Hey Y’all and welcome to Lesson 3 in my 4 part series on creating an author website using WordPress. If you missed it, Lesson 1  examined hosting and domain names (URLs) for your author site, and Lesson 2  walked you through finding and installing a Theme to control your site look.
Today we’re going to give your site some content but first, let’s make sure we understand what a website is.
Here’s your trivia question of the day. Way, way, way back in the Stone Age when the web as we know it was invented (you know, 1991), the very first web site was created by an organization named CERN for what purpose????
Training. CERN stands for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (yea, don’t ask) and they have a lot of interns, which tends to generate a lot of turnover. CERN needed an easy way to make organizational information available to all the newbies coming through, preferably in an eco-friendly paperless way, so a guy that worked there named Tim Berners-Lee (no, not Al Gore) invented the World Wide Web.
A training site might be different than an author site in some ways, but then in others they each do the exact same thing: provide information. A website is a series of logically related pages, accessible and viewable using a browser, that disseminate information. So an author site is there to provide information about the author.
As an author and new Webmaster (or mistress) you need to understand that the overall layout of your site and the information it presents will typically follow one of two main formats: blog or brochure. We are going to be spending our time talking about blogging, but once you learn the basics of creating posts, creating pages is an easy additional step.
The term Blog originated in 1999 as a shortening of Weblog (1998). I think the OED does a good job defining this kind of site:
“A frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary. ”
In other words, one way you catch and keep the attention of your reading public is through a regularly updated blog. Think of it as a form of soft-sell. You provide information on a regular schedule (I’d do at least once a week) which attracts people, and occasionally you slip in a post about your new book that’s upcoming/just released/won this award, etc.. The tough part of course is coming up with the information.
The other main option for authors is the brochure site. Brochure sites are sorta like that new Stingray Corvette sales brochure, or perhaps the corvette section of chevrolet.com; they provide crucial information, but the kinda stuff that doesn’t get updated all that frequently (once or twice a year).
An author who goes with a brochure site is looking for a place where readers can find more information about said author, the books that they write, and perhaps the events they are attending, but these authors aren’t going to be trying to build a social networking audience through this type of site. Readers will visit when they need information, but they probably won’t be checking in frequently to see what’s new, since the answer is typically: nothing.
And yes, before you ask, it is totally possible to have a site that’s both brochure (About me, books, contact me, etc.) and blog (look what I’m doing this week, and did I mention my new book).
Least you need to know: Your site will take the form of series of interesting posts (Blog), a set of information about you and your work (Brochure), or some combination thereof.
WordPress was originally designed to help people create their own blog sites, so don’t be surprised when your new WordPress site pops out of the box as a Blog.
Blog sites consist of a series of posts organized through a combination of dates, categories, and tags. Each post comprises pictures (multimedia), text, and formatting. The Blog homepage displays the posts in reverse chronological order (so the newest post is on top).
Blog posts in WordPress are controlled through the dashboard. Let’s start by running through blog posting CRUD (Creating, Reading, Updating, Deleting).
To access your blog posts:
- Log into your site:
- In the Dashboard, click on Posts
You’ll be presented with a tabular view of all your current posts. If you really do have a brand new WordPress site, you might start by deleting the dummy post you’ll find.
- In your list of posts, hover your mouse over the one you’d like to delete
- In the popup menu, click Trash
Note: Posts aren’t really gone, they’re just in the trash can. If you ever need to get a post back because you’ve changed your mind, simply open your dashboard and click Posts | Trash, hover over the post and click Restore.
Now that you have a blank slate, let’s go ahead and make a new blog post.
- Probably the hardest part of a new post is deciding on the text, images, and formatting that your new post is going to need, once you have:
- You have three main ways to create a new post. Find the one that works for you and stick to it
- On the black strip at the very top of the Dashboard, click on the link that reads +New then click Post
- Or, in the posts section of the Dashboard, on the menu along the left site simply click Add New
- Or just above the posts in their tabular list, click Add New
- Use the provided form to give your post a title and some content
- Assign a post category and optionally, tags
- Press the Publish button.
Yes, it really is that easy, once you can figure out that step number 1.
Reading or Updating a post is easy
- Click on the post in the list of posts table
- Edit the contents if needed
- Press Update (over on the right where the Publish button used to be)
Least you need to know: In the Dashboard, posting is controlled through the Posts section in the left hand menu.
Blog post creation
Now that you understand posting CRUD, let’s talk about the second hardest of the post creating steps (after coming up with the contents): formatting.
You create a new post, or open an existing post for editing and you see something like:
The least your post will need is a title, some contents, a category, and for you to Publish it.
The Title is used to determine the post’s heading as well as the text in any auto-created links. Titles should be descriptive but I’d prefer you to channel Hemmingway rather than Longfellow. Keep them short and descriptive.
