This post was updated on October 3, 2014
WordPress is known for its easy installation. Once you have installed WordPress, you need to configure your website correctly before launching it.
In this tutorial, we will show you how to configure your website directly after installing WordPress. This tutorial is aimed at those who are new to WordPress; however intermediate WordPress users may pick up some tips that they never knew before.
Familiarize Yourself with the WordPress Admin Area
After installing WordPress, you need to login to your admin area. This is the area where you control your whole website. You can login at www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin/. Alternatively, you can login at www.yourwebsite.com/wp-login.php. All you have to do is enter the username and password you created during installation.
In the event of you losing your login details, simply click on the lost password link. All you need to do is enter your username or email address to have your login details emailed to you.
When you see the WordPress dashboard for the first time, you may be a little overwhelmed by all the information that is presented. I highly recommend browsing the admin area for a few minutes to get a feel for where everything is.
The main navigation menu is on the left hand side. You will see 10 main sections listed in the main menu:
- Dashboard – This is the central hub of the WordPress admin area. It gives a brief summary of how much data you have in your database; such as how many many posts, pages and comments your website has. There is also a Quick Draft box that allows you to start a new post quickly from the dashboard. Boxes displaying your latest comments and posts are also displayed together with related WordPress News. If there is a new version of WordPress available, or if any of your plugins or themes need updated, you will be notified of this through the updates section of the dashboard menu.
- Posts – Posts are displayed chronologically on your blog. The section displays ‘All’ of your posts including ‘Drafts’, Published and Scheduled posts.
- Media – The media section lists all of the image, audio and video files you have updated to your website.
- Pages – Pages are normally reserved for static information pages such as your about about page, contact page and terms and conditions page. They are not listed in your blog index. Instead, they use a directory structure and are only displayed on your website if you link to them in one of your navigation menus. Most WordPress users allow comments on posts but switch them off on pages; however it is possible to display comments on pages too.
- Comments – The comments section lists all the comments that have been submitted to your website. This includes pending comments, spam comments, approved comments and those that have been moved to the trash can.
- Appearance – The design of your website is controlled through the appearance section. It is where you choose your theme, configure your widgets and set up your menus. We will be looking at this section in-depth in my next article.
- Plugins – Plugins are functions that can be added to WordPress to improve or add functionality to WordPress. This section lists all plugins that you have activated and installed. New plugins can automatically be installed from WordPress.org from within your admin area. You can also deactivate and delete plugins at any time.
- Users – All users are listed within the users section. By default, you can assign users to be subscribers, contributors, authors, editors or administrators. Plugins such as User Role Editor allow you to customise users permissions further and create your own user groups.
- Tools – Additional tools, such as import and export options, are listed on the tools section. Many administration based plugins can be found in the tools section after installation.
- Settings – Most of your website’s settings can be located through the settings area. Most plugins place their settings area in this section too. It is this area that we will be looking more closely at in this tutorial.
It has become very common for plugins to place a link to their settings page in the main menu column, rather than within the main WordPress settings area. This is frustrating as the main menu is supposed to be reserved for plugins that are used every day. The end result is that you end up with twenty sections in your main menu, instead of the ten you started with.
At the bottom of the main navigation menu, you will see a link to collapse the menu. This will remove and text from the menu and only display the menu icons. It is a useful feature if you need to reduce the size of your browser window.
At the top of every page is the WordPress admin bar. This contains shortcuts to useful links at WordPress.org, comments, new posts, your profile page and more. Be aware that some plugins will add shortcuts to their plugins in the admin area without your approval; therefore the bar can get quite cluttered if you are not careful.
The bar can be switched off when viewing your website by switching off the feature in your profile. You can also disable it for all front-end pages by adding one line of code to your theme’s functions.php file.
Underneath the top admin bar you will see a drop-down menu for Screen Options and Help.
The help feature is very useful when you first start using WordPress. If you are unsure about any page you are viewing, simply click on the help option for an explanation of how that section works.
