WordPress 101: Getting Organized

First, I would like to introduce your to Moultrie Tales. It is a site I created at WordPress.com to use as an example in this series. At the moment it doesn’t look like much. I have chosen a theme – Origin by DevPress – from the collection of free themes offered by WordPress. I chose it for its typography. I’ll show you later how to jazz up a simple theme with your post and sidebar content, but I can’t change the fonts in a theme without spending some money. So, my priority was to find a simple theme with great fonts.

Before starting to blog, it’s a good idea to spend some time setting up your organizational parameters. How you set it up will depend on what your goals are for your blog. For the purpose of this series, Moultrie Tales will be a family scrapbook – an assortment of family stories, photos, biographical sketches and other ephemera along with some research notes. My first question is how do I want to organize all this stuff? When someone visits my site, how do I want them to be able to browse through the content? I’ve chosen to organize the family stories by surnames and keep the research notes separate. WordPress categories will provide this level of organization for me. And, as I post stories, I can use tags to identify locations, time periods and other identifying associations for my posts.

With that decided, it’s time for a bit of set up.

Edit the default category to a category you’ll use most frequently.

The first step is to change the name of the uncategorized category to something useful. This is the default category – the one that will be automatically assigned if you don’t choose a specific category yourself – so it’s a good idea to rename it to the category you’ll use most often. In my case, it will become “Research Notes”. To edit, move your mouse over the category name and the little menu you see in this example will appear. Click on the Edit link, make your changes and save them.

Create categories using broad topics.

Now, using the form to the left of your category list, add more categories. You can always add new categories at any time. Even though I’ve added several categories, a visit to the public side of Moultrie Tales now lists “Research Notes” instead of “Uncategorized”, but you don’t see any of the other categories – yet. Posts must be created and assigned to a category before that category will appear on the public side.

So, now it’s time to get rid of the rest of the sample stuff. When a new site is created, it automatically includes a sample page – titled “About”, a sample post – titled “Hello World” – and a sample comment added to that post. While we’re at it, you’ll be able to see the basic differences between a page and a post. Let’s start with the sample About page.

The About page shows how this theme displays links to pages.

This theme displays links to pages to the right of the blog title. By clicking on the About link, you will open the About page. There’s not much to see as far as content is concerned, but there are other things of interest. This post is only one paragraph and below that are several social networking icons that are standard with WordPress.com. You can control this in your blog settings. We’ll look at them in-depth later in this series. Between the social icons and the comment box, you’ll notice a small Edit link. This is visible only when you’re logged in to your blog. If you look at the META section in the sidebar you’ll see an entry for Log out. If you weren’t logged in, it would show as Log in and this is where you would click to do that. Back to the Edit link – this is how you can quickly update this page. Click on the Edit link and WordPress will open this page in the page editor.

The page editor

First, let’s take a quick tour. At the top is the title box. Below that is information on this page’s permalink. You only see this information after a page has been saved the first time. Notice you can edit this link. This could be handy if your page has a lengthy title, but you don’t want all that text included in the link. There’s also a button to get the shortlink. WordPress.com has its own link shortening service which can be very handy if you want a short link to use – say in a Tweet.

Below that is the editing toolbar and the editing area. We’ll talk more about it in a separate post. To the right is the Publish box. Because this page is already published, it’s showing those details: status, visibility and datestamp. An unpublished page would display a Save Draft and Preview button where you currently see the Preview Changes button. It would also have a Publish button instead of the Update button. Then there’s the Move to Trash link. If you want to get rid of this page, this is one way to do it. It will move the page to the Trash area and it will no longer be visible on the site. It is not deleted, however, until you empty the trash.

Underneath the Publish section is the Page Attributes section. This is unique to WordPress pages. If your theme supports it, you have the opportunity to change the template for your page. With this theme, I have two options: the default template (with sidebar displayed) and a full screen template. Next is Order. This defines the hierarchical order of your pages and is used to define display elements on the public side – things like lists and auto-generated menus. These things and more will be discussed in detail in the upcoming Pages article.

