There are some basic settings that you’ll want to fill in, no matter what theme you’ve chosen to use. Before we get too far into customization and other things, I want to go over these really quickly, and some of them are self-explanatory.
We looked at themes and plugins first because sometimes they come with additional settings to fill out and it’s often easier to play fill-in-the-blanks all at one time.
First, login to your WordPress Dashboard on your site and then click on Settings. It will start you off in the General Settings section.
The first thing under General Settings is your Site Title. Enter what you’d like it to been seen as in that box.
Second is tagline, same thing. I like to use a keyword phrase in this part, something that describes what you do and why people would be looking for you.
WordPress Address and Site Address, enter your URL the way you want it to be displayed here.
Email address for admin purposes, this is the email you want update notifications to go to.
Membership and new user roles can be skipped, you really don’t want author and user registrations to be open on this site.
Set your timezone and preferred date format.
Click Save Settings.
The next sub-section under settings is Writing
There’s not a lot to change in here right now. You can choose a default post category where blog posts will go if you forget to choose a category (that’s if you’re going to blog, if you’re not then you can skip it entirely right now)
Some people like to add more sites to the Update Services (aka the ping list,) but it’s an optional step since the default included lists will ping most services anyway.
The next sub-section under settings is Reading
Mostly everything here can stay the default.
At the top of this page you can choose whether to display your latest blog posts or a static page. We’re going to use a static page. (You may need to come back to this section to update this checkbox after you create your pages.)
It’s worth mentioning that depending on your framework and child theme, you might also have additional options for homepage customization in your theme settings later on.
You can change the number of posts to display in a feed and whether to show full posts or just snippets.
The Follower Settings at the bottom of the page are the messages that would be sent if someone were to follow you via the WordPress account system. Chances are you’re going to want to add a mailing list at some point, so you may not need these, but you can take a few minutes to customize them if you’d like.
Don’t forget to click on Save Changes.
The next sub-section under settings is Discussion
You’ll have some decisions to make about commenting in this section, but of course you can always change your mind and easily edit these settings later on.
This is mostly just a page full of yes/no checkboxes to click on and off. You can decide if you want comments turned on or off, and check or uncheck the appropriate boxes. If you leave them turned on and plan to have blog posts in the future, I recommend checking the box to manually approve comments.
Down at the bottom of this page you can choose whether or not you want people’s Gravatars to display with comments. I like to leave those on because it looks natural to have the faces and/or logos displayed with the person’s comments.
If you have JetPack plugin installed and activated you can choose to enable the “follow blog comments” as part of the commenting form that is displayed on your site. It’s a good feature if you’re going to have articles and blog posts, it allows people to “subscribe” to the discussion and get notified when new comments are added.
Click on Save Changes after you make your selections here.
The next section in the side panel is Media Settings, those can usually stay default, so we’re going to skip that one.
Customizing the Permalinks Settings
Permalinks are the structure of the URL created for each post. Default permalinks aren’t usually very pretty. Even if you’re not planning on blogging or publishing articles yet, we might as well update this setting now so you don’t have to worry about it later.
I like to avoid leaving a date in the URL, so I prefer the last two options. Just the post name or set a custom structure to include the post id and post name together (/%post_id%/%postname%/).
You can see in the screenshot here that I set up VA Helper with the custom post ID and post name setting. Most of the time these days if I’m setting up a new site, I will set it up to just use the post name. The nice thing about WordPress is you can also edit the URL at the post level while you’re writing, so if a post has a particular long title you can create a shorter version as the URL.
Don’t forget to click on Save Changes when you’re ready.
That covers the main general settings that everyone will have.
A Few Quick Plugin Settings
If you installed and activated plugins already, several of those may have their own settings as well. Most of them are ready to go as is and work fine with the default settings, but I want to take a quick look before we move on.
For XML Sitemap Generator, once you have a few pages published and live on your site you’ll go to the settings tab for this plugin and generate the initial sitemap. After that it will update itself automatically.
If you’re using the JetPack sharing buttons, the page to change those and rearrange them is also under settings.
The top half of the Sharing Settings allows you to connect your social media accounts for automatic sharing when you publish new blog posts and articles. That can be a really handy time saver, but there’s also often advantages to posting to social media manually so you can customize image sizes and modify wording to best suit each platform. That said, I always use this feature to automatically post VA Helper blog posts to G+ and LinkedIn because I hardly ever remember to go there manually 😉
The bottom half of the Sharing Settings page (pictured here above) lets you choose which sharing buttons to include and where. Choose which social networks you want to include in the button set as it displays on your website, you can drag them around to rearrange them. Then you can check and uncheck boxes to decide where and how the buttons will be displayed on your site.
Here’s an example of how the buttons look on the VA Helper homepage:
They display similarly at the end of posts and pages, including this one.
Framework and Theme Settings
Some frameworks and themes have their own additional settings that you’ll want to review and update. For example, if you’re using Genesis you’re going to have a section for theme and SEO settings. Get help from this helpful site to get more information.
I’m not going through these in any detail here because I know everyone is using different themes and I don’t want to cause any confusion. Look around your dashboard to make sure that you’ve gone to all the settings categories that need your attention.
Homework and Action Steps for This Section:
- Choose a framework and/or theme if you haven’t already.
- Get to know your WordPress Dashboard – click around.
- Fill in the blanks and check off the checkboxes in your settings panels.
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