How to Use WordPress: The Guide

WordPress is notoriously easy to pick up. In fact, that’s one of the reasons so many websites use the platform. However, there’s still a learning curve, thanks to its many features and options.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you understand WordPress and begin using it effectively. Let’s start from the top!

How to Make a WordPress Website

Before you create your website, you’ll need both a domain name and web hosting. Your domain can be thought of as your ‘address’ on the internet. Most often, you’ll purchase it through a dedicated registrar (such as Whois):

How to Make a WordPress Website

As for your site’s hosting, this is even easier. WP Engine is the leading provider of managed WordPress hosting, and we have plans available for every budget and niche.

Once you have these two elements in place, it’s time to actually install WordPress.

How to Install WordPress

Many web hosts provide various ways to install WordPress. However, you’ll often still need some technical knowledge in order to get your site up and running.

However, WP Engine users have it much easier. We’ve covered how to set up the platform in a previous Resource Center article. To sum the process up, you’ll want to:

  1. Log in to your User Portal, and click on the Installs tab.
  2. In the navigation bar, click on Add Install.
  3. Fill in a few details about your site.
  4. Click on Create Install, and await an email with your new credentials.

After that, you’ll be able to log into your new WordPress installation. That means you can begin customizing it!

How to Install a WordPress Theme

For the uninitiated, themes are essentially ‘skins’ that dictate how your website looks (although they can also include extra functionality). There are thousands to choose from, many available for free in the Theme Directory.

If you have the budget, you can also purchase a premium theme from a site such as ThemeForest. This will typically provide you with greater support, and more frequent updates.

Once you’ve chosen a theme, installing it is easy. Log into your WordPress dashboard, navigate to the Appearance > Themes screen, and click on Add New at the top:

How to Install a WordPress Theme

If you’re choosing a free theme, you can simply search through the list of options, and pick one you like. Then, clicking the blue Install button (and after that, the Activate button) will install it on your website:install wordpress theme

However, if you’ve purchased a premium theme, you’ll need to follow a different procedure. These themes come as packaged ZIP files, which you’ll need to save to your computer. Then in WordPress, go to the Add Themes screen, and click the Upload Theme button:

Upload wordpress Theme

From here, select the theme file, and choose Install Now. Click on Activate once the theme has been installed, and it will become active on your site.

Finally, at some point you may decide that you want to switch your theme. To do that, head back to the Appearance > Themes screen, and simply click Activate on whatever theme you want to use. You can do this as many times as you like, although you’ll want to check your content afterwards to make sure it looks alright.

How to Create a Home Page in WordPress

WordPress offers you two ways to present your home page. By default, your site’s home page will be a list of your most recent blog posts.

However, you can switch to a static home page through the Settings > Reading screen. Look for the radio buttons under Your homepage displays, and select A static page. Then, choose any page you want to use from the drop-down menu:

How to Create a Home Page in WordPress

Once you save your changes, you can check out your site on the front end to see your new home page displayed.

How to Add Content to Your WordPress Site

Adding content to your WordPress site is one of the first skills you’ll need to learn. Let’s look at how to add three key types of content.

How to Add Text to Your WordPress Site

Before you can add text to your site, you’ll need to create either a post or page. Posts are for blog entries, news articles, and so on, while pages are designed for content that rarely changes, such as your Contact and About pages.

To create either, hover over Posts or Pages and click on Add New:

How to Add Text to Your WordPress Site

At this point, you’ll be presented with the WordPress editor, which is how you’ll create content:

How to Add Content to Your WordPress Site

From here you can simply begin typing, using the toolbar to format your content appropriately.

How to Add Images to Your WordPress Site

You’ll also want to add images to your site. The most common way to do this is to insert your images directly into a post or page.

This process will be familiar if you’ve ever used a word processor. You’ll need to place your cursor at the position where you want to insert your image, then select the Add Media button. This will bring up the Add Media dialogue. From here, you can either drag and drop images onto the page, or upload them using the File Selector.

