WordPress 101: Writing Your First Post

Wordpress 101 Tutorials

WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, with over 60 million downloads to date. There are many, many reasons for this, but the two biggest are probably that it’s both free and well supported.

This tutorial series will guide beginners through the essentials of WordPress, from downloading and installing the software, to writing and managing posts, to controlling the look and feel of their website.

This tutorial will cover logging into WordPress for the first time, writing, and publishing your first post.

Tutorial Requirements

This tutorial assumes you have a WordPress sites etup, and have right to login, write, and publish posts. If you haven’t setup your WordPress site yet, please refer to our first post in this series, Setting Up WordPress.

Estimated Completion Time: < 15 Minutes
Difficulty: Low

Logging into WordPress and Changing the Permalinks

Now that you’ve got it installed, it’s time to log into WordPress for the first time. You can access the login screen a few different way.

With a fresh install, you should have the “Meta” widget on your sidebar (we’ll get to widgets in a future tutorial). Among other things, this will have a login link in it. If you don’t have the Meta widget, you can always access the login page by going to address-for-your-site.com/wp-admin. Either way, you’ll see a login screen.

Enter your login and password to log into WordPress

Enter your username and password to log into WordPress

Enter your username and password and hit “Log In”. The first time you login, you’ll see a welcome screen with some useful information to help you get acclimated to the admin interface. A similar screen will display after updating the software to highlight new features.

Welcome to WordPress!

Welcome to WordPress!

There’s a lot in the admin to dive into, but we’re going to worry about that in the next installment. For now, we want to create our first post.

But before we do that, we’ll want to pick a Permalink structure. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, it isn’t. A permalink is simply the permanent URL to your post, page, etc. By default, WordPress permalinks are pretty ugly (it just assigns the post a number), so changing them is one of the first things you should do. On the left-hand menu, hover over “Settings” and then click “Permalinks” from the flyout menu.

Go to Settings > Permalinks to pick a permalink structure

Go to Settings > Permalinks to pick a permalink structure

You have a few different options when it comes to Permalinks, and you can always create you own. Read through your options and pick one that works for you, then click “Save Changes”.

Setting your permalink structure is one of the first things you should do with your new site

Setting your permalink structure is one of the first things you should do with your new site

Add a New Post

Now that we’ve got our permalinks set to something respectable, it’s time to create our first post. Simply hover over the “Posts” icon in the left-hand sidebar, then select “Add New” from the flyout menu. Alternatively, if you have the admin bar turned on (and it is by default) you could hover over the “+ New” button on the top admin page, then select “Post” from the flyout.

You can add a new post in a variety of ways
You can add a new post in a variety of ways

You probably noticed that you can add other things to your site as well, such as Pages and Links. We’ll tackle these in more depth in a later tutorial, but they all follow the same general process, which is one of the things that makes WordPress so approachable for new users.

Navigating the “Add New Post” Screen

Now that you’ve opened a new post, let’s take a look at some of the moving pieces.

There are a few different areas to play with when adding a new post
There are a few different areas to play with when adding a new post

At the top of your post is the title. For titles try to be descriptive and interesting; this is generally the first thing your readers will see, so you want to give the a reason to keep reading. It’s also a good idea to keep you titles to less than 70 characters, because this is all most search engines will display. If your title is longer than that, it will get cut off.

Once you enter a title and either save the post, or allow the auto-save feature to save it, a new area will show up displaying the full URL (permalink) to the post.

Below the title is the main content area. This is where you’ll do all your writing. There is a media upload tool, as well as toolbox, which is expandable by clicking the last button in the row. You can also switch between normal editing mode and HTML mode by clicking the tabs on the left. We’ll explore these options in the next section.

To the right you have a Publish box. This will allow you to save, preview, and publish your post. We’ll take a look at that in more detail shortly.

Next we have Format, which is a relatively new feature, introduced in WordPress 3.1. The formats can style various posts in different ways; you can read more about them in the Codex. One thing to note, not all themes will support all post formats, and some themes might not support them at all.

Below that you’ll find Categories and Tags. We’ll explore these in depth shortly.

