WordPress Tutorial for Beginners

September 30th, 2020

WordPress is a popular content management system that lets you build a website without writing any code.  Despite its relative ease of use, it can still be intimidating for new users.  In the video below, I go over the basics of WordPress, including what you need to launch a site, how to install a theme and plugins, and how to start producing content.

Intro

I use WordPress for my personal hobby blog, but I have also used it to build marketing sites and eCommerce sites.  WordPress can be intimidating for new users, so I’m going to go over the basics to get you started with the program.  I’ve added timestamps in the description of the video if you want to jump to a certain part of it. 

Table of Contents

  1. When to Use WordPress
  2. Hosting Services and Domains
  3. WordPress Themes
  4. Dashboard
  5. Jetpack
  6. Posts
  7. Media Library
  8. Pages
  9. Comments
  10. Feedback
  11. Appearance
  12. Customize
  13. Menus
  14. Theme Editor
  15. Plugins
  16. Users
  17. Settings

When to Use WordPress

WordPress is a great tool for people who want to create a website, but either don’t know the coding necessary to create a site, or want to use a simple drag and drop interface to save time.  There are other content delivery networks, such as Drupal, but they tend to be better for people with more technology experience.  WordPress is a perfect choice for someone new to making websites, whether that be a blog, a small store, or an online portfolio.

Hosting

The first thing You’ll have to do is find a hosting service and a domain name provider for your site. This tutorial isn’t going over the details of how to host a site, which may differ depending on the hosting service you choose, but you will need to pay a hosting service and purchase a domain name before you can launch your WordPress site. 

A hosting service provides the servers and networking that let people reach your site. I use BlueHost for my personal website, but there are many options for hosting ranging from $50 per year to hundreds per year.  More expensive options tend to offer higher security, premium support, and automatic site backups.

A domain name is the URL people type in to access your site.  For example, TrustRadius’ URL is Trustradius.com.  Domain names can range in price greatly, URLs are totally unique, so a competitive domain can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, while a less desired one could be under 20 dollars. When looking for a host, consider checking out reviews of hosting services on TrustRadius.com.  We’ve published hundreds of reviews from verified users of these services, so you can find the best fit for your needs.  You can find these reviews at the link in the description.  

Once you have your host and domain name, your hosting service can provide instructions on how to host your site, adn install WordPress.  You will also create a username and password for your site.

Once everything is setup, you can access your site’s dashboard for editing by going to your domain name + /wp-admin

WordPress Themes

Once you’ve accessed your site by logging in at your url /wp-admin, you’ll arrive at this dashboard.  But before we get into the tools here, we should select a theme for your site.

A WordPress theme is a series of templates and styles that help you build pages that look thematically consistent with ease.  For users familiar with coding, you can make your own theme, but for others, there are a wide variety of prebuilt themes, many of which are available for free. 

You can browse themes from the WordPress Dashboard, by hovering over appearance, and selecting themes from the submenu.

I use TheBlogger theme, a free to use theme designed for blogging. WordPress comes with a few themes installed but you will likely want one more suited to your needs.  To browse themes, click add themes.  From this menu, you can search for themes, or browse the most popular ones.  You can even filter them by their features using this cog.

Some premium themes are only available from external sites, so if you have a third party theme or built one, you can install it by clicking upload theme and selecting the theme files from your computer.

Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to start customizing your site and building out content.

Dashboard

The first couple options we have on our toolbar are Dashboard and Jetpack.  You can think of Dashboard as the home screen of your administrator tool.  When you click it, or click home in it’s sub menu, it will take you to the homepage, which will provide simple analytics, a quick post option, and more, depending on your theme and the plugins you have installed.  You may notice some notifications on top of my screen.  Lots of free plugins come with these ads attached, you can generally just close out of them and ignore them.

The Updates option in the Dashboard submenu, will let you know if any of your plugins or themes need an update, and you’ll be able to update them all from this page with one click.  All of my plugins and themes are updated, but if they weren’t, there would be an orange notification to the right of the update tab, indicating that I have updates ready.  It’s good to update as often as possible to ensure all of your plugins and themes remain in working order.   

The insights tab will provide traffic stats based on whatever analytics tool you use.  I use MonsterInsights, which by default shows me sessions and pageviews, though this might look different if you use a different analytics tool. 

Jetpack

Jetpack is a tool provided by WordPress that powers free sites on WoordPress.com.  If you don’t have another analytics tool, it provides some site statistics for you and offers some security and anti-spam features.  All of these features are competent, but users often choose to use specialized tools or plugins to handle these tasks instead. 

Posts

The post tab is where you’ll produce most of your content if you are using a theme designed around blogging like I am.  From the posts interface, you can edit existing posts, create new posts, or perform bulk actions on posts by checking off multiple at a time. 

If we click to add a new post, we’ll see the WordPress Editor, which we can use to add a title, and content to the post.  In the editor, we can edit our text however we want to create headings, paragraphs and line breaks.  We can also add images and forms.  Images are handled by WordPress’ media library, while most people use a plugin for creating forms. 

When adding an image, we will go to the media library, which is where all the images on our site live.  We can add an image to the site by clicking upload files, and select the file you want to add from your computer. 

Once you have all your content written, you can preview it with the preview button, which lets you see what the post will look like once it is live on your site.  Many themes also offer a live editor that will allow you to make edits directly on the page. 

In the sidebar, you can set categories and tags for your post, which will help determine where it is organized on the site.  For example, if I use the homebrew tag, it will appear under the homebrew page on my site. Tags will help readers find posts when they search for them. 

You can also set a featured image, that will appear above the title of your post when users are browsing your site. 

