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5 Easy Steps to Get Started Blogging in WordPress

Even though the initial blogging fever of a decade ago has cooled off, it’s never out of style to create a blog of your very own. The great thing is: now it’s easier than ever to get set up and started writing, and there are a variety of platforms out there to launch your musings into the electronic world. WordPress is a classic and established choice, having been around long enough to have fine-tuned the art of the blog, so naturally I wanted to highlight them here. There are only five easy steps between you and your very own professional writing space, so let’s get started!   1. Clarify your purpose I know this isn’t a technical step, but in my opinion, it’s the most important one. Why do you want to blog? Is there a particular subject you are passionate about or have experience with? Is this blog going to be for your business, your family, or just your personal thoughts? Make sure you sit down and brainstorm a clear direction and “theme” before you go through the actual set-up process. Trust me, it will save you a headache later and will increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with it!   2. Decide whether you need WordPress.com or WordPress.org Yep, you have two main choices here and they are quite a bit different in terms of use. To build on the simple graphic above, I highly recommend you do some research on which version will suit your needs the best. There are a variety of articles out there on the web, as well as the pros at the Digital Workshop who can point you in the right direction! But to give you a brief sum up: Choose WordPress.com if you want something that’s free, simple, and requires very little maintenance. This is the best choice if you’re on a budget, don’t care about too much fancy personalization, or are just writing for the fun of it. Choose WordPress.org if you have a business, an established social media following, or want to create revenue off of your writing. This isn’t free (you need to pay for web hosting and domains), but does offer the perks of plugins, customization, and ad sales opportunities.   3. Register Come up with a blog name that you really really like, because you can’t change it later! Whether or not you choose to go with a custom domain (www.bloggingisfun.com) or let WordPress handle that (www.bloggingisfun.wordpress.com), it’s important that you find a name that sums up the results of your brainstorming session from step #1. For example, if you want to blog about sports, choose something like “Rebecca’s RBI Rundown” instead of something like “Rebecca Writes”. Remember, you want to attract readership and most of us navigate through links of related content. If I want to read about cooking, I am going to click on a blog with a clear culinary focus. Once you decide on a name that is available, it’s as simple as clicking on “create blog” and following the instructions sent to your email address. Then you’ll be directed to your very own Dashboard, which will serve as your home base and is the launching point for writing, changing appearance, and viewing comments/statistics.   4. Fine Tune Once you have an official WordPress site, you can choose and activate a theme. There are many to choose from with a variety of colors, patterns and layouts, so pick one that suits your style and content matter. You can change this later (and however often you’d like) so don’t fret too much! If you...

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WordPress: Why You Should Consider Using a Child Theme

It is estimated that 1 in 5 websites use WordPress as a framework. No, that is not a typo. It is a staggering number to think about when you consider how many millions of sites are added each day. Every WordPress site’s design is governed by a theme, which controls the appearance, layout and functionality. There are free themes available, but to get a custom theme design for your website, you may hire a developer to create your theme. No matter which direction you decide to go, it has been my experience that, at some point, everyone wants some additional control of the design of their site. In this situation, you can pay for a developer to make changes to your site or you can attempt to do it yourself. This is when a “child” theme becomes important. A child theme is a feature of WordPress that allows the user to create custom styles in your theme. A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the “parent” theme, as defined by WordPress.org. In other words, you can make dynamic, style changes to your site without effecting the original code. According to a popular theme provider, “85 percent of our customers customize their themes, and only 35 percent use a child theme when doing so. This may be due to a lack of understanding as to what a child theme is, or due to the perceived difficulty of creating one.” With that in mind, if you are ready to make simple design changes to your site, don’t be afraid to dive in and try a child theme. What is one of the best features of using a child theme? Even if you make a mess with the child theme, you can always fall back to the original parent theme without consequence. That should help give you some confidence to get started! While creating a child theme is actually very easy in practice, it may not be for everyone. You need some basic knowledge of cascading style sheets, or CSS, and information on how you will connect to your web server to upload the child theme file. However, CSS is an intuitive language to learn, and connecting to a web server is as simple as finding the credentials that your host provides for you. How important do I think child themes have become? In the web design class I teach at the Digital Workshop Center, I have begun incorporating some lessons about how CSS can be used for child themes and beyond. It has become an essential topic for any WordPress web designer, and I hope that you use child themes properly when you decide you need to update the design on your WordPress site as well. [Orginally published in the Coloradoan on...