Finally, we have the Featured Image, also known as the Post Thumbnail. This will set a – you guessed it – featured image for the post. Different themes will use this in different ways, but it commonly shows along with the excerpt of your post.

Writing the Post

Okay, let’s dive in and write this post!

The first thing we need to do is give the post a title. Like I said, try to be both description and interesting, but keep it under 70 characters. Once you add your title, the post permalink will be setup for you. This will vary depending on what permalink structure you chose, but the “slug” (the last part of the URL that pertains directly to this post) can be edited by clicking the “Edit” button. You can edit the permalink to your heart’s content before publishing your post, but be wary of doing to once the post goes live. Changing the permalink will break any links or bookmarks that point to the old permalink.

Add your post title, then watch the permalink show up

Add your post title, then watch the permalink show up

Next up is the content of the post itself. This is one area where WordPress really shines. Right out of the box, you get a powerful, yet easy to you content editor (also called a WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get). Most of the buttons here should be pretty obvious to anyone who has every written and email or used Microsoft Word. By default, you only see the first row of buttons. You can click the last button on the right to toggle the extra stuff (affectionately referred to as the “Kitchen Sink”).

Let’s take a look at the buttons:

The WordPress toolbar
The WordPress toolbar
  1. Bold
  2. Italic
  3. Strikethrough
  4. Unordered List – Start an unorderes/bulleted list
  5. Ordered List – Start an ordered/numbered list
  6. Blockquote – The styling for this item will vary by the theme you have installed, but generally it will indent the selected text and provide some padding around it. Some themes may also add stylized quotation marks or other visual cues.
  7. Align Left – Left justify content – this also works for images
  8. Align Center – Center align content – this also works for images
  9. Align Right – Right justify content – this also works for images
  10. Insert/Edit Link/Unlink – Link text or an image with the first button, remove a link from text or an image with the second
  11. Insert “More” Tag – This will make a break in your content so that people will need to click through to read the entire post
  12. Toggle Spellchecker – There are multiple language options available in the dropdown
  13. Toggle Fullscreen Mode – This will give you the full screen to write on, which is usually pretty handy
  14. Show/Hide Kitchen Sink – this toggles the second row of buttons
  15. The “Format” dropdown controls how content is displayed. It defaults to “Paragraph”, but you can use this to add Headlines and other items.
  16. Underline text – use this sparingly or not at all. When people see underlined text, they expect a clickable link
  17. Align Full – This will fully justify text
  18. Select Text Color – Changes the color of the highlighted text
  19. Paste as Plain Text – This will strip out all the formatting from content you’re pasting into your post
  20. Paste from Word – This will strip out all the extraneous formatting Microsoft Word applies to content
  21. Remove Formatting – Erases formatting from selected content
  22. Insert Custom Character – Use this to insert things like ® and Ω
  23. Outdent/Indent – Changed the indentation for selected content
  24. Undo/Redo – Undoes or redoes the previous action
  25. Help – Opens the help interface

Okay, that’s enough delaying, start typing up your blog! WordPress will automatically save as you go, but you can also click “Save Draft” from the Publish window on the right if you need to take a break. If you want to check out your work in progress, first save your draft, then click “Preview”.

You can save your work in progress and preview from the Publish panel

You can save your work in progress and preview from the Publish panel

Adding Images/Media

Now that you’ve got some text in there, let’s spruce things up with some imagery. Click the “Upload/Insert” link right above the toolbars.

Click "Upload/Insert" to launch the Add Media interface

Click "Upload/Insert" to launch the Add Media interface

WordPress recently redid it’s Add Media interface, combining what used to be four different tools into one, easy to use utility. You have a few different options here. You can drag images directly into the box, you can browse to them on your computer, use a link from somewhere on the internet, or use something you’ve previously uploaded into the library.

You can add images and other media in a variety of ways

You can add images and other media in a variety of ways

Since this is our first post, let’s just find an image on our computer. Click “Select Files”, then browse to an image you have saved on your computer.