You’ll then see the image you’ve added in the right-hand menu, along with a number of boxes to customize its title, ‘alt’ text, caption, and sizing:

How to Add Images to Your WordPress Site

Then, all you have to do is select Insert into post or Insert into page (as relevant), and you’re done.

How to Add Videos to Your WordPress Site

You can add videos to WordPress by uploading them into your Media Library, exactly as described above. However, WordPress recognizes that videos can also be found on (and shared from) dedicated sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

Fortunately, adding these types of videos to your content is a breeze. All you’ll need is the video’s URL. Then, paste it wherever you want the video to appear within a page or post:

How to Add Videos to Your WordPress Site

The URL will automatically turn into an embedded video. That’s all there is to it!

How to Add a Blog to Your WordPress Site

WordPress is ideal for many types of sites, but blogs are still one of its most popular applications. To create your own blog, you’ll first need to create a dedicated ‘archive’ page for your posts.

To do this, head to Pages > Add New in WordPress, which will bring you to an editor screen. From there, title the page “Blog”, and then hit Publish. There’s no need to add content to this page:

How to Add a Blog to Your WordPress Site

Next, head to the General > Reading section, and find the radio buttons under Your homepage displays. Under A static page, choose the page you’ve just created from the Posts page drop-down menu:

Add blog to wordpress site

Once you save your changes, you can see your new blog page by simply adding /blog to your site’s primary URL. This page should display a list of your most recent posts.

At this point, you’re ready to explore some more advanced WordPress functionality.

How to Add and Delete Categories in WordPress

Taxonomies are WordPress’ way of classifying posts (but not pages). There are two types of taxonomies you can use: categories and tags. You can think of categories as akin to chapters in a book. They should be broad topics that help to organize your various content.

To assign categories to a post, open it up and scroll down until you see the Categories meta box in the right-hand sidebar:

How to Add and Delete Categories in WordPress

From here, you can either check off the categories you wish to assign, or add new ones using the Add New Category link.

If you’d like to edit your categories, you can do that in the Posts > Categories screen:

 Add categories to wordpress

You can also add or delete categories from this screen. To do the latter, simply check the box next to any categories you want to remove, and then select Delete from the Bulk Actions drop-down menu:

wordpress categories

Hovering over an individual category gives you the opportunity to delete it too, or to edit its details:

wordpress categories and tags

As we mentioned, of course, categories aren’t the only type of WordPress taxonomy.

How to Add Tags to a Post in WordPress

Unlike categories, tags can be thought of as the entries in a book’s index. They should be highly-specific terms that describe what your post is about. Generally, you’ll want to keep them short and lowercase:

How to Add Tags to a Post in WordPress

To add tags, open up a post and scroll down until you see the Tags meta box:

Wordpress tags

To add a fresh tag, simply type it into the text field, and hit Enter when you’re done. To delete them, click on the X symbol next to each tag you want to remove.

As with categories, tags also have a dedicated administrative page, found at Posts > Tags. Editing or deleting tags from here follows exactly the same process as it does for categories.

How to Customize Your WordPress Site

One of the major benefits of WordPress is how flexible it can be. Most of the customizations you can make are located within the WordPress Customizer, which can be found by navigating to Appearance > Customize:

How to Customize Your WordPress Site

There are a wealth of options here, and what’s on offer will depend on your active theme. However, you’ll often find that this screen can help you change your logo, site title and tagline, color schemes and fonts, and much more.

In fact, you’re not restricted to the default options. If you want to add further functionality, such as to optimize images or increase your site’s security, you’ll need to turn to plugins.

Installing WordPress Plugins

We’ve covered what plugins are elsewhere in the Resource Center. To sum them up briefly, they’re add-ons that provide new features and functionality for WordPress. Plus, they’re simple to install on your site.