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WordPress for Everyone, Continued: Themes & Plugins

(Continued from WordPress for Everyone: What is It & How Do I Get Started?) Having Personality: Your Site Theme Every WordPress site must have a theme. After you select a theme, you are ready to write and publish your heart out. A theme is simply a downloaded file that contains a “look and feel” for your site. Themes are usually installed into WordPress itself by the site owner, within the Dashboard. The choice of theme is the primary way in which WordPress site owners change the personality – the appearance and perhaps even the behavior – of their WordPress-based site, without any low-level programming or design work. A theme will include the following features: Typography selections – for the appearance of fonts in the body (article) text as well as headings Style – dividing lines between stories and page sections, size, ability to resize pages, multiple columns, appearance, color and behavior of hyperlinks (web links) Color for headings and lines Home page layout for sites that are not primarily blogs Widgets – text (and other) devices that are laid out in specified positions on pages WordPress itself comes “pre-loaded” with a couple of themes: “Twenty Eleven” and “Twenty Ten.” Both of these themes give a pleasant, vanilla blog appearance to your site. Hundreds of thousands of WordPress sites use these two themes because they are the “default” choices provided by WordPress. So you may wish to do some exploring of alternative themes, for a more unique appearance. There are many free themes available on WordPress.org. Plugins – Your Little Programmed Buddies A plugin is a WordPress extension. (It’s not really your buddy. It’s just code, so it’s indifferent.) WordPress plugins add new features to your WordPress based site. WordPress is sort of a blank canvas in many ways. It’s up to you, as the site owner, to customize your site according to your individual needs. Use of plugins is entirely optional.  But it’s more likely that you will need one, two… or six… or a whole bunch of plugins… than none. WordPress plugins can provide many features. For example: Comment spam prevention (called “Akismet”) Contact forms so that visitors can fill out a form for contacting you XML sitemaps – helpful so that your site will be indexed properly by Google Cocial media buttons – for “Liking” and “Sharing” of your articles “Lightbox” style image popups so that images that a visitor clicks can display themselves in a zooming window. The general rule is: if WordPress doesn’t do it, there is most likely a free plugin that does. Conclusion – WordPress is for YOU As of the time of writing this article, en.wordpress.com/stats reports that there are over 54 million WordPress sites worldwide. Every single one, however, is a unique creation. If you have been wishing for a straightforward way to publish your own website, WordPress is a mature, full featured, stable platform that millions of people and businesses use daily. WordPress sites are easy to create and set up, easy to use for creating new content, and inexpensive to own — potentially free, if you are willing to put up with some restrictions. WordPress has “you” written all over it. Get to work and go have some fun. *** About the Author: Don Wallace is principal of The Software Copywriter, providing marketing services for software, cloud, and IT product and service businesses. Don has a Bachelor’s of Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Dayton. He has been self-employed as an expert contract software developer in the areas of C++,Windows and Linux since 1993 and has worked with...

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WordPress for Everyone: What is It & How Do I Get Started?