The main editor window has two views: Visual and Text. The Text view gives you direct access to the HTML and unless you know what you’re doing, you should stay away from it. The Visual view gives you a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) styled editor.
Just above the main text entry window is a formatting bar that contains a lot of the same buttons as most word processors. If you’re only seeing a single line of formatting buttons, locate the Toolbar Toggle button (my red arrow in the above screen shot) and it will enable the second row. Type in some text and play with the formatting options (see my link at the end of this post for documentation). If you’ve never seen the standard HTML styles (Paragraph, Heading 1-6, etc.) experiment with them a bit to see what’s what.
To create a link from your post to another page:
- Type what you’d like the link to read
- Highlight the text for the link
- Click the Insert/edit link button on the format bar
- Select the page the link should lead to if it’s part of your own site, or provide the URL to the page if it isn’t
- Click Add Link
Make sure to place each of your post in a Category. Ideally, your site should have 5-7 main categories for posts. Think about sites you’ve visited and about that menu across the very top. That’s usually what you’re creating with your categories. Yes, sub categories are allowed but don’t mess with them unless you have loads and loads and posts. Decide on the 5-7 major information types you have in your site and enter them in the Category list.
Then when you’re creating your post, assign it to one of your categories by simply checking it off on the post editing page.
Least you need to know: If you can edit in a word processor then you can edit a post in WordPress. Don’t forget to assign the category and press Publish or no one will be able to see your post but you.
WordPress makes it easy to include images while creating posts, simply hit the Add Media button just above the post format bar:
WordPress stores images in a media library accessible by hitting Media in the Dashboard. If your image has already been uploaded to the site then choose it out of the choices Add Media presents. If the image is on your local computer and needs to be uploaded to the site then click the Upload tab up at the top of the Add Media dialog and follow the instructions to upload the image into the media library, then use it from there.
Note: most themes will display the image Title and the Alt Text will be read to visually impaired visitors by their assistive devices, but the Description is purely to help you search and identify images later. By default, WordPress does not store images by folder.
Once the image is included in the post, clicking on it will present the image edit button.
Pressing the pencil will present the image format dialog:
Use this dialog to edit the image’s position relative to the text around it, and the size of the image to display. WordPress automatically creates four different sized versions of every uploaded image. A quick click on Edit Original will off more direct editing options (flipping, sizing, cropping, etc.).
One final thing you should experiment with as it relates to your images. Try adding an image to a post to see how it’s displayed in your theme. Then edit the post again, remove the image from the body of the post, and add it as a featured image (very bottom of the right hand column in the post editing page:
Most themes provide special formatting and functionality for featured images. You might have to play with the image size to get the functionality working to its utmost, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Least you need to know: Add Media will walk you through inserting images in your post, and clicking the image and then the pencil icon that’s displayed will give you several image editing options.
While you’re editing your post, WordPress is making back up copies as you go. If you’re finished editing for now but you aren’t ready for your post to go live because it’s not quite cmplete, the in the Publish section to the right of the post body simply hit Save Draft.
Use the Preview button to see what the page will look like once it goes live. Click the Edit next to, “Publish immediately” if you’d like to schedule a post to go live at a particular time. “Visibility” can be used to create pages only accessible using a password. Finally, a quick click on Publish (Update if editing an existing post) will push the post live and visible to your visiting public.
Least you need to know: Posts are not visible until Published (Updated).
Working with WordPress is a lot easier than most new users think. Yes, the Dashboard is intimidating when first viewed but posting is really quite easy. Pages are just as easy to create, just click Pages instead of Posts and most things will look quite familiar to you. Remember though that Pages should be reserved for stuff that doesn’t change frequently: About Me, Contact Info, Books, etc.
If you’re new to WordPress, take some time to experiment with posting and post formatting. Remember that a post isn’t visible to the general public until published. Us that to your learning advantage by creating posts that you preview but never go live with. There’s no better way to learn than experimenting!
Intro to blogging:
Formatting toolbar crib-sheet:
Got questions for Pat? Fire away!
Join us tomorrow for Make backstory work for you by Kandy Shepherd
Bio: After four years in the USMC, Patrick Haggerty studied Actuarial Science and Computers at Georgia State University. He has spent the past 15+ years developing and delivering technical training courses for Learning Tree International. On the side he has a successful consulting practice doing web application development for clients ranging from the United State Marines to Delta Airlines.
Seven years ago, stuck reading a mediocre book in yet another hotel, Patrick decided to try his hand at fiction. He may not be published, but these days you are much more likely to find him spending his evenings writing romance, than code. Patrick is an active member of RWA, RWAustralia, RW New Zealand, and is VP of Membership for Gulf Coast Romance Writers of America, and VP of OIRWA.
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