Once your image is uploaded, you’ll see a screen with a few options on it. This will allow you to give your image:

  • An Alt Tag: Alternative text for the image, in case it doesn’t load or for users with visual disabilities
  • A Title Tag: This is what shows in the mouse-over text, most people make this the same as the alt tag
  • A Caption: This displays directly under the image
  • A Description: This is used in the Media Library
  • Link URL: This will make the image a clickable link that goes to whatever URL you put here. By default, it’s the URL to the full-sized image
  • Alignment: How the image is aligned in you post
  • Size: How large the image is
Once the image is uploaded you can add things like a caption or Alt tags

Once the image is uploaded you can add things like a caption or Alt tags

You can insert the image into the post, save it to the library, or use it as the featured image (thumbnail) for the post. In this case, let’s insert it into our post. Once the image is inserted into the post, you can click to select it and change it’s alignment. Aligning it right or left will make the text float around it, like so:

You can float your content around the image

You can float your content around the image

Categories and Tags

These are two of WordPress’ default taxonomies. A taxonomy is just a fancy word for a way to organize content. Generally speaking, a post will be organized into one Category, but use Several tags. Categories should be more general, while tags should be more specific.

For instance, if you were writing a review of a movie you just saw, you might put it in the “Reviews” category. But you would go into more detail on tags. You might have tags for genre (Adventure, Sci Fi, Horror, etc.), the director or stars (Martin Scorsese, George Clooney, etc.) your rating (Five Stars, Grade A, etc.) or any number of other ways that allow your readers to find your content. You can also create custom taxonomies.

You’ll want to think about what categories you’re going to use in your blog. You don’t want ten thousand categories with one or two posts in each one, but you also want to give your readers the ability to browse them without being overwhelmed.

For this post, I’m going to add a new Category called “Networking”. Simply click “+ Add New Category” at the bottom of the panel, type the name of your Category, and click “Add New Category” (you can ignore Parent Category for now). “Networking” has been added, however the blog is also being put into the default, “Uncategorized” category. To fix this, simply remove the check from “Uncategorized”.

Adding a new category is very simple

Adding a new category is very simple

Tags are even simpler to add. Just type them into the text box in the Tags panel, seperating each item with a comma, and click “Add”. For instance, since this post is talking about starting a unicycle gang, I might use “Unicycle, Gang, Friends” as tags. Tags allow your readers to find similar articles, so make sure you use tags that are helpful and will be used again in the future.

Seperate each tag with a comma

Seperate each tag with a comma

Your categories and tags will display in the post’s meta information, which can vary from one theme to another:

Our category and tags on the WordPress 2011 theme

Our category and tags on the WordPress 2011 theme

Publishing

Now that our first post is finished, it’s time to publish it. This really simple to do, just press the big blue “Publish” button on the right and you’re all set.

Of course, sometimes it’s not that simple. What if you want to write a post today, but have it published the day after tomorrow? Or what if you want to have today’s post appear behind some more recent posts in the timeline? Well that’s pretty easy too.

Right about the “Publish” button is a small calendar icon with the words “Publish immediate Edit”. If you click edit you can tell WordPress when you want this post to be published by setting a date and time.

You can tell WordPress exactly when a post should be published

You can tell WordPress exactly when a post should be published

Once you set the date and time and hit “Ok”, the “Publish” button will change to “Schedule”.

Reviewing and Editing

Now that we’ve published our post, let’s say we find something we need to change. A typo, or a reference we neglected to add, perhaps. WordPress makes this really simple for us.

If you have the admin turned on by default, you can simply browse to the post, and click “Edit Post”.

Alternatively, if you’re logging into the admin you can click the Posts > All Posts button on the left tool back, and then select the post you want to edit from the list.

You can edit the post in a couple of different ways

You can edit the post in a couple of different ways

Once you’ve selected a post to edit, it works just like writing it the first time around. Make your changes, and then click “Update”, which has replaced the “Publish” button on the right. Easy!

Conclusion

We’re done! You’ve just written your first post in WordPress! Using this tutorial you should be able to write posts, publish, and edit already published posts. You’re on your way to being a WordPress rockstar. Or at least a WordPress roadie.

In this tutorial we covered the following:

Be sure to check back for the next portion of this series, where we will discuss navigating the admin interface.

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