When you log in to your WordPress website you see the dashboard, which is where you create posts and pages along with modifying settings and website styling. In this lesson we’ll cover the dashboard of WordPress in detail. The log in screen can be found by typing your domain name followed by /wp-admin (e.g. www.yourwebsitename.com/wp-admin).
The video below walks through the WordPress dashboard and covers everything discussed in this lesson.
Once logged in to your dashboard you’ll see a lot of links down the left-hand side. We’ll go over what these are now.
POSTS: Posts are the heart of most blogs, and they are the dynamic content that is shown on your website. Dynamic means content that it is updated and continuously put on your website. A lot of blogs display their recent posts on the home page, but if you run a standard (non-blog) website, this new content can be placed on a special blog page or latest news page.
PAGES: Similar to posts, pages are normally used for static content, which relates to content on your website that does not change much, or a section of your website that remains in the same place. For example an ‘About’ page or a ‘Contact’ page.
COMMENTS: On your posts and pages you have the option of allowing visitors to write a comment. Comments are a great way to interact with your website visitors, although if your website becomes popular you can spend a lot of time replying to comments, and even removing comments that may be spammy. It is entirely up to you if you want to leave comments on, and this area of your WordPress dashboard lets you view and edit comments.
APPEARANCE: Under this tab in your WordPress dashboard there are a few sub-sections. The first is THEMES, which we will discuss more in Lesson#5. Briefly themes let you quickly style your website, and can be both free or more professional paid for themes. Depending on what theme you choose some of these options may differ, but you always have a WIDGETS area, which gives WordPress websites their fantastic flexibility and ease of customisation.
WIDGETS appear under the APPEARANCE link, and are drag-and-drop tabs that you can place in special widget areas. Again these widget areas can differ depending on what theme you use, but you normally have sidebar widget areas that allow you to display specific bits of content along the side of your website, and this will show on all pages and posts. For example, it is popular to display a list of recent posts, or an email sign up area, or an author/website area in the sidebar.
Under the appearance tab you also have areas to setup navigation MENUS, make changes to your HEADER area (e.g. your logo), and general BACKGROUND edits. You also have an option to enter the EDITOR. For beginners this is an area you should probably stay away from until you understand more about what can be altered here. Basically you can gain access to core website files that control the styling and function of the website. The two main files here are your style.css and functions.php files.
The style.css controls things like what font you use on your website, the colours of links, and the widths and formatting of all areas within your design. You can modify bits of the style.css and your website will probably still work fine, albeit look funny at times. However, be warned that playing with the code within your functions.php files can have more drastic effects, such as completely killing your website. You’ll be able to quite easily correct these changes but not via your WordPress dashboard because you website will likely be un-accessible. You will instead have to access your functions.php file via FTP, and either correct any changes you made or completely replace the file with a fresh one. So again, it’s best to leave these files alone for now until you understand them a bit more.
PLUGINS: Plugins are also a major plus point of WordPress, and these plugins add functionality to your website, such as adding an image gallery, or they make tricky jobs easier, for example modifying the text in your websites footer or adding new widget areas. There are many free and premium plugins that do just about everything, so no doubt you will be spending a lot of time exploring this area.
USERS: This area lets you see the users that have access to your website, and you can add new ones. If it is just you who can access your dashboard then there will be only one user here. However, sometimes several people can work on a website posting content, and thus each will have their own username and password.
TOOLS: You will probably not use this area because the options here are not commonly applied. You can import or export site data from the tools area.
SETTINGS: Unlike tools you will use the settings area. Under settings there are several sections that allow you to control various aspects of your website. The GENERAL area lets you set your website name and tagline, along with other default information such as your contact email address and time zones. The WRITING area is not so important, but you can choose default categories for you posts and do other tweaks.
The READING area has one main function, and that is designating whether your home page is a static page or whether it should show your recent posts. This option only shows when you have one or more pages created. Depending on the type of website you have will dictate your choice. For example, a business website may want a static home page to show a couple of images and contact information, while it has a special area that shows recent posts, such as a blog page. However, if your website is primarily a blog where all you do is post new content, then you may choose to show this content on your home page.
The DISCUSSIONS area lets you set some commenting options, while the MEDIA area lets you assign default image sizes for the images you add to pages and posts. Finally the PERMALINKS area is where you define how your web address (URL) looks. By default if you create a new post it will have the address www.yousitename.com/?p=1. You should change this to the ‘Post name’ option, which displays the title of the post in the address bar. For example, if you create a new post with a title of ‘How to buy great shoes’ your post address will be www.yoursitename.com/how-to-buy-great-shoes. This is better for a number of reasons, including Google search results and user appeal.
This Lesson was quite long, but knowing your way around the WordPress dashboard is essential. Once set up you will not touch a lot of the features and will focus on new posts and pages, but you will probably use other options to customise your website from time to time.