I still remember coming across WordPress for the first time. I was brand new to blogging — I had barely read a blog before, let alone created one of my own. Although I had some old school HTML and CSS knowledge dating back to the late 90s (when I built a website with nothing but notepad and FTP software), I was way out of my depth.
The fact is this: it can be all too easy to forget how intimidating WordPress is to start with. Something that offers so much functionality cannot be completely intuitive to a blogging newbie. There’s just so much to think about — settings, themes, plugins and much more.
With the above in mind I wanted to create a really simple guide for getting started with WordPress blogging. This is a no-frills, bare bones step-by-step guide to creating a blog that is ready for the world at large to see.
Step 1: Basic Settings
WordPress is heavily customizable. In fact it is 100% customizable as it is open source software but for the purposes of this guide I am referring to the settings accessed via your sidebar. If you hover over the Settings menu item in your sidebar you will be confronted with a number of options:
You’ll also need to consider your profile (which can be found under Users > Your Profile). It can be a pretty overwhelming list but it thankfully doesn’t have to be — you don’t even need to look at Writing, Reading or Media and there are only a few settings on the other pages that you need to concern yourself with at this stage. Let’s go through each in turn.
On this page you should enter your site’s title and tagline. Don’t worry yourself about this too much — you can come back and change them at any time. You can also change the date and time format from this page if you so wish.
This page contains all settings relating to comments on your site. At this time your only consideration should be as to whether or not you would like comments on your site. If you do then you don’t need to change any of the settings. If you don’t then you should uncheck the “
Permalinks are what appear within the browser address bar when a visitor is on any given page on your site. For instance, the permalink for this page is “get-started-wordpress-blogging”. You’ll be presented with a list of different permalink types when you access this settings screen – you should select the “Post name” option:
This is the most user friendly (and search engine friendly) option in that your permalinks will reflect the topic of any particular post or page on your blog.
Details held in this screen are often displayed by themes so it is important that you take a moment to ensure that the correct information is displayed. The only thing you need to consider at this stage is the “Display name publicly as” drop down box. This is defined by a choice of your username, name or nickname. Pick what suits you.
Step 2: Choosing Your Theme
This is where most new bloggers get tripped up — they spend hours and hours in search of a perfect theme. So let me take a load off your mind: there is almost nothing less important than your theme when you are just getting started. Your sole focus should be creating content and getting it out there for people to see. Don’t worry about your site’s design until you have a sizable audience to tell you whether or not they like it.
The default Twenty Twelve theme is more than suitable for getting started with:
And if the Twenty Twelve theme isn’t to your liking you can easily switch to the Twenty Eleven theme:
Making the switch is easy — Twenty Eleven is already installed (but not activated) on your blog. Just navigate to Appearance > Themes via your sidebar and click on the “Activate” link underneath the Twenty Twelve thumbnail under “Available Themes”.
One of these themes will be more than suitable for your needs for the time being. They are well coded and flawlessly designed — while they may not be the flashiest theme you’ll ever see, they are utterly reliable. I use them myself for startup blog projects that I do not want to invest any design time on (here’s an example).
Step 3: Recommended Plugins
If themes are the first stumbling blocks for new bloggers then plugins have to take second place. It is all too easy to spend hours installing any number of plugins before you actually get anything done in terms of content creation. It’s a huge time suck.
In reality you do not need any plugins to get started as a blogger — WordPress is well-equipped out of the box. However, there are a small number of plugins that I would recommend you install and activate in order to get the most out of your blog. They are:
- Akismet: for comment spam protection (you don’t need this if you do not have comments on your site).
- Digg Digg: for social sharing (you don’t need this if you don’t want people to share your content).
- Google Analytics for WordPress: to track visits to your site via Google Analytics.
- WordPress SEO: to optimize your site for search engines.
Please note that Akismet is bundled with WordPress by default (you can find it by navigating to Plugins > Installed Plugins via your sidebar). You will also find another plugin called “Hello Dolly!” — you can deactivate and uninstall this by clicking on the relevant links. It is completely useless.
Each of the above plugins can be installed by navigating to Plugins > Add New via your sidebar. Just copy and paste the plugin name into the search bar and hit “Search Plugins”:
Then click on the “Install Now” link. Once the plugin has been installed you’ll be given an option to activate:
That’s it! The plugin is now installed and activated. Setup for each of the above plugins should be pretty straightforward but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask in the comments section below.
Step 4: Creating Content
At this point your blog is almost primed for content production — there are just a couple more things to take care of.
The first is getting rid of the sample post, page and comment that WordPress includes by default. First navigate to Posts > All Posts via your sidebar. On your brand new blog you’ll see just one sample post which you can delete by hovering over it and selecting the Trash option:
You can do exactly the same for the sample page and comment by navigating to Pages > All Pages and Comments respectively via the sidebar. If you’re confused by the distinction between posts and pages then click here for an explanation.
Now your blog is clean and ready for your words of wisdom. It’s up to you whether you start with a page (such as an About or Contact page) or a post (such as a “Welcome to My New Blog!” post). Either way the process is largely the same.
Let’s take a look at creating your first post. Just navigate to Posts > Add New via your sidebar and you’ll be presented with a screen similar to that shown below:
There are just three things you need to get your first post out into the open:
- Create a title for your post: this goes in the field directly below “Add New Post”
- Write up some content: this goes in the text editor box that takes up the majority of the screen.
- Hit Publish!
That’s it — creating content in WordPress really is that easy!
While there are a number of things you can do to optimize and better present your posts, the key to getting started is just that: getting started. Worry about the fine print later on, but for the time being get some content out there!
What Are You Waiting For?
Getting started with blogging really is as easy as the above four step process — the learning curve is really shallow if you start by paddling rather than jumping in at the deep end. There is plenty of time to obsess over minor theme tweaks and new plugins but successful blogging always comes back to the content that you produce.
For the most part visitors aren’t going to care nearly as much about your design or fancy plugin functionality than they do about your content. So embrace the heart of blogging and start creating content!