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Introduction to WordPress

What is WordPress?

Creating a website is a daunting challenge, especially if you signed up for Media Studies and not a programming or web design course. You are still expected to deliver a fully realised product that meets all the codes and conventions of website design, but you are allowed to use apps, content software and html templates. This is where WordPress comes in to help.

WordPress claims to be the world’s most popular website builder. It is a very accessible content management system which allows you to select the right theme to give your website a brilliant look and user experience. The plugins then help extend the functionality of your theme.

Remember, it is up to you to meet the requirements set out by the brief. All the images, audio-visual materials and written content must be your own work. Create your own stories!

This guide provides a straightforward overview of the administration screen that appears in most WordPress installations, such as the tool bar, work area and main navigation menu.

Logging in to Your WordPress Site

If you have set up a website domain, sorted out a hosting package and installed WordPress, you can visit your login page by typing “wp-admin” after the domain name in the address bar. For example:

This will take you directly to the login screen where you just need your username and password to access the back end of your website.

WordPress Login Screen
WordPress Login Screen

The WordPress Interface

The WordPress interface can be incredibly disorientating when you use the software for the first time. Do not let that confusion prevent you from exploring its functions. There are three main areas to consider: the tool bar, work area and the main navigation menu.

WordPress Main Workspace
WordPress Interface

When you click a link in the tool bar or main navigation menu, the work area will change to those options. For example, if you click “posts”, you will be redirected to a list of your website’s posts where you can add or edit those pages.

Please note, the look and options of the three main sections will change according to the theme you have activated on your site.

Toolbar

The toolbar runs along the top of the screen. It should contain notifications about available updates to plugins and alerts for comments posted to your site. There might also be links to various administration functions and options to customise your theme. Hover your mouse over “New” and you will be to create a new post or upload new media by clicking the relevant option in the drop-down menu.

In this example, try to spot the icon which tells the user there are seven updates available for the theme and plugins. You will also notice there is one alert for security – this could be an update for the plugin or a message from its creators. Finally, look at the drop-down menu now available because the user hovered over the “New” option.

WordPress Menu Bar
WordPress Menu Bar

The Dashboard

When you login, WordPress will usually open on the Dashboard screen. In this particular work area, you might see (un)important messages about the plugins you have installed or updates that are available. Other blocks will contain various statements about your WordPress installation, such as the current theme and version, or a summary of your site’s content, including the number of pages and posts.

Main Navigation Menu

This is where you need to pay attention! The main navigation menu lists all the important administration functions. Hover over each item and it will expand to reveal further options. If you click on “Pages”, for example, you will be taken to a list of your pages in a new work area. Clicking on “Media” will take you to the Media Library interface where you can upload new images and documents to your site.

WordPress Main Menu example
Main Menu Navigation Example

Try to familiarise yourself with the posts and pages workspaces. Navigate backwards and forwards between posts, pages and dashboard to get used to the interface.

Hover over “Appearance” or the paintbrush icon and look at the options which now appear. Click “Customize” and you will be taken to the customizer window where you can modify aspects of your website from a range of possibilities and preferences on the main panel. Again, have a look around and click a few buttons – you can always hit “X” to cancel any changes and return to the dashboard.

Portfolios are an increasingly popular way to define content in WordPress and provide an alternative to posts and pages. You should check if your theme uses a plugin which supports portfolios.

Finally, look for any template plugins which offer layouts, grids and blocks. Again, your theme might be based on these shortcuts and the options will probably appear on the main navigation menu.

Final Thoughts

Once you are familiar with the user interface in WordPress, there are a few thing you will want to change right away, such as the site title and tagline.

If you are interested in using WordPress for your website, you can create a free account at wordpress.com – it has plenty of limitations but there are enough options for you to create a decent product. Or you can self-host and download the full WordPress content management system – this can get expensive. However, if you have a little bit of technical knowledge, the best solution is to use a local installation to start building your dream website. You find out more information from localwp.com.

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