Media Library

The media library is where all the images,videos, spreadsheets, and documents on your site will live.  Your content pages pull from this library when you add images to your pages or posts.  

You can click on images to delete or edit their metadata, or add new content by clicking add new, and then dragging your content in. 

For each image, you can change its alternative text, which is what screenreaders dictate to people who can’t use visual elements of a site.  The title of the content and the description are used for SEO purposes, and the caption appears below the image when it is published.  You can also add captions to images when you place them, so I tend to leave caption blank. 

Pictures can take up a lot of space which can make a site load slower.  If you don’t want to optimize images manually, you can use a plugin like Smush to optimize images as you add them to the library. 

Pages

Pages, like posts, allow you to create content for the site.  Unlike posts, pages is usually used to create things like landing pages, contact pages, and more.  You’re likely to use this tool a lot if you are making a site for a business.  Since my site is blog based, I hardly use any pages.  The editor is almost exactly the same as the post editor, but there are some different options in the sidebar, such as the slug.  Which determines what the url for the page will look like.

The main functional difference between pages and posts is how your theme handles them.  In my theme, posts are automatically added to the queue on the front page, or on the appropriate category page.  In contrast, pages don’t appear at all unless I add them to a menu or otherwise link to them.

Comments

When people leave comments anywhere on your site, whether it be on a blog post or a page, it will appear in this comments section.  By default, comments have to be approved before they appear on your site, so this is where you can approve or unapprove comments.  You can also reply, mark comments as spam, or remove them from your site. 

Feedback

Some themes, particularly blogging themes also include a feedback function where you can see how users rate your posts.  The functionality is very similar to the comments tool, in that you can approve, reject, or delete feedback.  You can also export all feedback as a csv for easy analysis.  Depending on your theme, this tab might not be here.

Appearance

The appearance tab contains a number of tools including the themes function I discussed earlier.  This is the section where you can customize a lot of what your site looks like, including CSS, colors, and menus. 

Customize

The customize button will take you to a preview of your site, and give you a number of options for customizing the site. I’m going to go over some of the more commonly used ones. 

The main style tool sets several default styles including header size, text font, image margins, and more.  The other options give you more granular control. As you make changes, you’ll see them previewed live, but none of them will take effect unless you click publish.

In the general tab you can edit the layout of your page, as well as the font style, size, and color.

Site Identity is where you can set the title of your site and the tagline, which are mostly used for SEO purposes.  You should set this when you launch your site. 

In the header section you can change how your top level menu appears, making it all one row, stacked, or anything else you prefer. 

You can also change your footer in the footer section.  If you use a blog theme like mine, you may not have a true footer, so you may not need to tweak this. 

If your page is a blog, you can use the blog section to change how posts are layed out.  I have them stacked but I can change the presentation to a grid, list, or circle.  Note that some of your featured images can get cut off if you change this formatting, so be careful when tweaking this setting. 

You can change post styles in the post section, which on this theme mostly impacts the featured image. 

You can use custom CSS or additional CSS to add custom styles to your site.  I use additional CSS as it lets you see all of your styles unlike the quick CSS tool.  To add CSS, you can just type it right in, so if I wanted to change my header sizes I could just type the style in here. 

You can also use the customization feature to edit CSS and menus, but I prefer to use other tabs in the appearance tool to do that. 

Under the menus tab in appearances, you can create menus that link to specific pages on your site.  To add an item to the menu, you simply click it on the left and then click add to menu.  I only have one menu on this site, but you can create multiple as needed, if you have multiple sidebars, or footers, that need unique menus. The navigation label will be what the menu item is called, and you can drag it to change its positioning or create submenus.  You can also delete it by clicking remove. 

Theme Editor

This is where you can edit the files that make up your theme.  If you aren’t familiar with PHP and css, it is generally good practice to stay out of this tab, but if you are more familiar with CSS or PHP, changes here can impact the entire site with only a few lines of code. 

Plugins

Plugins are third party add ons for WordPress that extend the functionality of your site.  You can install them directly in your admin panel, and they are available for price points from free to premium. 

From this page, you can activate, deactivate and delete plugins, and you can click add new to get new ones.

From this interface, you can search plugins by keyword, or filter by popularity.

You can find plugins for all sorts of functions, a few popular ones are Yoast, which adds SEO functions to your site, Autoptomize, which speeds up your site by optimizing CSS and JavaScript, and Fastest Cache, which handles website caching. If you run a business, you may also need a sales handler, or card verifier, such as Stripe, or Woocommerce

Users

Users is where you can change your admin profile, or add contributors to the site. When you make a new user, you assign them a username, password, and email.  You can also set their role, which determines what they can add to the site. For example, an editor on my site can edit existing posts, but can’t edit any new content.  If you have multiple contributors it’s keep to be careful with user roles, but if you are the only one running your site you shouldn’t have to use this panel often. 

Settings

Settings let you change a number of settings on your site, such as timezone, site title, and more.  Most of these settings can also be changed in other tools we have discussed already. The tabs in here may look different depending on your plugins.  As you can see I can change my Autoptimize settings here. You should check the general tab to set your site title, and if you have a privacy policy you can mark that page in the privacy section.  Otherwise, you don’t need to stress over these tools when launching a site. 

Conclusion

With all that in mind, you should know all you need to launch your first WordPress site.  Depending on your use case, you may have some specific needs I didn’t cover, but there’s lots of documentation online for every use case you can think of.  Most hosting services offer support for hosting problems, and theme providers often also offer specialized support.

If you’re still on the fence about WordPress, consider checking out some verified reviews at Trustradius at the link in the description. We publish detailed reviews from real users.  Alternatively, if you end up using WordPress, we’d love to hear your feedback, also at the link in the description.