cases. Tip: ALWAYS copy the code area and paste & save it into a note-taking program, such as TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (PC), before make any changes to your blog’s code. Then, check your blog to see if what you did worked like you wanted it to. If not, paste the original file back where you got it.
- Custom Header — this area allows you to change the background and font colors of your blog’s header. You can also upload an image file into the header to replace this default header, but that’s a bit advanced for this overview, so we’ll save those instructions for later.
- Plugins — Plugins can help you enhance your blog and make it unique. There are countless plugins available. If you click the Add New link, you can see a tag cloud of plugin categories. Clicking on one of those category links will produce a list of plugin titles with a brief description of the plugin’s purpose. You can install new plugins directly from this list. (Note: some plugins are not compatible with all themes. Always deactivate all your plugins before installing a new theme, then activate them one at a time to ensure compatibility. Yes, I learned this the hard way!) The Plugin management also has an Editor area, which is just like the Appearance editor.
- Users — This area is where you can manage your blog’s users. You can change the user’s roll, such as upgrading from Subscriber to Author. You’re probably tired of hearing this, but we’ll discuss this topic in more detail later. You can also access your personal profile from this section and edit it as desired.
- Tools — WordPress can import and export your blog’s data. Your blog also comes loaded with some extra tools, such as Gears and Press This. If a new version of WordPress is released, you will get a message across the top of your Dashboard instructing you to upgrade. You can do that from this area by clicking the Upgrade link. (Note: backup your files before upgrading.)
- Settings — Last but not least is the settings management area. This area will require a separate post, which will come after the one on writing your first post.