WordPress Development for Noobs is a new blog series where I am exploring all the great things that WordPress can do for anyone who isn’t afraid to get their fingers into a bit of code. After I freshly install WordPress, I have some tools, tips and tricks to help make the site, and I share those here. Front-end developers, savvy business owners, and designers all could use a kick in the pants at the beginning of their journey learning how to wield WordPress effectively. I want to tell the world sometimes how many great things they can learn about WordPress and make an awesome website fairly quickly if they can just pay attention closely. This is my opportunity to share some of that. I work as a web developer in Minneapolis, but my passion is to be as useful as possible. I hope you get a lot out of this article!
What you will learn in this article:
- What common plugins you might like to install on a fresh install of WordPress, and how to adjust some basic settings.Skip to It Daddy-O
- For first-time WordPress Users: How to create posts and pages in WordPress, Add Media, featured images, and other WordPress basics.Get to It, Sugar
- For first-time WordPress users or developers: Installing a theme and creating a child theme.Come on and Give It to Me
What common plugins you might like to install on a fresh install of WordPress and how to adjust some basic settings
A “plugin” is a quick way to increase the functionality of your WordPress content management system. After you’ve installed WordPress on a one-click install, or downloaded it from WordPress.org through connecting it to a database, you might benefit from the plugins I’m about to share with you right out of the gate. It’s important to note that some plugins can affect the speed of your website, so use them sparingly and only when they really add value to the site. Here are some basic settings that might be good to adjust after a fresh install of WordPress as well as some of the best paid plugins for WordPress development.
To install a plugin in WordPress, simply click on Plugins > “Add New” in the left-side menu and either search for a plugin there or press “Upload Plugin” to upload one that you have downloaded.
Yoast SEO is an incredibly useful plugin that allows people to quickly affect how each web page shows up on Google. Yoast WordPress SEO creates a sitemap and create an XML sitemap for the purpose of helping Google’s crawling function find its way around your site quickly and effectively. It also gives you ways to directly affect the way your site is served in each SERP (search engine results page). You can enter information how you want each page to be served to Google while you’re entering the content for those pages, as shown below, and optimize it around particular keywords. Yoast will nudge you to make sure you represent your keywords in key places that represent what the post is about. It’s a handy function indeed.
An example of how the site would then show up in the search engine results page:
Jetpack (by the people who maintain WordPress, Automattic) for quick stats, automatic social posting and spelling and grammar help:
Jetpack has some intensely useful features, but a couple that strike me as most immediately useful are.. Site Stats: Site Stats quickly and painlessly allow you to look at how many pageviews you have gotten today, this week, and this month. I currently am using Google Analytics, but out of the gate it’s great to be able to see what pages are attracting eyes. Publicize: You can quickly set up automatic sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. Spelling and Grammar Checker: Don’t tell me you never misspell anything. This feature helps you stay on your toes when it comes to those pesky little writing mistakes.
Akismet for quickly and easily blocking out spam comments, trackbacks and pingbacks:
Comments, trackbacks or pingbacks are exciting to get, but not when they’re actually spam for some strange website selling Nikes in the Middle East. The Akismet web service, which runs hundreds of tests on the comment, trackback or pingback, gives it the go ahead or doesn’t allow it to go through. Through this process, Akismet saves you time by sorting through and deleting spam from your site.
Best paid or advanced plugins that really expand functionality for WordPress developers:
Because I will likely touch on these later in this “WordPress for Noobs” series, I will be somewhat brief here.
Advanced Custom Fields for developers allows you to give the business-owner or whoever will be entering content into the site “fields” that tell them exactly what they need to enter when they are editing a particular page, and then you can put them into the template for the page with an easy-to-use hook. The premium version is $100 dollars for the unlimited sites, or $25 for a single site.
WooCommerce quickly helps you set up a store on your website. It installs the necessary pages right out of the gate, and let’s you add and sell products. The default payment gateway is PayPal, but you can hook up Authorize.net among others and take credit cards right on the site. If you do, just make sure to purchase an SSL Certificate from your hosting provider so that the transactions are secure. WooCommerce is a free plugin, but sells premium add-ons to its users who expand its functionality.
Gravity Forms helps you build contact forms in a very intuitive way, and it has a ton of options and add-ons for making your forms do almost anything you could hope for including quickly displaying more fields if a particular checkbox is checked. If you’re a person creating a lot of websites and see how valuable this incredibly functional plugin is, the Premium Version with unlimited sites is $199, or for one site it’s $39 as of this writing.
Some of these premium plugins, particularly the ones mentioned above, are worth their weight in gold, (or days of writing code) so don’t shy away from spending a little money. You have to spend money to make money.
Settings to adjust as soon as you install WordPress:
Delete any auto-generated posts and pages: Click on “pages” in the left sidebar of your WordPress admin when you’re signed in and hover over “Sample Page,” then click “delete.” Click on “posts” in the right sidebar of your WordPress admin when you’re signed in and hover over the “Sample Page,” then click delete.
Change your “Permalink” structure so your URLs look nicer. When you install WordPress, the default permalink structure is like http://yourwebsite.com/p=123 This permalink is really not very friendly for search engines. It’s smart to change it to make it more search engine friendly. Go to settings > Permalink, and select the setting to use post name and click on “save.”
Adjust your general settings; set your tagline and make sure your timezone is correct. 1. Click on “Settings”, “General.” 2. Change site, title and tagline to help people better recognize what your website is about. You may want to get into slogans here, but I prefer being descriptive first before getting cute for the sake of helping search traffic find me when they are actually looking for something like me. 3. Change the timezone so that anything on your site that uses this setting, like post dates and WordPress stats, on your blog is accurate. So, since I do WordPress development in Minneapolis, Minnesota, you can see I chose the Chicago timezone.
