WordPress basics

You’ve already been provided with login information for your site along with any site-specific information you may need. This page is to give you a quick overview of how your WordPress-based site works. If you have questions, please get in touch.

About WordPress

  • WordPress is free, open-source software published at WordPress.org.
  • Broadly speaking, WordPress is a content-management system. See Putting the CMS (content-management system) in context for some big-picture ideas on what to expect — and not expect — a CMS to do for you.
  • The copy of WordPress on your site was downloaded, installed, and configured for you by Tantramar Interactive Inc., and is not hosted by WordPress. Backups, software updates (both the WordPress core and third-party plug-ins), and configuration of WordPress are looked after for you as part of your hosting service.
  • Multi-lingual websites are typically configured as fully-independent WordPress installs to segregate users and content such as keyword search results.
  • Tantramar Interactive Inc. is the Administrator of your site.
  • You are an Editor or an Author of your site’s content. In broad terms, editors can edit others’ Pages or Posts, while authors can only revise their own. Each user in your organization who is authorized to publish content on your site should have their own user account.
  • Some WordPress features, such as changing or editing Themes, Menus, or Widgets, managing user accounts, or managing WordPress itself (e.g. applying software updates or adding plug-ins) are limited to administrative users.

Types of WordPress content

Though originally meant for blogging, WordPress has become popular as a more general content-management system (CMS), a platform suitable for publishing both regularly-written articles (typically blog Posts) or news items, and items that change much less frequently (typically Pages).

Posts

Whether you have a blog on your site or are publishing news items, meeting notes, announcements or any other kind of regularly-updated content, it is considered a blog post in the context of WordPress. Blog posts typically have an address in the form of yoursite.com/2013/05/title/ or yoursite.com/category/title/, and often include a comment form, allowing registered users to comment on your post (this can be disabled easily, either site-wide or on specific posts).

Posts and taxonomy (classification)

  • Categories — every post must have a category assigned to it (if you forget, it may be assigned “uncategorized” as a default category). You may add as many of your own categories as you like, but it probably makes sense to have a few (5 or 10) very broad categories. Visitors to your site will be able to click on categories and see a list of every post that was assigned to the category. Examples of categories might be (for a retailer’s site): “Our Customers”, “New Products”, “Product Reviews”, or “Staff Profiles”. You can put a post into as many categories as you like.
  • Tags — these are typically used in a more granular way than categories, and therefore they’ll be more specific and there will be more of them. For our retailer example, to go with a post under the “New Product” category, we might add tags like the manufacturer’s name, the product line, “new”, “sale”, and the types of activities or projects you can do with the product.

Pages

Content that won’t change very often, such as your site’s About, Contact, or Services content, is usually published as a Page. Pages typically have addresses like yoursite.com/page-title-here/, and usually don’t include comment forms (though they can if you wish; it is a site-wide setting). Pages can be organized hierarchically by assigning them ‘parents’.

Other types of content you can publish

See WordPress’ detailed page on Media for more detailed instructions.

  • Images — you can upload image files to your site and place them within posts or pages. They can also be organized into galleries (see below).
  • Videos — The easiest way to incorporate video on your site is to post it to a video-sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo, and paste the embed link into your WordPress post or page.
  • Files — you can attach PDFs and Microsoft Office files to posts and pages.
  • Links — you can insert links to other websites.

Special pages

Types of WordPress user accounts

WordPress supports a hierarchy of account types, each of which have different capabilities:

  • Subscriber — read-only access (typically used on sites that require an account to be able to access some or all content)
  • Contributor — can write their own Posts but require an Editor to publish them
  • Author — can write, edit, and publish their own Posts (but no one else’s)
  • Editor — can write, edit, and publish any user’s Posts
  • Administrator — all privileges of an Editor, plus the ability to configure WordPress, manage user accounts, apply and edit WordPress Themes, manage Menus and Widgets, install and update WordPress core software, and manage third-party WordPress plug-ins.

Customers should normally be using an Author– or Editor-level account. WordPress is, after all, a content-management system, and changes beyond the site’s content should be made by a experienced administrator. An Administrator account in the wrong hands can easily result in a publicly-broken website and an expensive, time-consuming restore/repair bill. Most of the minor changes that customers feel they need Administrator access for are changes that will be done at no charge — which helps keep everyone safe and happy.

Keep page layout simple

One of the biggest temptations when using software like WordPress is to take its Microsoft Word-style of visual presentation on faith — that what you see will be what you get. If only things were that simple.

The promise of easy-to-implement page layout can be especially tantalizing if you mostly access the web from a desktop or laptop computer. The fancier you get with page layouts, though — for example, wrapping text around images, inserting tables, or attempting multi-column layout — the more disappointed you’re going to be. Even things as basic as font-size preferences on your own devices can seriously impact differences between what you see and what others experience.

Word processors like Microsoft Word — which WordPress’ visual toolbar emulates — are a relic of a time when computer output mostly targeted standard-sized sheets of paper, but Web pages aren’t paper. Screen sizes vary from 320 to well over 5000 pixels wide. If you justify a decision to focus on desktop browsers by telling yourself that “most people use a screen like mine”, understand that the only person you’re fooling is yourself.

How to keep page layout simple

  • Make no assumptions about your readers’ screen sizes
  • Trust that most of the design decisions for your site have already been made as part of your website’s theme, and rely mostly on simple HTML elements like headings and lists to provide your page with structure; avoid the temptation to fiddle with fonts, colours, and over-use of bold or italic.
  • When you insert images, don’t insert them to the left or right, with text wrapping around them — just insert them between paragraphs.
  • Don’t even think about multi-column layouts — the behind-the-scenes coding required to make these work reliably across browsers and the various screen sizes available is not for beginners, and the details of the techniques used for these advanced layouts are still somewhat experimental.

Simple layouts might not be as flashy, but they will work much, much better, especially on phones and smaller tablets.

Even if you don’t care about these details and want to implement flashier layouts for desktop users, remember that search engines like Google do care about mobile users’ experience on your site, and they will punish your site in their search rankings if you fail to heed this advice.