WordPress for absolute beginners – Part 1 (Pages and Posts)

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Understanding WordPress, Pages and Posts

This article isn’t for coders, geeks or professional website developers. It’s for you – the erstwhile businessman (or woman) who is desperately trying to understand WordPress in the most basic terms. No technobabble – just an executive overview, if you will, but with enough facts to help you understand how WordPress can help transform your interweb thingy into an effective tool for keeping your existing customers interested, and winning new ones to boot!

CMS – Content Management Systems

WordPress is one of the most popular CMS on the planet. This whole website is built on WordPress. Essentially, a CMS is just a software package installed on the web server that manages the information, operation, and design that makes up your website.

Once upon a time, to build a new website page, you had to understand all sorts of geeky things, like shtml, css, php, cgi and heavens knows what else! This invariably meant you hired a geek to make your website – and this often led to websites that looked like they were designed by geeks. The results were often less that attractive.

So, someone had the bright idea of separating your website into three main elements.

  • Geeky stuff like code, programming, databases etc. that managed the operation of your website. This stuff is written by geek Jedi, who produce copious amounts of stuff about which you will hopefully never have to worry.
  • Presentation stuff, like typography, graphic design, colour schemes etc. This stuff is created by bleeding heart artistes, who generally get upset when you tell them you want your website typeset in the Arial font.
  • Content – the stuff that REALLY matters. Your thoughtfully penned words and carefully chosen photos that go to make up the real meat (or nutroast, if you prefer) of your website.

In practice, it looks a little like the image below:

The database exists on the web server (usually a MySQL database) and is ultimately where all of your content is stored.

The geeky WordPress Voodoo (cheerfully represented by a cloud) does all of the heavy lifting involved in moving your information between the Database (left) and your web browser (right). It also contains the design of your website – the font styles, header, logo, layout, colours etc. and all of the instructions on what to do with your data.

Introducing WordPress Themes

Once you appreciate that your content (in the database) is stored separately to the presentation, it should become apparent that by switching the presentation/design, it would be possible to completely alter a website’s appearance – quickly and simply.

In WordPress, the presentation is known as a theme. A single click can enable a new theme and give your website a completely new look.

WordPress themes have become quite powerful. Although most of the Geeky stuff is contained within the core WordPress software itself, themes can also extend the functionality of your website (those pesky geeks get everywhere). There are countless free themes, and professionally designed themes on the market. For example, many themes come with a special image slideshow feature on the home page.

Managing your content in WordPress

OK, so now we understand a little about WordPress, how do we actually put our information onto our new website? WordPress has a beautifully elegant administrative back-end that you can log into securely. In there you will find all kinds of goodies, but we’re not here to make you masters of the WordPress universe just yet, so let’s focus on the essentials.

The most important and popular types of information in WordPress are Pages and Posts. Editing either of these is quite similar – in each case a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor makes creating your content pretty painless, and allows you to upload your own images, and other files for download by your customers. It’s not very different from any other simple Word Processor. Pages and posts can be saved in draft status, and published whenever you are ready to make them public.

Within a business website theme, pages are usually made available to visitors via a menu system, and posts are normally contained within a blog area (again, accessible from the menu). The latest versions of WordPress allow you to visually create your own multi-level Menu system and attach your pages to each position in the menu, and even insert your blog wherever you wish.

Understanding WordPress Pages

A page in WordPress is usually just that – a page. Like the “About” page, “Contact” page, and any number of other standard website pages. Most pages just contain text and maybe images – other pages might contain little bits of cleverness like a feedback form. The important thing to remember is that a WordPress page just sits there – never changing (unless you decide to change it, of course).

Creating pages is quite simple. We just select New Page form the Dashboard menu, then fill in the details, and content, and publish it to make it visible to the world.

Understanding WordPress Posts

Before we describe WordPress posts, it is perhaps important to understand what a Blog is. The word blog is derived from Web Log, and is basically a kind of online journal, that is indexed and broken down by date/time, author, category and keywords (known as tags).

An area of your WordPress website will be given over to the blog function. Here your visitors will read your articles, and be able to browse them by chronology, author, or category/tags. They will also be able to search them (and, incidentally, all of your pages too) with WordPress’ built in search facility.

You don’t have to worry about organising your posts. WordPress automatically organises your blog for you, by sorting all of your posts by date, author, categories and tags automatically.

WordPress posts are the building blocks of your blog (short for WebLog). Even business focused WordPress sites usually make use of the built-in blog facilities – usually under the guise of “company news”, “case studies”, “testimonials” or some such. Each news article, case study or testimonial in these cases would be a WordPress post.

Creating a post is actually very much like creating a page. However, when adding a post, we can also provide further information.

Categories : Every post should belong to one category. Think of a category like an area in a library. Fiction, Natural History, Maths etc. DON’T put a post in more than one category, as this will make Google think you are duplicating content (for reasons too complex to explain here) and that is a bad thing – take our world for it.
Visitors to the website can usually click on links to see all posts within a certain category.

Tags : A post can be assigned any number of tags. Think of tags like keywords. They simply help further define the post within its category. They should be short and concise – one or two words at most. For example, if you were a building company and had a category called Case Studies, then you might tag some posts with Conservatories, and other posts with Loft Conversions – you get the idea.

Your website can have a “Tag Cloud” installed. This is a collection of the most popular tags in the blog, displayed in various sizes according to their popularity – providing a simple graphical way to browse more popular subjects within your blog. You can see an example of a tag cloud in our own blog area.

So – hopefully that has given you a good overview of what WordPress is, and how Pages and Posts go to make up the most important types of information available to your visitors.

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One Response to “WordPress for absolute beginners – Part 1 (Pages and Posts)”

  1. Jason McComb February 13, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    Thanks for the explanation Steve. Finally a geek that speaks to us in the queens English!

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