I recommend editing the existing About page with some information about yourself and what you’re trying to do with your blog. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can update this page at any time and add/change information whenever you want. Once you’re finished, click on the Update button. When you get the notice that the page has been saved, click the View Page button up by the permalinks to see what your updated page looks like.

From here we’ll take a quick swing by the comments section and send that sample comment to the trash.

Now let’s take a look at that Hello World post. On the public side, click on the blog title – Moultrie Tales – to go to the blog’s home page. While you do see the entire content of the blog’s only post in this example, the home page generally displays the list or index view of your most recent articles. You define in the settings how many posts you want to display on the front page. You can also choose to display the entire post or just an excerpt.

The title of each post serves as a link which will open the post in its own read page. Notice the publish date, author and category of the blog appear just below the title. How and where this information appears depends on the theme. Some will also show how many comments are associated with this post. Again, since I’m logged in, we can see an Edit link which I’ll use to quickly make changes to this post.

The post editor screen

The biggest difference between the page editor and post editor screens is the Categories and Tags sections that replaces the Page Attributes section. Notice that Research Notes is checked. In this case, it’s the default category and will automatically be checked unless you check another category before saving the post for the first time. Although you can assign more than one category to a post, it’s best to keep to one whenever possible. Yes, if you are writing about the marriage of a Barker and a Barrett, that would make a good exception to the rule.

Categories are, by nature, very broad topics. That is where tags come in. You can have as many tags as you want attached to a post and use them to identify events, individuals, locations, dates, topics or whatever you want. Let’s say I’ve written five or six articles about my aunt, Mary Barker, and a couple more about her sister, Lin. By tagging each post with the individual’s first name, I can later use that tag to create and display just the posts about Aunt Mary.

Another thing you’ll notice about the post screen – the Excerpt box. I mentioned earlier that you can choose to display either the full post or an excerpt on the home page. One of the ways you create an excerpt is by using this box to write a custom excerpt. There are other ways, which will be discussed in more detail in the Post article. For now, you can edit this post to say whatever you want to say, then click on Update to display it on your site.

In addition to using categories to organize the presentation of content on your blog site, categories can make your editing and site management easier too. Below is a sample list of posts as displayed within your workarea. As you publish more and more posts, you’ll quickly create quite a collection. There will be times you want to refer back to a previous post or see what other posts you’ve written on a family or topic.  It can be quite tedious to wade through screen after screen of posts. Fortunately, you don’t have to.

Filtering by category

Just above the list of posts you’ll find several tools to filter your list. First, just to the right of the dark “pointer” that’s sticking out from the menu sidebar, you’ll see links to All, Published and Draft posts. Below and to the right of that is a drop-down where you can filter by date and next to it is the one I used to filter by category. In this example, I selected the Tales to Tell category, then clicked the Filter button. Now, my list only displays posts assigned that category.

I can also click on any of the tags displayed in the Tag column to filter posts by a specific tag. If all else fails, there’s the Search Posts function which will search all of that and the text of each post too.

After seeing how categories and tags function within WordPress, you should be ready to start organizing your site. Yes, you can add and update categories at any time, but it’s best to set some basic parameters before you begin. It also helps you define your own goals.

One last point I would like to make here. While Moultrie Tales has been set up to be a demonstration site for this WordPress 101 series, I do have an actual personal “scrapbook blog” at Moultrie Journal. It covers local history along with family history, is located on a self-hosted site instead of WordPress.com and has a more complex theme, but it is still much the same as the site we’re looking at here. It’s a whole lot easier to research and write a single story, but you’ll be surprised how fast your collection will grow. I am currently “constructing” a book using a collection of family stories I’ve already blogged. WordPress has made this effort a joy rather than a job. I hope it can do the same for you.

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