So you decided to go with WordPress. First off, that is great. WordPress is one of the easier ways to ease into working with a Website, but also can be incredibly complex the more you dive into it. I’m writing this post for those who are completely new to WordPress. You have it installed, you log into the backend for the first time, and see a list of different places to start. I want to break down, in simple definitions, what each of the sidebar menu items do and why you would visit those pages. Let’s get started!
Let’s start at the top, which is your dashboard. This is a snapshot of your site. Everyone’s Dashboard will look different once you start customizing your site with themes and plugins but it serves the purpose of being in your face with alerts and functionality. I honestly never pay much attention to the dashboard as it serves as a summary of your data; you have to deep dive through your backend if you want to get into the real data.
The one part you really should pay attention to in this section is the WordPress News. WordPress is constantly changing, and they will alert you when new security releases are pushed out, including a slew of other content worth digging through.
This is not out of the box but a very handy set of tools if you are working with WordPress. It can handle security, site stats, plugin update notices, spam, etc. It adds a lot more functionality to your site as well. I won’t go into more detail on this, but just know that you want Jetpack installed.
This is where your blog posts aggregate. You can view all your posts, add new posts, and tweak your categories and tags. Posts are separate from pages as a page is more of a static set of detail about your website, while blogs (posts) are ever changing.
This is where you store your pictures, documents, videos, etc. A piece of advice though is to never store your videos on your site unless you are paying for a beefier web hosting service. Take advantage of free services like Vimeo or YouTube, and host them off your website. I pay for middle tier hosting, and streaming off my web server was too slow for my taste. Host videos offsite and embed them on your pages wherever you want.
This is where you go and add content to your individual pages. If you want a contact page, an About page, testimonials page, etc. You will add them here and configure.
We love comments. It’s an awesome feeling when you see the red circle next to comments on your backend and you know someone read your blog and they are being engaging. Unfortunately, this is the internet and many comments are pretty much a bummer. The comments sidebar item will allow you to customize how comments work. Post them automatically, or have you approve before it publishes on your site. Lots to customize here all centered around comments.
This is a big one, and something you will spend quite a bit of time in when you are customizing your site. Within Appearance, you can change out your themes, customize your menus, interact with Widgets using a drag and drop module (pretty awesome!), use the WordPress customizer, and edit theme files. That last one you should definitely stay away from if you are not comfortable working with Front end Code and PHP.
Another big one that makes WordPress so popular. Plugins allow you to add functionality to your site. Say you want to add a jumbotron slider, add facebook messaging, site caching, you can install a Plugin to handle this stuff for you. There is a trade off though with relying too heavily on Plugins, which is you are adding more 3rd party applications to maintain on your site. Most of the time, a good plugin won’t break your site, but I’d be lying if I said it never happens, or has never happened to me.
Manage accounts here. If you need to add people to your site to have access to your backend, you can set them up an account and manage permissions here. It’s good practice to check your users section regularly to make sure no rogue accounts have shown up.
A few cool things to do in the Tools section, but the standout is the import/export. Say you are migrating from another blogging platform and want to pull in comments, you can easily do that with this section. You can also export all your content to an XML file if you are wanting to move your site.
One of the first things you should do is hop into the Settings and just look around. You can edit the name of your site, your permalinks, default email address, change default picture size, etc. If you are wanting to make some small changes without touching code, it may be something you can tweak in there.
Hopefully this helps you get a little more comfortable navigating the backend of your WordPress sites. You can always reach out with any questions.