WordPress is very easy to use even for non-tech savvy people, but it can be confusing at first. Initially all the settings, options and features can be overwhelming. This usually subsides after a few weeks of regular use. Once you find your groove you will see that it’s a very efficient and useful tool.
Many beginners as well as experienced users find that WordPress serves its purpose, but they may be missing out on some useful features. WordPress is very powerful and has endless potential as a CMS. Getting to know your way around some key admin screen features can help you unlock some of that potential.
This can help you save precious time and money. It also helps you to optimize your workflow, making life a lot easier. Today’s article outlines some easy tips to help beginners get the most out of WordPress.
Adjust the Screen Options
Many beginners might not notice the Screen Options tab. From here you can further control your workspace. Screen options is an administration screen.
It is displayed under the tool bar. The Screen Options tab allows you to hide or display a field on your current work screen. Simply click on the Screen Options tab to expand it and configure the options however you choose. The Screen Options will change depending on what section of the dashboard you are in.
For example, in the WordPress Page Edit screen you can choose to show or hide the modules for Page Attributes, Featured image, Custom Fields, Discussion, Comments, Slug and Author. Just check or uncheck the boxes provided. Layout options from the Page Edit screen allow you to toggle between 1 or 2 columns and change the height of the editor. In the picture below I changed the layout from 2 columns to 1.
Configure Your Website Permalinks
Permalinks are the part of your website address after the domain name. The way you set up your permalinks can have a big impact on how your website is organized. Setting them up correctly can be helpful in several ways. Below are some of the functions of permalinks.
- Provide your visitors with a brief description (hopefully) about what is on the web page before they see the content.
- Permalinks are also used by search engines to find your web page via URL.
- Each permalink is a unique identifier for every page or post you create.
For beginners, permalinks can be confusing but they are really quite simple. To configure the permalink structure in WordPress, navigate to Settings > Permalinks from your dashboard.
You can set the permalink of a post or page before it’s published. After you have published it you can change it as well, just click the edit button next to it. The default permalink settings for WordPress uses the database ID for each post as the permalink. Most people don’t use this setting. It’s unsightly and doesn’t give you any idea what the content is about.
Most people will change the default settings to fit their needs. For example, on this blog our permalinks are set to automatically mirror the post title. If you were running a news website that is frequently updated, you might want to include the date in your permalink somewhere to help readers find what they are looking for.
It’s prudent to fill your website with relevant internal links. Before, when I wanted to make an internal link, I would just copy and paste the link into my post. With the release of WordPress 4.5 (Coleman), a new inline link feature made things much easier. I love this feature and it saves me valuable seconds that add up over time.
When you add a link by clicking on the insert/edit link button in the WYSIWYG editor, click the Link options button and the dialogue box shown below will open up. Simply search for the page or post you want and choose it. That’s all there is to it!
Update Themes, Plugins, and Core Regularly
Updating WordPress is incredibly important. Updating plugins, the WordPress core and themes will keep your site running smoothly and protect it from security threats. New versions fix bugs, add new features and clean up the code. Keeping everything updated is one of the most important things you can do to prevent attacks from all kinds of hackers and spammers.
Make sure to reference the documentation of your theme or plugin when you are updating. Solid documentation will address issues such as system requirements and so forth. For instance, maybe a plugin update caused your plugin to stop working because you are using PHP 5.2 instead of PHP 5.4.
Use reputable plugins
Using plugins from trusted sources that have a reputation for maintaining their products is crucial. Plugins are a huge part of why WordPress is successful. If you don’t pay attention to them, they can be a huge part of why your installation of WordPress isn’t working. There are thousands of plugins available and the majority of them are buggy and poorly written.
As the WordPress core changes, plugins need to keep up. Many times a site can break because of incompatibility issues with a plugin and your theme. Sometimes a new version of WordPress will change to address a security vulnerability. This can break compatibility with a plugin. That’s not even the worst thing that can happen. Below are some key points to consider with WordPress plugins.
- Steer clear of plugins that haven’t been recently updated. If a plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year, it probably won’t work with the current version of WordPress. There are some exceptions. If it’s very small and only performs a 1 or 2 functions it may be okay. Be careful thought, just because a plugin is recently updated, doesn’t mean that it won’t give you problems. It really depends on the developer.
- Stick with plugins that have an active support community. Plugins are a constant work in progress. There is always a bug to fix, something to improve, features to add etc. Check the support forum for any given plugin to get a feel for what you have in store by installing it. If you notice that the developer is quick to respond to support, topics that is a good sign. If you see that there are lots of unanswered support topics or the response time is slow, this is a red flag.
- Unless you know how plugins work and you are willing to analyze every line of code in it, save yourself some trouble. Download plugins from a trusted source. While you may be fine just doing a Google search for a plugin and downloading it, you are putting yourself at risk. Don’t download plugins from any old place, especially torrents. There are many unscrupulous people that would love for you to download a plugin from them. This could infect your site. Stick to legitimate secure sources for plugins. The WordPress Plugin Directory is the safest place to get plugins, but they only host free plugins. If you want a premium plugin, try CodeCanyon or WPMU Dev.
- You should watch your budget, but at some point you will want a premium plugin. Free isn’t always the best. While you may think that you can get by using only free plugins, there are many times where this just won’t cut it. While you may end up spending some money, it’s a very affordable solution when you factor in time and money saved compared to other solutions. Premium plugins typically offer more functionality and better support.
Check your site after you install a new plugin. Many beginners make the mistake of installing plugins they either can’t use or don’t need. Install and activate your plugins one by one. This way, if there are any problems, you will know which plugin caused it. Believe me, it sucks to have to go back and install every plugin on your site one by one to figure out which one is causing trouble. After you install a plugin, browse your site, test its functionality. If everything is working as you’d expect you can move on.
There are many options and settings within WordPress. As a beginner it takes a bit of time to become familiar with all of them. One set of options that bloggers will definitely be using a lot is located in the publishing widget. You can find it in the Edit Post or Edit Page section of the dashboard. Here you can choose whether to post something privately or publicly and schedule when the post is published. To schedule a post, simply change the date.
There are times when you want to keep a post private. Maybe you aren’t finished, or you the site admin to approve it before it goes live. This is simple, click the radio button that says “private” under the Visibility section.
These tips are good starting points for those of you who are new to the backend of WordPress. If you are looking for more things to help you get started off on the right foot, check out our post on Mistakes to Avoid in WordPress. Feel free to ask us any questions and share your favorite WordPress tips and tricks in the comments section. Cheers!