So you’ve just installed your new WordPress theme and when you type in your website address, what you see is nothing like what you dreamed of. There’s clearly work to be done here. But where do you start?
Before I answer that question, let me make 4 things clear:
- This post is strictly for beginners
- There’ll be no coding
- We’ll avoid advanced customisation methods
- As boring as this process might be, you need it
I’ll break the post in 2 main parts with their sub-parts as below:
Part 1: The Basics
- General settings
- Demo content & required plugins
- Theme settings and appearance
Part 2: The Extras
- Optimising for SEO and speed
- Your foundation pages
: : : :
Part 1: The Basics
Why do we need any website setup at all? We need it to make your site look good, do what it’s supposed to do for visitors and help search engines crawl it.
We want people to know in a quick glance what your website is about, who owns it, how to contact you, as well as help search engines tell people they are welcome to your online house.
Although the setup process might be boring, it is important. And the good news is that you won’t have to do it everyday.
1. General Settings
There’s a lot you can set up here, but I will only show you the most important. Feel free to explore every one of these areas after your initial set up.
Let’s setup your website’s name and tag line.
Please log onto your WordPress dashboard. Go to: InsertYourAddressHere.com/wp-admin
- In your dashboard menu, select “Settings”. Notice that when you click on any item in this menu, its submenu appears.
- We want the first item: Settings > General
- Fill in your website’s name
- Fill in your tag line or a give a short descriptive of your site.
You can go ahead and fill any other relevant field down this page. Remember to save.When people have many tabs open on their browser, your name and tag line should now appear when they hover over your tab. It will also appear in Google search results.
Let’s set up how your links appear.
The way your links are written can help or hinder your SEO. To help search engines fall in love with your links, we need to set them up.
- Under your settings menu, select “Permalinks” (Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks).
- Select the “post name” radio button from the list that appears. Save your changes.
Let’s choose your homepage.
At the moment, you probably don’t have much content on your website. Later in this article, I’ll show you how to import demo content to begin your website’s life with. After we do that, you may come back to this section and select any page as your homepage.
To define your homepage, go to Dashboard > Settings > Reading.
If you want to show your latest blog posts as your homepage, select the corresponding option.
Otherwise select “A Static Page”, and from the drop down list, choose which page should be your home page (it is likely that your theme has a page called “Home”. You may select that). Save your changes.
To keep your site visible to search engines, keep the following checkbox UNCHECKED: “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”
Do you want some spam with those comments?
I don’t think so. Here’s how you set your commenting rules.
Go to Settings > Discussion. And based on the options provided, set your rules. For example, under “Before a comment appears”, you could select “Comment must be manually approved”; and so on. Remember to save your changes.
2. Demo Content & Required plugins
If your WordPress theme were a dress, your demo content would be the mannequin wearing it at the shops.
After purchasing your theme you could chose to wear it however you choose, but with a mannequin you’d have a better idea of how the theme author intended his theme to be worn. Demo content includes sample pages, posts, menus, images, etc.
Importing a demo content is like bringing home the mannequin.
2.1 There Are 2 Main Ways To Import Demo Content
- Using your theme’s inbuilt importer, or
- Using your WordPress import function
How To Import Demo Content Using Your Theme Settings
The most common method is to go to Appearance > Theme Settings
Within your theme settings window, look for “Demo“, “Demo Content“, or “Import“. Clicking on it will give you access to a one-click import button. Alternatively, it will open a Demo Content Install frame.
Within your Demo Content Install frame, locate the version of your theme that you prefer. If you hover on it, you will be given the option to preview it. Do that, or click on “install” to import your demo content.
The explanation above assumes that you had no prior content on your website and that this is your very first install. Otherwise, I would suggest you backup your data first.
How To Import Demo Content Using The WordPress Import Option
Certain themes (like the Genesis child themes) come with a demo .XML file. To extract it, open the theme .Zip file you purchased and locate your .XML file. It’s the file that ends with “.xml”. Remember where it is located or temporarily save it somewhere you can find it.
- Next, within your WordPress dashboard, go to Tools > Import
- In the list, find “WordPress” and click on “Run Importer.”
- “Choose a file” , then select the .XML demo file within your computer.
- “Upload file & Import”.
- In the next window, next to “or assign post to an existing user”, select yourself (in both cases).
- Under the title “Import Attachments”, check the radio button to “download and import file attachments”.
- Click on “Submit”.
You should be good to go now.
2.2 Let’s Install Your Basic Plugins
Plugins are the little applications that add functionality to your website. For example, if your website did not come with a contact form and you don’t know how to code it in, you should be able to find a plugin to do that for you. The same applies to most functions.
