You’ve successfully registered your domain and installed WordPress! Now what?
Well, let me tell you, the journey’s just begun. There is still designing to do, posts to create, plugins to install, and so much more! But don’t stress. In this walk through, I’ll do my best to help you create your ideal website without spending any extra cash! YAY.
First, log in to WordPress
If you arrived to this post through my “How to Start A Blog: A Beginner’s Guide“, you were left looking at your WordPress dashboard.
If you arrived here through a different means, then go ahead and at this time open up your WordPress dashboard.
This will be your “control room” as I like to call it, where anything and everything is edited, and taken care of.
Lets start with the basics…
Lets start off with the very basics. You can’t skip ahead to creating a blog post, etc. if your page doesn’t look presentable and attractive. Think of this famous, website building, analogy: Building a website is like building a house. First you buy the land (your domain), then you build the house (your website), next you decorate it (WordPress) and finally, you live in it (blog posts, etc.).
1. Click on the plugins tab on the left hand side of the screen.
Plugins are important because they help your website run successfully. Think of it this way: your site is like your smart phone. It does the basics on its own but with apps (plugins), your phone does even more.
Before you download any plugins however, I highly suggest you do some light research. Some plugins are outdated and even malicious and will slow your site down. Always look at the reviews and ratings for each plugin and also how many downloads its had. I usually stick to downloading popular plugins.
Plugins I personally find necessary:
✗ Akismet Anti-Spam: Protects your blog from spam.
✗ WPtouch Mobile Plugin: Some themes are not mobile phone friendly. This plugin helps turn that theme into a mobile friendly one.
✗ Yoast SEO: Analyzes your website, creates sitemaps, and more. Yoast is a MUST.
Optional plugins I highly recommend:
✗ Google Analytics: This plugin works with Google Analytics and analyzes your site. Traffic, clicks, etc. All tracked by Google.
✗ Pinterest Pin It Button by WebLizar: This button is magic.
✗ YouTube: If you plan on adding videos to blog posts, this is a must.
2. Choose a theme.
This is my favorite part. Depending on what theme you choose will ultimately affect how your blog looks. Choose what works best for you. My personal favorites are Anissa & Athena.
Once you’ve chosen the theme you feel will best represent your blog (don’t stress, you can always change the theme. Ive changed mine about 3 times), click install and then activate.
If you’d like to see what the theme looks like before activating, click the orange “live preview” button.
3. Customize your theme.
There are two ways to customize your theme. The first way is to click on the “appearance” tab to the left (where you chose your theme) and then click “customize”.
The second, more preferred way (personally), is to click on your site name on the top left of your dashboard, and in the new screen, click on “customize” with the paint brush next to it.
✴︎Each theme comes with a basic set of options and some themes come with more. Since I only ever use the second option (live preview), that’s what I’ll be utilizing in this walk through.
-Live Preview Mode-
You’ll see the “Active Theme” section at the very top left. That is your theme in use. If you want to change it simply click “change” which will take you back to the themes screen.
Through live preview, everything you edit will change as you go so that you can see it, edit and save if you want to go through with it.
Everything is pretty much self-explanatory on this menu, except “Menus”, “Widgets”, and “Additional CSS” (which I wouldn’t touch unless you’re familiar with coding).
Menus are what keeps your blog organized. They help your readers to easily navigate your website and overall, help make it look professional and polished.
However, before you can add menus to your site and place them in their respective locations, you have to make or “edit” a menu in the first place. Check out my “How To Create A Menu In WordPress.”
Once finished creating menus, return to the customization window where you can choose the locations for the menus.
Widgets are all of the extras that make your site that-much-better. Some popular widgets amongst the blogging community are “categories”, “About the Author”, “Archives”, “Instagram Slider”, etc. and are usually located on the right or left hand side of your blog.
Now, you don’t want your site to look over crowded and clustered, so choose widgets you think would best enhance your site.
Some widgets I love to use are: Top Posts, Instagram Slider (because I firmly believe in utilizing social media to broadcast my blog), Categories, Archives (a quick glance into your history can tell a reader a lot about your site), a Search Bar for your site, and a Subscribe button (readers are more likely to subscribe if the option is readily available). Another useful widget I enjoy adding to my blog is the Google Translate option. Once you start generating traffic from other countries, a translate button can really help in keeping readers on your site longer.
✴︎ Not all widget options are included within the themes and so one must install them. In order to install a widget (for example: Instagram Slider), return to your dashboard (save your changes first!), and click on the “plugins” tab. On the above left hand side, click on “Add New” and search for your desired widget in the search box.
Aside from the basics, there are a lot of amazing outside resources to utilize when designing your site. Keep in mind that sometimes these outside resources may require payment for certain things such as themes but plenty of other ones will offer things as long as you sign up (usually free).
✗ Your own photos make for great blog images, post illustrations, front page imaging, etc.
✗ Pinterest. Although you need an account (FREE) to browse Pinterest, this site will absolutely help you out when it comes to anything blog related. I can’t say it enough. Pinterest is my #1 tool when it comes to blogging.
✗ YouTube. You don’t need an account to browse through YouTube for helpful blogging videos, but creating an account (FREE) will help if you ever choose to add videos to your posts.
✗ Instagram. Also one of my favorite outside resources, Instagram (free account) helps with spreading the word about your blog and networking with other bloggers as well as finding new ideas and inspiration.
✗ Twitter. Also another great networking site.
✗ Stock Photo sites such as IM Free, Free Images, Pexels, and more. These sites offer FREE stock photos and come in handy when personally taken photos don’t seem to be cutting it. For more options, check out Angie Green’s list of stock photo websites at Studio Storyville.
✗ Canva. One of my all time favorite “design it yourself” websites. Canva supplies templates, designs, shapes, layouts and much more; All for free download…as long as you have an account which is also free.
And that’s all ladies and gentlemen!
Customizing your site isn’t difficult as long as you have the right tools. Purchasing tools is by no means frowned upon and in most cases, is better than free tools. For the sake of this “free” based walk through however, I listed free tools (most only requiring that you create a free account).
Now it’s time to start generating posts! Good luck and best of all, enjoy!