Blogging,  Lifestyle

Build-A-Blog: How To Make WordPress Work For You

Navigate WordPress Like a Pro

Welcome back to Build-A-Blog where blog dreams really do come true *insert Disney music here*. If you are reading this blog I’m going to hope you have all the other must-do steps completed that we’ve covered in previous posts. Including; figuring out your niche, buying a domain name, and web hosting. If you haven’t gotten that far I’d suggest taking a quick look back. BUT, if you are all caught up we can dive into creating a blog that looks as good as it’s content using WordPress.

WordPress is the easiest way to design your blog without knowing the ins and outs of website creation. WordPress has many themes and other features that can get your blog looking like you’ve been doing this forever, even as a newbie. In this post, we’ll be going over themes, general navigation, and some plugins that can help you out as well. If none of those words sound familiar to you, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered below.

WordPress Themes – Let’s make your site beautiful

When you first begin setting up your site you’ll need to start with a WordPress theme. This will determine the general look of your site and how things are organized. Since most of us are not coders, themes do all the coding for us. It tells our site what goes where and everything in between and then you have full artistic control from there concerning pictures, colors, what to include and not include, etc. Essentially, a theme is a pre-made layout that allows for easy blog creation opposed to doing it all yourself.

Picking The Right Theme

WordPress themes can be created by almost anyone so they are not had to come by with a simple search. Your WordPress theme does not have to be created by WordPress. When you find the one that fits best you can download it and upload to WordPress later. WordPress themes can be free or paid. If you are like me and just overspending money at this point, I am confident that a free theme will work just fine. Paid themes do have a lot of perks, but a lot of themes have a standard (free) and pro (paid) option if you find one you love. I suggest doing some google searches or searches through Pinterest for the type of theme you want.

When I first started searching I knew I wanted something simple and something that had a picture in the header. I found multiple pins on Pinterest that advertised “cute WordPress themes” and that’s how I found my own theme: Ashe. My theme was free and I have yet to have any problems with it. To make things even easier for you I’ve selected a few free themes below:

guchrry-hero-free
  • Simple, Straight lines: Kale

If these aren’t up to par I’ve also included some blogs that have more comprehensive lists you can check out: 27 Free Feminine Blog Themes, Awesome and Free WordPress Blog Themes.

Uploading theme to WordPress

Uploading your theme is as easy as downloading it. Once back to your site in your WordPress dashboard, go to the side menu option that reads “appearance” and go to “themes”.

Once there, you will need to select “add new” in order to upload

Select upload theme, select the theme you have downloaded from you files and then proceed to activation once uploaded.

Once activated, your website page should show up with the theme applied and this is where the real work begins. Using Siteground web hosting, you will be able to customize your page while on it so you can see exactly what you are changing.

Visually Customizing Your Blog

In your WordPress dashboard in Siteground, in the top left corner, should be the name of your blog or “my blog” when you click it there should be an option to visit your site. Once there, you should see the demo version of the theme you chose along with a menu bar at the very top. In that bar, select “customize”. This should bring up a sidebar on your page with varying options depending on your theme.

My theme gives me the option to upload my logo and whatever header image I choose. I can also decide what the menu options will be, what pictures will be behind some of my other website tools, and much more. It is on this customization page that I can also choose my accent color for certain text.

Since customization options vary with themes, I can’t give you a step by step but I will tell you to make sure you are using menu items, pictures, and colors that make sense for you and your brand. For instance, my accent color that is the color of some of my text like links or buttons is the same pink that you find in my logo. My pictures that I use for my header are always clear and pictures that won’t overpower my logo in front of it. Take time to play around with colors, pictures, and menu options and see what you actually have the freedom to change and make your own!

Getting Down and Dirty with WordPress

Now that you’ve got the looks, you probably notice that all the “words” on your page are gibberish, and some of the pictures aren’t yours. Once you start creating content that will all be replaced. Creating content will start in your WordPress Dashboard but before you get to writing there are a few things on the WordPress Dashboard you should familiarize yourself with. First, in your dashboard, you will see a long menu on the left side of your screen. This is essentially your menu for your blog work. In the beginning stages, your main dashboard may read something like “Welcome to WordPress”. As you progress this will be the page where you will see needed updates or suggestions. I don’t frequently use functions on the main page but it is typically where you start off each time you log in.

Plugins, Plugins, Plugins

If you’ve been looking into starting a blog for a while, you have probably heard about the importance of plugins for multiple purposes. If you haven’t heard of them before, they are essentially pieces of software that allow you to add to the functionality of your blog. For example, I use a plugin specifically to make it so my Instagram posts show up on my page. I would never know how to make that happen on my own so I simply searched for a plugin that would do it. Most plugins are free, and all of the plugins I use are free.

I don’t do anything too fancy on my blog so I don’t have many plugins but I would definitely suggest downloading Yoast SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is what will get you in front of prospective readers. If your blog has good SEO practices you will be able to climb higher and higher within search engines like Google. Most people aren’t SEO experts, and I honestly still don’t fully understand it but that’s where Yoast SEO comes in. It makes sure your blog posts are Search Engine ready by encouraging you to use keywords that are relevant to your post.

Any plugin you think you may need can be found with a simple search on your plugin tab in the WordPress Dashboard. If you cant find exactly what you are looking for I typically search on google for the fuctionality i’m looking for. For example, I would google “free plugin that shows live tweets on website page”. I’m not sure if that plugin exists but you can try and give it a search, I’m always pleasantly surprised.

Some honorable mentions:

  • Instagram Feed – Your Instagram feed will show up as a side panel or at the bottom of your blog pages
  • Mailchimp – A service where your readers will be able to subscribe to your blog, You will have the ability to email them directly to remind them of posts, newsletters, etc. (We’ll talk details soon)
Pages Vs. Posts

Also found on your dashboard menu, you will see options for both “posts” and “pages”. A post is what you are reading right now; blog content that you create for your readers at whatever frequency you choose displayed according to date. On my home page, my most recent post will show up first and my eldest last. Pages, alternatively, are static and are for timeless content such as your about page or contact page. This is something you want people to always be able to easily see no matter the time.

Posts, unlike pages, can be put into categories and tags. Therefore, you can group them together based on topics or similarities. For example, I have a “Travel” category that lists almost all of my posts since I’m a travel blogger. I also have multiple categories under travel that align with certain countries that I’ve visited ( France, USA, Greece, etc.).

We’ll jump into creating your first post, about page and other necessary pages next post. For additional information on the difference between pages and posts, you can navigate here.

WordPress Comes with a Learning Curve

WordPress can sometimes be an endless hole of confusion when you are just starting out, and I know there are some things I haven’t covered yet. My most important advice would be to search for answers when confused rather than trying to “figure it out”. Google your questions or send me a quick email if anything really has you stumped. I can name more times than one that my night ended with tears of frustration because something just wouldn’t work. In the coming posts, we’ll cover how to create some of your first pages and posts and detail apps you NEED for a successful blog. Find the next post here and all other Build-A-Blog posts here. Anything I haven’t covered so far that you think I should? Comment below and see ya soon.

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