June 5, 2010

WordPress Blog for Beginners – Tweaks to Prepare for Posting

Setting Up for Posting in your WordPress Blog

You may have gotten your basic WordPress blog design created, by choosing a template and playing around with Widgets and so on. But you’re not quite ready to make that first post. There are a few other things you need to set up first, so both the blog and the posts look just right.

Go down the left margin on your Dashboard to the “Settings” category. Click into each item in that box and look through all the things you can change and set up, in deciding how your blog displays. Here we are going to cover just a few things you should probably tweak, but do some experimenting with other settings to see what works and what doesn’t. Remember that you can always undo something that doesn’t look right.

General Settings

Looking partway down on this “General Settings” page, you see that you can choose the time zone you’re in, and then choose how the time and date will be displayed in your posts.

The Timezone is based on UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time. This is a 24-hour clock, so 1:00 p.m. would be 13:00 on the UTC clock. Rather than doing all sorts of subtractions and calculations to find out how many timezones behind or ahead of the UTC location you are, click on the drop-down menu instead. Find a city that you know is in the same timezone as you. Clicking on that city will set your blog on the same time, so your posts will carry an accurate time stamp.

Once you’ve picked the timezone for your WordPress blog, you can move down the page and decide how you want the date and time displayed when you post on the blog. Farther down, in the “Week Starts On” line, you can pick what day of the week you choose. This is important mostly if you’re going to put a calendar in your margin as one of your widgets.

Writing

For a basic blog, you’ll only need to worry about the top few settings here. You can make the box you type your post in quite a bit bigger than its default, so you won’t feel like you’re typing in a really small space. If you set the posting box size to something like 26 lines, it will give you lots of room.

Have a look at the other settings. You may want to change your “Default Post Category” later on, once you’ve got a few categories, but it’s not a bad idea to have “Uncategorized” as your default for now. A Category is something like this: if you’re writing about pets, you could have one post that falls into the “Health” category, another about “Funny Tricks,” another about “Food,” and so on. You’ll think of new Categories as needed, with the different posts you make day after day.

For the time being, you probably don’t need to worry about anything else on this page.

Reading

The settings here determine how people will see the posts on their screen as they come to your WordPress blog. Usually a blog displays the latest post first, and as people read down the page, they read through previous posts in reverse order.

You can, if you want, create a single page that is the first thing anyone sees when they come to your blog, so that they have to click from there to get to the posts themselves. But for now, until you’re more familiar with how the blog works, just leave this setting at “Your latest posts.”

For the “Blog pages show at most” setting, you can decide how many posts a reader sees before they have to click to the next page. If you tend to make really long posts, you might set that number at 2 or 3, and for shortish posts, you might choose 6-10.

Discussion

The “discussion” refers to the comments people will leave on your blog, as well as your replies. Look at all the possible settings here, and decide how you want to allow people to comment.

One of your main concerns is how you’ll handle spam comments. You may get a lot of them, depending on how much your blog gets noticed. If you go down to “Other comment settings” and click the box for “Comment author must fill out name and e-mail,” you’ll eliminate some comments that are posted randomly on blogs by automatic robots. But that still won’t get rid of all of them, and keep in mind that real people sometimes get turned off when they have to jump through too many hoops just to comment on a blog.

Another thing that will help keep spam out of the comments is nearer the bottom of the page, in “Comment Moderation.” Spam often includes a lot of hyperlinks, so you can set the number of hyperlinks your WordPress blog should look for, and hold back for your moderation. You can also set words the program should look for, so if the comments contain those, again they are held for your approval.

Permalinks

If you’re just starting out with your WordPress blog and aren’t familiar with coding formats, you won’t do much with this setting, and yet it is important for you to make one particular choice here.

You’ve probably seen how you can go to a specific blog address and on the main page you’ll see several posts displayed down the page. But you can also click on one specific blog entry so you only see that particular page. You may not have noticed, but this single-blog post will have a different URL (web address) than the main blog. There will be some details added at the end of the main address.

You can decide how you want WordPress to distinguish each blog post from every other post. It can add the date and an abbreviation of the post title after the main blog address (e.g. on my own site, http://myshinyideas.com/2010/06/05/post-name/) or it might just give each new post a distinct number (e.g. “http://myshinyideas.com/archives/123). You can decide how each of your posts will be designated.

One More Tweak – “Users”

You’re done with the most important elements in the “Settings” category on your Dashboard, but there’s one more thing you should specify before you make that first post. Go farther up the margin when you’re on your Dashboard page. Click on “Users,” and in the drop-down menu, Click on “Your Profile.”

Under “Name,” you can decide what identification you’re going to have when your post shows up on the blog. Even if you have your first and last name listed there, you can make your posts under a nickname. So if your nickname is “Skippy,” and you designate the “Display name publicly as” menu with “Skippy,” that’s the signature that will be on all your posts.

You can put a bit of biographical information about yourself here too. Be careful how much you include. If this WordPress blog is for business, you probably want your full name and some business details, but if it’s just personal, then the more vague you are the better.

This is also the page you come to if you want to change the password you use to get into the blog.

At last you’re ready!

And that’s it! As you go along, you can make even more alterations as you get more used to all these settings. But these are the main things you’ll want to set up so you’ll be ready to make your posts.

So let’s get to it! Let’s make the first post on your brand new WordPress blog.