Screen Options is a fantastic feature that many WordPress users forget about. It allows you to change what is displayed in every section of your admin area. You simply disable the parts that you never use and they will not be displayed. The screen options change according to what part of the admin area you are viewing.
For the rest of this tutorial we will be focusing on the settings area. This can be found at the bottom of the main navigation menu.
The WordPress admin area may be a little daunting at first, however you should feel comfortable using it within thirty to sixty minutes.
There are six main configuration pages in WordPress: General, Writing, Reading, Discussion, Media and Permalinks. After you have installed WordPress, you can publish content without changing any settings. However, it is in your best interests to configure WordPress the way you want it.
The first part of the general settings area contains the information that you entered during the installation process such as your website name, tagline, WordPress URL, site URL and email address.
If you installed WordPress at the root of your domain, your WordPress URL and site URL will be your domain name. For example, http://blog.wphub.com is the WordPress URL and site URL for WPHub. To be more specific, the WordPress URL is where your WordPress core files are located. This location always has to be correct or WordPress will not function correctly.
The site URL is where you want WordPress to be viewed online. So if WPHub’s files were located at http://blog.wphub.com/files, you would set the WordPress URL at http://blog.wphub.com/files and the site URL at http://blog.wphub.com.
Do not concern yourself too much with this. I believe it is better for beginners to upload files to a different location to where you want WordPress to be viewed. If you ever need to install WordPress in a different directory, please refer to the Giving WordPress Its Own Directory tutorial on WordPress.org.
The email address that is originally defined in general settings will match the email address from your profile. It is worth changing this to a different email address if you leave user registration open and want notifications of new users; as your inbox will quickly fill up with notification emails.
The next option in the general settings area is whether anyone can register on your website. If you require visitors to register on your website in order to leave a comment, or if you are using a forum plugin such as bbPress, you will probably want to keep registration open. You also need to decide what type of role new users are assigned by default. In most cases, I recommend ensuring that all new users are set up as subscribers so that they do not have permissions to write posts (contributors) and publish them (authors).
Unless you are using private registration for comments or a discussion forum, it is better to disable open registration and create all user accounts manually. The problem is that WordPress is susceptible to spam. That is why it is always dangerous to assign any new registrant above the level of subscriber. You really do not want to give an unauthorized person access to publish content on your website.
Do not dismiss registration spam as a minor problem. In a very short time you can have thousands of spam users added to the database because the website was set up so that anyone could register. Even with all those users being assigned as subscribers, you are still faced with the problem that your database now has thousands of additional table rows; which slows down your website. Therefore, I recommend disabling registration and creating accounts manually for contributors, authors and editors.
At the bottom of the general settings area, you can define your timezone, date format, time format and day that a week starts on. The timezone that you choose will dictate what date and time are recorded when a post, page or comment is published. Date and time formats can be modified to change how they are displayed on your website e.g. in the meta information area above and below blog posts.
The day that a week starts on is not that important for most users. It is used by some plugins to categorize posts into weeks e.g. a latest posts widget.
WordPress can automatically convert emoticon code into graphics and correct XHTML code that has not been nested correctly (i.e. closing tags in the wrong order). These features can be enabled and disabled under formatting.
The main options to configure on the writings settings page are the default post category and post format type. Posts can be placed into any category you create, however by default all posts are assigned to one category. So if you ever forget to change the category a post is assigned to, it will be placed in the default category.
WordPress supports several post formats such as quotes, audio and videos. You should leave this setting at “Standard” unless you frequently publish one particular type of post format (e.g. statuses or quotes).
On the writing settings page, you will also see an option for the Press This bookmarklet. This allows you to copy text from the internet easily when doing research. There is an option to submit posts by email too.
Do not concern yourself with these additional options when configuring your website. Your main priority should be to define the correct post category and post format.