Free speech on the internet is available for the taking today. The tool that empowers this people’s revolution is called WordPress. If you can write and operate a computer, you can publish your own WordPress site: a website that can be anything you like! What does we mean, “anything?” We mean anything: A blog – a chronological series of articles on any subject that you like Or a traditional “plain old website” with a fixed home page Or a community site where every story posted becomes a gathering place for online visitor discussions If you have wanted more than a social media page, but you have had no idea how to move forward with that need, then WordPress is for you, and so is this article. What is WordPress? (No geek speak, please) WordPress is a free software package that enables any web user who can operate a few simple browser screens to publish his or her own website. This means: no web designer necessary. No HTML or programming guru needed. No major technical knowledge required. No expensive, slow piece of software installed to your desktop or laptop computer necessary. WordPress is lightweight — all you need is WordPress, a website hosting account, and a computer with internet access. How Does it Work? All that you need to work with WordPress is the computer that you use to update your WordPress site, a web browser like Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer, and an internet connection. You must first log into your WordPress-based website with a username and password in order to make changes or additions to your content. Logging in gives you access to the WordPress Dashboard. The Dashboard provides a way for you to create stories or pages, edit your existing content, interact with users who may have posted comments to your stories or your pages, and make changes to the structure and appearance of your site itself. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, you have to “get” WordPress. And you need to spend a little time setting things up. Let’s discuss how all that works briefly, next. How to Get Started: WordPress.com or WordPress.org? There are two common ways that WordPress site owners start out: Simplest and cheapest: WordPress.com – This site offers free hosting of your WordPress-based site. At the expense of some flexibility, you can get started almost immediately, at no cost, and with little setup effort. It’s worth considering. (Note: WordPress.org provides the WordPress software itself. WordPress.com provides hosting of WordPress sites.) Commercially hosted website with built-in WordPress.org software – Many web hosting companies, such as GoDaddy.com, Name.com, Bluehost.com, as examples – provide WordPress as a “one click install” for new users. This approach gives you complete freedom of control over your WordPress instance, including the use of any WordPress plugin that you choose. (It also gives you the “opportunity” to screw things up royally!) You can also use a web hosting company that does not provide “one click install” of WordPress. This only recommended for those who are tech-savvy about Linux, FTP, PHP, MySQL, and all of that other highly entertaining web technology stuff. A starting author or site owner may wish to acquire their own unique domain name that can be assigned to your WordPress site. WordPress.com offers a premium hosting service that includes this option (see the site for details.) With a commercial web host, you will either purchase the domain name through the host service itself, or from a domain registrar. We don’t have the space in this article to cover that process, but it is readily available...

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Intro to WordPress: Why Use it for Your Business?

In the digital world, a website is crucial to a successful business. Starting a blog or website can be time-consuming, however – making it important to find software that is easy to learn and use. There are many tools on the market that provide similar results, but WordPress stands out above the rest because it has more features and is fully customizable. It is a great web management platform, and its software and hosting is completely free. What is WordPress? WordPress was originally released in 2003 as a blogging tool, but has – through updates and upgrades – become so much more. It is capable of providing more varied product than the leading competition. Other blogging platforms are only capable of providing more basic features, with a few exceptions. WordPress manages around 20% of new websites that you see and interact with on a daily basis. What is it for? As was mentioned, WordPress started as a blogging system but has since evolved into much more. It can be a full content management system, or a set or static informational page. It can also do both, and be a blog where updates and posts are made about the company, et cetera. Through the use of plugins, widgets and themes, WordPress can be used in many different ways. Businesses can use the program to meet any of their digital needs, including advertising, marketing and PR. The tool can be used completely on the internet, as a program downloaded onto a personal computer, or on an Android/iPhone device. Use on mobile devices is limited in its functions, but is fully capable of writing and editing posts. It also has a very simple interface enabling advanced and beginning users to learn to use the basic features fast. Here is an image of the simple interface: Here are some of the key features that make WordPress stand out above other similar platforms.  Included are also short descriptions of the features. After learning what WordPress is capable of, users can begin to think of ways to adapt them to meet their own business goals and needs. Key features Pages Themes Cross-blog communication tools Plugins Spam protection Workflow Pages Pages are static entries on a website that do not work like a regular blog. A blog is updated with new posts regularly, but a page is written once and published in its own place. This feature allows WordPress users to create content such as company information or create whole websites that do not have any blog in them. This is an important tool, but is common in most blogging platforms. WordPress does not stand out for this feature. Plugins By far the most useful part of WordPress is the plugins. This is where it stands out above other content management systems. Plugins can change a website drastically or modify it to meet specific needs of many different users. There are plugins for just about everything. Of note for marketing is a plugin that will for example automatically publish posts to a Facebook wall when a new article has been posted on WordPress. Another great plugin allows users to comment after logging into their favorite social network site. This allows them to link it to their friends and show them what they commented on. There are thousands of different plugins on the WordPress database. Themes The layout of WordPress is completely customizable. There are many pre-made themes that will work for many situations, but with the right knowledge of CSS, users can develop their own themes – personalizing their site that much more. Even if a...

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