WordPress basics

An overview of how WordPress and how Tantramar Interactive Inc. typically configures WordPress-based websites — if you have questions, please get in touch!

What is WordPress?

  • WordPress is a web-based content-management system (CMS) with a blogging heritage.
  • WordPress is free, open-source software published at WordPress.org, distinct from their hosted service WordPress.com (from the same organization).
  • Your WordPress site is hosted and managed by Tantramar Interactive Inc. It was downloaded, installed, configured, and is hosted and is updated by Tantramar Interactive Inc., making it available on the world-wide web.
  • Multi-lingual sites are typically configured as fully-independent WordPress installs to segregate user accounts and language-specific-content (e.g. keyword search results).
  • Types of WordPress user accounts (below) outlines account privileges and limitations.
  • Content and style guide has lots of useful tips to make your site easy to use — from clear writing to linking to embedding images and PDFs.

Types of WordPress content

  • Posts — suitable for regularly-written articles (so-called blog posts; news items that may be ephemeral. Posts typically include their date of publication as part of their web address.
  • Pages — more static information, typically included in a site’s main menu; web address typically does not include date of publication.
  • Media — images or documents, which can be included in Pages and Posts; stored in an internal Library.

WordPress 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.

Posts typically have an address in the form of yoursite.com/2020/05/title/ or yoursite.com/category/title/, and may include a comment form, allowing visitors to comment publicly.

Posts and taxonomy (classification)

  • Categories — every post must have a category assigned to it (if you forget, it may be assigned “uncategorized” by default). You may have many categories, but you don’t need many. Visitors to your site will be able to click on a category and see every post assigned to it. You can assign multiple categories to a single post
  • Tags — typically used more granularly than categories; therefore more specific and numerous. Again, many Tags can be assigned to a Post.

WordPress 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/, 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 (they will not show up in the site’s navigation until an Administrator updates the menu).

WordPress Media

See WordPress’ detailed page on Media for more.

  • 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. Related: Publishing PDFs: how to make a website harder to use.
  • Links — you can insert links to other websites. Related: Why opening off-site links in new windows is a bad idea

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 users to be logged-in to access some content)
  • Contributor — can write their own content but require an Editor to publish it
  • Author — can write, edit, and publish their own content (but no one else’s)
  • Editor — can write, edit, and publish their own content — or any other users’
  • Administrator — all other privileges plus the ability to configure WordPress; manage user accounts, Themes, Menus, Widgets; install and update WordPress core software; and manage plug-ins.

Those responsible for day-to-day content updates should be using an Author or Editor account. WordPress is, after all, a content-management system. Changes beyond content — configuration or appearance — are made by the 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”, the only person you’re kidding 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 browser support for them is still experimental years after it was introduced.

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.