This lesson will mostly focus on an overview of what will be covered in the classes. The purpose of these classes is to teach a valuable job skill for free. This lesson will cover the basics, terms you should know, and what you’ll need to do to follow along with the classes following this.
The lessons will be using the content management system (CMS) known as WordPress, which I feel is the easiest CMS to start with. While I try to be as beginner friendly as I can with the lessons, some knowledge of computers and the internet is kind of required.
There is also a video guide I’ve created to go along with this, which is below.
To start off, create an account on WordPress.com. WordPress has free hosting for WordPress blogs and is a good place to begin when you’re just starting. Just Click the “Get Started” button and create an account. Don’t worry too much about choosing a great name for your website’s blog address. We’re just creating this so you can learn the way WordPress works. The site you’re creating will pretty much be a learning experience. Choose the “Beginner” package which is totally free. When it asks you to choose a theme, just choose whatever you want. Most likely you won’t be using this exact theme. Click Next Step when it asks you to customize it, we’ll do that in a little bit. Also, don’t worry about connecting to anything on the sharing page, or creating your first post. Just keep clicking the Next Step buttons, skipping anything it’s asking you to do really. At the end of this, it will ask you to confirm your email address, which you should do now. Once you’ve done that, select the Dashboard choice.
WordPress is a Content Management System, or CMS. In a nutshell, it’s a program that makes it simpler to create, maintain, and organize a webpage. It’s one of the more powerful CMS choices out there, as well as (I believe) the most commonly used. Also, it’s quite easy to jump into with little to no experience in building a webpage.
WordPress sort of comes in two different “types” which are the WordPress.com hosted version and the self hosted version.
The version we’ll be using for right now is the WordPress hosted which has a few limitations. In this version, you can’t use Plugins, which is something we’ll cover later. Additionally, you (for the most part) can’t really use things which can make you money from your site. But for what we’re doing, which is learning, it’s completely fine.
The other “type” is the “self hosted” WordPress site. A self hosted site would be, for example, if you created a site on Godaddy or Host Gator. Self Hosted WordPress sites have all the functionality that the CMS offers. This will be covered as well in later lessons.
To start out, go to your Dashboard. This is your main “control panel” if you will where you can build your website. You can play around with this if you’d like and try to familiarize yourself with it.
The first thing we’ll do is create the overall look of our website. If you click on the appearance tab in your dashboard, it should (by default) take you to the themes page. Most of the sections on your dashboard have sub-categories. In the Appearance section, the sub categories are Themes, Customize, Widgets, Menus, Background, Custom Design, and Mobile. In the Themes tab, active the Twenty Ten theme. You can do that by either searching for Twenty Ten in the search box up top, or finding it in the list of themes below. You’re free to choose whichever theme you’d like, but this tutorial will be using the Twenty Ten theme.
For the WordPress.com free hosted site, your options of themes are somewhat limited. On a self hosted site, there are thousands of different options. Some of the themes are free, others are “premium” which means you’ll have to buy them. I prefer, personally, Mantra and Graphene for my themes. Both are free and are highly customizable, but unfortunately it does not look like you can use either of those on the free hosting version.
If you click on the Customize section, it should take you to a page where you can change the overall look of your site. A Sidebar should appear on your right with the options of Custom Design, Colors, Front, Site Title, and Header. Click on Header and choose an image that you like. After that, click on Site Title and change that to whatever you’d like the site to be called. The Tagline is something that can say a little bit about your site. On Twenty Ten, it appears to the Right of the site title, on top of the header. The Front tab sets what your main (homepage) website page will look like in your content area. A static front page will be what you create it to be. Static pages, for the most part, don’t usually change that much. The your latest posts option sets the front page to show all of your newest posts on your homepage. For now, keep the Front section set to your latest posts. The Colors tab isn’t as customizable as I would like it on the free version. For now though, it will work just fine. If you’d like, you can upload a background image for your website. Also, you can change the header text color to whatever you’d like. I’ve included an image with all the parts labeled to help you out. Click on the image to see a larger version of it. When you’re happy with the way your design looks, click the save button at the bottom of the Customize toolbar, then click close. You’ll be taken back to your dashboard.
So now that the general look of the site is taken care of, let’s create a post to see what that looks like. This can be done by selecting the Posts category on the dashboard. Click the Add New button which appears in the top left. This will take you to your editor screen which you’ll become very familiar with. This is where you create the content that is on your site. Type in the title of your new post in the top bar where it says “Enter title here” and let’s call this post “Hello World.” Underneath that will be a few buttons (Add Media, Add Poll, Add Contact Form) and then a toolbar. By default, WordPress starts out with a simplistic toolbar. You can change this by clicking on the icon furthest to the right titled “Show/hide kitchen sink.” Click on that icon now so you can see all the options you’ll be able to use.
Underneath the toolbar is where you’ll write the content that will be in your post. You can type whatever you’d like. From here, you can do a lot of different things. To cover all of this would be a lesson in itself, so for now we’ll just work on a text-only post. After you’ve written whatever you would like to put in your first post, click on the blue Publish button. This can be found in the top right Publish widget. WordPress will publish your post, and probably tell you that you’ve published your 1st blog post. You can either click on the little blue X in the top right of that to close the notification, or click on your site title. Now you have a post on your front page. Great job! Now let’s create a page and explain the differences between a page and a post.
Go back into your dashboard, which if you’re on your main page can be done by hovering your mouse cursor over your site name on your administrator toolbar and selecting dashboard. This is the black bar you see on the top of every page of your site. You’ll only see this bar if you’re logged into your wordpress site as an administrator. From there, click on the pages tab, and select the add new option. This is all the same as when we created a post, so it should be familiar to you. Let’s title this page “About Me” and type in whatever you would like in the content area. Again, this is the same as when we created a post. Once done, click the publish button, and a message should appear that says “Page published. View page.” Click on the View page link in the message, and it will take you to the page you just created. You’ll notice that About Me now appears on your navigation bar under the header image. This is because the menu is set to add each new page to it. This of course can be changed, but for now we’ll leave it like that.
The way I think of posts is as journal entries. They have a date, you can set a category for them, and include tags. Pages, however, don’t have dates, categories or tags, nor are they listed by dates. This might not seem like a big difference right now, but when we get into the more advanced things it will matter.
This lesson should have given you a basic grasp of how to navigate your WordPress site, customize the look a little bit, and create a few things. I encourage you to play around with the features and see what they do. There’s a lot of things you can do with this, and covering each thing in the lessons I’m writing would take forever. Luckily, WordPress’s support page has information on pretty much everything you could possibly need. If you still can’t find an answer to your question, try using Google to search for it. The majority of the time, you aren’t the first person who had the problem or question. You’ll most likely be able to find the answer with a little research. There will also be a forum dedicated to these lessons, which will be linked to this as soon as it’s created.
To close, I hope you found this informative and easy to follow. The ability to create and maintain WordPress sites is actually pretty profitable. Look on your local craigslist, there’s usually several jobs looking for someone to do something with a WordPress site. It’s a valuable skill in my opinion, and I’m happy to be able to help you learn it.
Lesson two will go more in-depth with features and customization. It will require you to understand the information contained in this lesson. It will give you an understanding of how and why you did what you did in lesson one, as well as explain how it works. Creating links, adding images, menus, widgets, forms, and other things will be covered. By the end of lesson two, you should have the ability to create a WordPress site and customize it to your liking.
If you have questions, please ask them on the forums.