WordPress 201

In our WP 101 tutorial we touched on the basics of WordPress.  Now lets take a closer look at what you can actually do with WordPress.  No longer just a blogging platform it is now a fully functioning robust content management system (CMS).    What is a (CMS)?  A product installed on a web server that allows managing pages, blogs and articles online, without storing them on a desktop computer and uploading each time when you need to make changes.  Simply login to your website, write or modify content, and then your website is updated instantly. There can be multiple administrators or editors, each with their own defined user roles. CMS provide separation between articles and web design, thus allowing you to focus on writing content and not worry about copying the web design from page to page. CMS products can also automatically update menus and links between pages based on the list of articles you create, therefore you don’t need to worry about your website becoming broken when you rename pages. 
In todays market for CMS – you will be faced with 3 choices WordPress, Drupal, and Joolma.
All three are written in the PHP programming language, and are licensed under the free GNU General Public License (GPL), and all depend on the MySQL database to hold and manage the actual content within a website.  All offer extensions/add-ons, plugins, themes and or templates galore.

In our opinion, WordPress wins hands down when it comes to installation simplicity and ease of use.  WordPress has made a point about getting its installation process down to mere moments of your time. (5 minutes).

The way WordPress handles all articles as either posts in a blog or a page on the site is intuitive for new users to grasp. Location of content and widgets is handled by dropping them within pre-set locations within a given theme.

Hosted or Self hosted?    Hosted via  WordPress.com

You do not have to download software, pay for hosting or manage a web server. When you sign up for a WordPress.com blog, you will get a URL like “mysite.wordpress.com” or you can map a domain ( extra fee applies) so your blog is available at “mysite.com” without the “.wordpress.com” portion.  No control over the software, database, no FTP access and no  uploading of themes or plugins.

For your self hosted site, WordPress is free but , you will need a domain name and monthly web hosting for your site.  A domain name registration will run around $10 per year and hosting can be around $7 a month, leaving the total cost of your new web site well under $100 per year.  We like this best as you own and hold your content, and can use which ever themes and plugins you want.  Many hosts offer an easy one click install of WordPress via their cpanel.

Themes, Plugins &  Widgets  
The combination of these 3 effects the design, layout, usability of your WordPress web site.  There are literally thousands of each to choose from.  Free and premium (paid) alike.   Allowing  you to start your CMS that can scale quite well into a more complex site as your needs grow.


A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog.  A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software. Themes may include customized template files, image files (*.jpg, *.gif), style sheets (*.css), custom Pages, as well as any necessary code files (*.php). 
[source:  http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Themes]



A Plugin is a small addon program/application that you install in WordPress.  Plugins can extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine.  Think of a need and most likely there is already a plugin for that!


Widgets are plugins, but not all plugins are widgets! They are useful for putting content on your site without having to go through the coding process.  All you need to do is drag a certain widget from the widget area and drop it to the sidebar or footer area.

Since each widget is uniquely designed for its function, it’s best to learn about some of the common widgets usually used for sites before applying widgets into your WordPress blog.  The text widget can be the most powerful one of all as you have complete control of it’s contents, but you will need to learn a little html coding. 

Content  Pages & Posts.

 Adding and editing pages or blog posts in WordPress is extremely easy to do.  The WordPress WYSIWYG editor makes this process simple.  Not only can add/edit your text, but also media files as well.  There are plugins to extend the functions of the default editor.


Because comments are so well ingrained into the blogging mindset, it’s no surprise that WordPress comes with a very robust comment management system out of the box.  A great freebie for WordPress users is the availability of the Akismet plug-in, which, when activated, taps into Akismet’s very powerful comment and trackback spam protection tools.  
You do have the choice whether or not to allow comments on your WordPress site.

Layout styles of your site will depend mainly on the theme your choose. Here is the typical default layouts.  You have the header area, the main content area and the sidebar area.

Adding Social Media Tools

Adding Social Media Buttons to your WordPress Website is an extremely important part of website promotion.  Why?  Well, you have to add the social media buttons onto your website so people can easily share,  save, and bookmark it.  There are a few ways to add social media buttons to your WordPress website. One is to do it manually ( ugg code! ) and the other is to use a plug-in. There are many social media plugins to choose from.


The header area of your site will most likely contain your logo.  A header image adds to the visual experience of your blog or website. It is a graphic image at the top of the web page that gives a unique identity to your blog/website.  Again your choose of theme will dictate the size and design of your header.  Additional information, such as opt-in forms, social sharing icons, can be added to this area to make the most of the space.


One small change can give your site a completely different look?   Choose between fixed full screen background, full width scrolling background, or classic non-scaled backgrounds.  Whether you choose images, solid colors or patterns the design possibilities are unlimited.  Many sites have header backgrounds, content backgrounds and footer backgrounds. Depending on your choice of theme adding and customizing the background will differ slightly.

Navigation Menus

By far one of the most important aspects if you website is the easy of navigation for your user.  You want your information easily  reached no matter which page the user is on.  Do not create a maze of hidden pages.

Menu placement can be above the header and/or below the header, or even along side of the logo image. 

WordPress allows you to create custom menus as easily as checking a box to select which item you want to have displayed.   Menus items can be pages, posts, categories from within your site and custom urls from outside of your site.   The styling of the navigation menu will also depend on your theme.


Footers are often an overlooked aspect of designing a site. When actually they can be a very useful area to display information.  Some themes will give you the option to have different footer information displayed on the homepage then on the inside pages of your site.


WordPress offers so many features especially when you factor in the unlimited design and functions with the use of themes, plugins and widgets.   Many premium themes come with their own widgets and plugins ready to use.  We have only touched on the “tip of the iceberg” in this tutorial. 

We find WodPress to be a robust and dynamic  CMS capable of growing with your needs.  WordPress  follows all the Web Standards, keeping your blog or website compliant to all the rules that have to be followed when running a website. SEO Friendly, Search Engines love clean code something you need to  definitely kept in mind when building a website. WordPress uses different functions which allow it to be search engine friendly.



[Blog by Chrissie ]

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About Nancy Bain

Our services include building optimized, functional and self managed WordPress websites, Nova Scotia social media training and consulting, interactive full screen high definition virtual tours with lead capture and print advertising. For most of our clients, we are their one stop solution for all things marketing, branding and small business development related.