WordPress allows you to display your latest posts on your home page. That is, you can make your home page your blog index. Alternatively, you can assign a static page as your home page and choose another page to display your blog posts. If you choose the latter, make sure the page you choose as your blog index is blank.
For example, you could create a page called “Home” for your home page and a page called “Blog” for your blog index. Your blog page would be empty. Any content you did add to that page would display above your list of blog posts.
Below you can define how many posts to display on your blog index page and archives. You can also define how many items are displayed in your RSS feed (referred to as syndication feeds in the settings area). You can choose whether to display full blog posts or just the post summary.
If you do not want search engines to index your website, you can ask them not to at the bottom of the page. This is useful if you are developing a private website and do not want it listed in any search engine.
The discussion settings area controls how your WordPress website handles comments. After installing WordPress, the main comment options to configure are whether comments are allowed on new comments, whether pingbacks and trackbacks are allowed, and whether your website sends a ping to other websites when you publish an article. Due to the level of trackback spam over the last few years, it is prudent to disable notifications from other blogs.
WordPress allows you to control how strict you moderate comments. It is wise to ask commenters to enter their name and email address. If you want more control, you can ask visitors to register in order to leave a comment. Alternatively, you can manually approve all comments to ensure that no spam or offensive comments go through.
When you first start using WordPress, it is unclear what the best way is to moderate comments. Over the years I have found that there is no right or wrong way to control how comments are accepted. It depends on the volume of comments being received and the website owner’s view on moderation. As such, I believe it is better to wait until you actively receive comments before you configure how comments are moderated. You will be in a better position to review what the best setup is at that point.
Avatars can be enabled or disabled at the bottom of the discussion settings area. You can define whether avatars for adults are permitted and choose the default avatar for those who do not have a custom avatar of their own.
WordPress creates thumbnails for all images you upload. In the media settings area you can define the exact size of small, medium and large thumbnails. Large thumbnails are usually cropped so that they fit into your main content area. For example, if your main content area was around 600 pixels in width, you may want to set your large thumbnail at around 550 pixels. This ensures that any large images are cropped and do not break your design.
By default, WordPress arranges uploaded files by year and month. If you prefer, you can disable this option and save all files in one directory.
Permalink are the URLs that link to your blog posts (the name comes from permanent link). When WordPress is first installed, it defaults your permalink structure to http://www.yourwebsite.com/?p=123. The number at the end of the URL refers to the table row within your WordPress database. For example, a blog post URL could be http://www.yourwebsite.com/?p=54 and a page URL could be http://www.yourwebsite.com/?page_id=305.
Many WordPress users use a more user and search engine friendly permalink structure that includes keywords. WPHub, for example, uses /%postname%/.
Permalinks are controlled via the .htaccess file. To allow WordPress to change your permalinks you need to:
- Create a blank file and save it as .htaccess
- Upload it to the top level of your WordPress installation (i.e. where wp-config.php etc is located)
- Change the file permissions of .htaccess to 755
Once you have done this, WordPress is able to automatically update your .htaccess file. After it has done so, it is advisable to change the file permissions of .htaccess to 644 or 660. This is an important step that you should not skip.
If WordPress is not able update your file automatically, it will give you the permalink code to add to your .htaccess file. Simply add this to your .htaccess file and upload it to your WordPress installation.
Updating your .htaccess file is required if you use a different permalink structure from the default form (i.e. http://www.yourwebsite.com/?p=123). If you choose a user-friendly permalink structure in your permalink settings page and do not update your .htaccess file; your posts and pages will be inaccessible. Only your home page will be viewable.
The steps detailed in this tutorial should be followed after installing WordPress. I encourage you all to familiarize yourself with the WordPress admin area before you tackle these steps. This will help you understand how WordPress operates and how the options you are changing affect your website.
All of the steps detailed above should take no more than ten minutes to complete. Once you have configured your website, you can then customize your website by choosing a good theme and suitable plugins. This is something
Do not be concerned if something has not been configured correctly. You can go back and change your website settings at any time.