Every theme has a list of plugins it needs to run properly. After you’ve installed your demo content, the notification zone of your WordPress dashboard will suggest a list of plugins to install.
- Click on “Begin installing plugins”
- In the next window, under each plugin name click on “install”
- Then click on “activate”
To do it quicker, select all your themes from the list and use the “Bulk Actions” drop down button to assign a general instruction.
If you did not get a notification to install “required” plugins, manually install these.
- Askimet – To filter out spamming from your post comments.
- Contact form 7 – Helps people message you directly from your website.
- Vaultpress – To back up your website’s data.
- iThemes Security – To secure your website from various forms of malicious attack.
- Duplicate Post – To clone the pages and post formats you like, so you don’t always build from scratch.
- Cookie consent – To display a cookie consent pop up. Crucial if you collect any user data.
To install any of them, go to Plugins > Add New
In the “Search Plugins” bar, type in your plugin’s name.
Once found, click on “Install Now”… Then “Activate”.
3. Theme Settings And Appearance
Here, we will set up 3 things:
- Your Header & Footer
- Your Menus (and their locations)
- Your Identity (colours, etc)
To do that, our main area of interest within your dashboard will be “Appearance”. Specifically, the following subsections:
- Theme settings
“Theme settings” and “Customize” do a lot of the same things. “Menu” only deals with menus. As for “Widgets”,
a widget is a small operational area. You can install almost anything within a widget; a plugin, a text, a button, an image, anything. Most website footers contain multiple widgets. Hence, to edit your footer you can either edit its widgets or edit the footer itself.
3.1 How To Edit Your Footer and Header
Within your header, you may want to replace your logo for example. If you already have a logo in your computer, go to:
Dashboard > Appearance> Theme Settings > Header
OR Dashboard > Appearance> Customize> Header
If you do not yet have a logo, visit PatooDesign to get a logo you’ll be proud to show.
Dashboard > Appearance> Theme Settings > Footer
OR Dashboard > Appearance> Customize> Footer
If you can’t edit your footer using the method above, you may need to edit the Widgets within your footer instead. Go to:
Dashboard > Appearance> Customize> Widgets> Footer 1 widget (or 2, 3 etc)
Dashboard > Appearance> Widgets > Footer 1 widget (or 2, 3, etc)
3.2 How To Edit Your Menus
Your website can have multiple menus. One in your header and one in your footer for example. In your initial theme setup, you may not yet have things to edit on your menu. But as you build content and develop a better idea of what you want your site to achieve, you can always come back here to move things around.
I will however show you how to edit your menus now, just in case. Go to: Dashboard > Appearance > Menus
Your menu window has 3 parts:
- A top area – Where you can select which menu to edit.
- A left area – It contains the items you can add to your menu.
- A middle area – It displays the current menu you are editing.
- A bottom area – Use it to allocate your menu to a specific location.
Step by step, do the following.
In the top Menu window area:
Next to “Select a menu to edit”, choose the menu you wish to change and click “edit”. Your right menu area will change. If you don’t have any menu to edit yet, click on “create a new menu”.
In the Left menu area:
It is a drop-down carousel menu divided into “Pages”, “Blog Posts”, “Custom Links”, “Categories”, etc. By default, the “Pages” shelf will be open. To add anything from this list to your current menu, check its radio button and click on the “Add to menu” button.
In the Middle menu area:
In this drag-and-drop area you can either arrange menu items in any order, or edit each menu element. To edit individual menu items, click on their drop-down arrow and change their properties accordingly.
In the Bottom area:
Once you’re satisfied with your menu’s content, check the radio button next to the location to which you wish to assign your newly minted menu.
3.3 How To Edit Your Identity
By identity I mean your colours, logo, favicon and visual branding. You can change them all within your “Theme Settings” and “Customize” windows.
To change your main colours (footer colours, buttons, backgrounds, etc) go to:
Dashboard > Appearance > Theme Settings > Colours (or Styling)
To add a Favicon, go to:
Dashboard > Appearance > Customize > Site Identity > Site icon
If you do not yet have a site icon, a colour scheme your visitors will love or a logo your customers can trust, do yourself a favour: Get a beautiful identity package from PatooDesign.
Part 2: The Extras
- Optimising for SEO and speed
- Your foundation pages
Everything you’ve done so far was good. But for a great start to your website’s life, you’ll want to make it lightning fast for your visitors, easy to index by Google and tend to future legal liabilities.
We will explore that in Part 2.
To book a session, click here. Otherwise, continue to Part 2 (Coming Soon).