For first-time WordPress Users: How to create posts and pages in WordPress, Add Media and Featured Images, and other WordPress basics.
Creating a post in WordPress:
There are a couple basic things that are not super hard to do, but you have to learn to walk before you can run. I know that even when I first signed into WordPress for the first time, I didn’t know how to create a post. Here’s a screenshot of how you will create your first post.
Here’s a screenshot of how you will create your first page:
The difference between posts and pages:
A page is generally composed of static content: Think… the about page or a contact page. Whereas a post is generally something that you spin up like a blog article; it’s built so that you can quickly put out one of them. You can add them with different categories, and there is often a listing page that allows someone to sort through them and choose one they would like to read. If you are a developer, just know that the blog article PHP loop is a very useful one when you start to create listing pages and pieces of content where you want to show multiple items. The WordPress Loop allows you to show however many of the posts you want, and the kind of posts you want to show based on categories and tags. More on this later but for now, know that whether you are creating and working on a post or creating and working on a page, many of the things you will be doing to create and format either are very similar. Follow along with these steps to create your first post or page.
Adding your WordPress post or page for the first time is a bit like working on a word document: Don’t be intimidated:
1. Add a title. 2. Change the URL if you want it to be different than the title (maybe shorten it for easy sharing). 3. Add some paragraph text, and break up your paragraphs with headings, such as a ‘Heading 2′ by selecting “Heading two” from the editor’s text format dropdown as shown. This is a great feature for breaking up the text for easy scannability in your pages and posts.
4. Press “Add Media” to add an image to your post. You will be able to drag a photo into the “insert media” box or select a previously uploaded image. Select the alignment of the image (so the text will wrap) perhaps unselect the option to “link to the selected media file,” and select the size of the image you would like. WordPress automatically creates different sizes of the image for you, which is a great feature. 5. Select any categories you would like the post to be listed as or “+ Add New Category.” 6. Select an image to represent the post on social media, and to represent it on main blog listing pages for posts. 7. Press “publish,” and press “view post” to check your work and make sure things are looking right.
For first time WordPress Users or Developers – Installing a theme, and creating a child theme.
If you are not planning on getting into WordPress development, the main thing you’ll need to know is how to install a theme. I’d like to tell you that if you install a theme that everything will be taken care of for you. But it may take some time for you after that to get the theme configured and the website looking right for your purposes. WordPress has a ton of power and can connect to a lot of backend systems that small– to medium-size businesses may need. If, like me, you’ve come to the conclusion that WordPress is more powerful for your purposes, consider looking at the top premium WordPress themes on ThemeForest.
What is a theme?
A theme is a quick way to format the visual appearance of WordPress and often comes with easy ways to quickly add your logo, main images and content. Make sure the theme you choose is well-reviewed and check it has functionality you want your site to have before you purchase a theme. Most premium themes are priced from $40 to $60 dollars, and are well worth it.
Installing a WordPress theme for the first time:
To install a WordPress theme, hover over “Appearance” in the left side menu and click “Themes.” If you’ve found the WordPress theme you want, click “Add New” toward the top left, then “Upload Theme” in the same spot on the screen after that. You will then upload the theme that you’ve downloaded. Alternatively, you could search the free themes that are listed when you pressed “Add New,” but with a lot of free themes, you get what you pay for. Basically, I’m saying if you’re a small busines- owner, or something like that, and not a developer, buy a theme and pay for a nice one. You’ll likely save yourself time and headaches.
If you are going to be editing the theme you choose (usually this would mean you are developer,) make sure to make a child theme:
A child theme allows you to edit the templates of the theme, and the site will use your edited template only if you have a file named the same thing as the same file in the main theme folder. Developers; you can find the theme template folders in “yourwebsite/wp-content/themes/themename”. Some of the key files for WordPress are “functions.php”, “header.php”, “footer.php”, “index.php”, “page.php”, and “single.php”. I will go into more detail of these files in the following chapters. If you are looking to get into WordPress theme development, I think it’s often a good idea to edit a couple themes that other people created first.
Creating a child theme:
If I wanted to edit the “header.php” file of a theme, I would copy it into my child theme. You could have your theme in the file “yourwebsite/wp-content/themes/themename-child.”
It should have a style sheet called “style.css” with this at the top:
/* Theme Name: Theme Name Child Theme URI: https://www.timbdesign.com/theme-page Description: The child theme for "Theme Name" Author: Tim B Design Author URI: https://www.timbdesign.com Template: themename Version: 1.0.0 */ @import url("../themename/style.css"); /* =Theme customization starts here ------------------------------------------------------- */
You’ll want to add an image to the file where you have your child theme named “screenshot.png” and it should be 600 x 450 pixels. I like to have this image be a picture of how the site will look (maybe the mockup.) Then when the site is developed, I can take an actual screenshot of the home page and have it occupy this space. As you can see, I’ve used this in a computer mockup image in the example below for my own site.
When you have your style.css file in your folder you can now go to “Appearance > Themes” and activate the child theme.
Next in the “WordPress for Noobs” series we will talk about utilizing theme options, take some strong steps in learning how to modify theme templates, and start on the basics of creating a WordPress theme “from scratch.”
Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, please tweet this so others can check it out, too.
I don’t provide excellent web design in Minneapolis or provide these resources because it’s good for my health, I do it because I know it’s something people need and I like being of use. If I can help you with WordPress design and development, let me know, that is my specialty.