To do this, head to Plugins > Add New within your dashboard:

Installing WordPress Plugins

Here, you can search for a specific plugin, or browse around. Once you’ve found a plugin you like, click on its Install Now button. Once the plugin is installed, the button text will change to Activate, and you’ll want to select that as well.

After adding a plugin to your site, you’ll usually find new tabs within the WordPress dashboard that let you use its functionality. You’ll want to visit these new sections to explore all of the plugin’s options.

Recommended WordPress Plugins

So, what plugins should you install? The answer to that question will be based on your unique requirements, needs, and goals. However, we do consider some plugins to be essential for the smooth running of your website.

In fact, we’ve looked at plenty of these tools in the past. For example, Yoast SEO can help you rank better in search engines. For a more comprehensive selection, we invite you to download our free e-book on the subject, and check out some of our previous articles within the Resource Center.

How to Preview Your WordPress Site

Whenever you make changes to your WordPress site, it’s important to test them out before you make them live. At the very least, you should proofread your content for any typos or grammar mistakes, and have multiple people try using the site to make sure that all functionality works as it should.

The easiest way to see what your site actually looks like is via the Live Preview screen. You can find this by heading to Appearance > Customize, which will show a preview of your site next to the customization options:

This lets you see how your site will appear to visitors, and gives you the opportunity to make further changes. You can also preview individual posts and pages:

Preview Your WordPress Site

This is perfect for seeing how your formatting looks on the front end. In fact, it’s one of the most useful features when developing your site and content.

Common WordPress Mistakes

Although much of WordPress is intuitive, there are still some fairly common mistakes that new users make. Here are five pieces of advice to help you avoid making those mistakes yourself:

  1. Always update your theme, plugins, and WordPress itself whenever you’re prompted to. This ensures that your site is not subject to security vulnerabilities.
  2. Don’t use the default admin username, and select a strong password. These are two common weak points when it comes to security breaches.
  3. Only install the plugins you need, and make sure you uninstall those you’re no longer using. This helps with security, and can keep resource usage to a minimum.
  4. Make changes to WordPress’ default settings, in order to fully customize your site. This includes setting up your permalinks, implementing branding, and more.
  5. Finally, we recommend creating a ‘child theme’ and testing any layout and design changes there for safety reasons. Making changes to your live site or ‘parent’ theme can negatively impact your traffic levels.

These tasks may take a little practice. However, they’ll soon become second nature as you get more comfortable with WordPress.

Frequently Asked Questions About WordPress (FAQs)

Of course, many WordPress beginners have plenty of questions to ask about the platform. Asking questions is vital, but finding the right answers can take up valuable time if you don’t know where to look.

We’ve covered most of the basics already throughout this post. However, there are a few more questions you may find yourself wondering about, including:

Google will be your friend whenever you have a WordPress question, as there are a wealth of articles available to help you on practically every subject. However, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting advice from reputable sites that are staffed with genuine experts, as good advice will (of course) speed up your development.

Advancing Your WordPress Skills

Even after you’ve learned how to set up and customize a website, there’s always something new to learn about WordPress. In fact, given how frequently WordPress’ is updated, there’s also new functionality being added to the platform all the time.

To keep up, it’s a smart idea to subscribe to one or more WordPress blogs or newsletters. This will help you keep your finger on the ‘pulse’ of WordPress, and also ensure that any breaking news is reaching your inbox.

Our sister blog – Torque – is ideal for boosting your WordPress knowledge. What’s more, there’s even a newsletter you can subscribe to!

Get Support for More Common WordPress Questions from WP Engine

Regardless of your current WordPress skill level, you’ll sometimes need a helping hand for those times when you can’t find an answer to your question or problem.

With that in mind, we’ve created a comprehensive Resource Center, which full of handy advice on how to use WordPress. In fact, our support documentation is just as carefully put together as our hosting plans themselves. This means you can rely on us, whatever your situation may be!

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