WordPress Blog Setup (for Assignment #1)

Throughout this semester, you will publish your creative work and assignments on a WordPress blog. In this assignment, you’ll get started by setting up a WordPress blog and publishing an About page based on your work in Assignment 1.

Make sure you complete all the steps:

  • Create a new WordPress blog and customize it.
  • Write and publish an “About” page.
  • Write and publish your first blog post.

Your new WordPress blog

wordpress-logo-notext-rgb-200You will be using WordPress to display your work throughout the semester. WordPress is a highly customizable content management system, or CMS, that is used for personal blogs as well as news publishing, company websites and online portfolios. View a showcase of sites that use WordPress here.

There are two types of WordPress: WordPress.com is a place to sign up for a free account and begin publishing immediately, though it has some restrictions. WordPress.org is where you can get the software to set up an installation somewhere else. This is why there are many sites built with WordPress that don’t have “wordpress.com” in the URL. The difference is kind of like renting an apartment (.com) compared to owning a house (.org) – apartment living means you might not be able to paint the walls, but you also don’t have to worry about the furnace breaking down. Professional organizations and individuals with advanced web skills often prefer the freedom, in this analogy, of owning the house with a WordPress.org installation. For this course and many other purposes, WordPress.com has more than enough features and functions.

Here are step-by-step instructions for setting up your WordPress blog:

1. Create a free blog account at WordPress.com. You are welcome to upgrade to a paid account if you’d prefer to have your own domain name or other advanced features, but you do not need to purchase anything. A free account without upgrades is sufficient for what we’re doing in this course.

2. Log in to the administrative panel, which is usually located at http://domain.wordpress.com/wp-admin/ — where “domain” is the name you chose for your blog. You’re now looking at what’s called the “back end” of your site, which only you can see. If you’ve never used WordPress before, you may want to peruse this start-up guide to become familiar with the layout and vocabulary.

choose-theme3. From the menu on the left, choose Appearance. Here, you will be able to select a Theme, which is what WordPress calls the various templates that change the look and layout of your blog.  Be sure to change your theme to something other than the default template. Changing the theme does not affect your content, so you can change your theme as many times as you want. (The theme does affect other aspects of your site, such as how your posts and menus appear. So if things aren’t appearing properly, choose a different theme.)

4. From the menu on the left, there are several items to change under Settings > General. Edit the “Site Title” and “Tagline” for your blog. Change your time zone to “Los Angeles” so your posts will appear with the correct time stamp.

Other settings to explore:
Settings > Reading — Options for where and how your posts appear
Settings > Discussion — Choose how to be notified about comments on your blog
Settings > Sharing — Ways to connect your blog with other social media
Users > My Profile — Choose how your name appears on your posts
Appearance > Widgets — Choose items to appear in your blog sidebars
Appearance > Menus — Customize your blog menu(s)

Need technical help with WordPress settings? Find detailed instructions on many topics at the WordPress Support portal.

Your “About” page

Nearly all blogs have an “About” page that describes the author or organization that manages the blog. Here are some examples from popular blogs:

Doc Searls: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/doc/about/ (technology & communication)
Talking Points Memo: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/about.php (Liberal News Blog)
Michelle Malkin: http://michellemalkin.com/about/ (Conservative Pundit)
Bleacher Report: http://bleacherreport.com/about (Sports blog)
this isn’t happiness: http://thisisnthappiness.com/about (graphic design blog)

Here’s how to create your own “About” page:

1. In your WordPress admin menu, select Pages. By default, WordPress already starts with an existing page titled “About.” Select that page so you can edit it.

2. In the page editor interface, copy the Short Bio you developed in Step 4 of Assignment 1.

3. Add a picture of yourself to the page

Not sure how to use the WordPress interface to edit Pages or add images? Here is a detailed tour of the Page interface and here are instructions for adding images.

Note: Most, but not all themes link to the “About” page (generally at http://domain.wordpress.com/about). If your blog does not show a link to this page, please be sure to add a link in your first post or choose a theme that does link to the “About” page.

Your first blog post

Now that your “About” page is complete, the rest of your work this semester will be published as Posts. Good blog posts share a number of attributes:

  • Short in length
  • Short, direct, complete, and easy-to-read sentences
  • Short paragraphs (don’t have more than 4 or 5 sentences in one paragraph)
  • Written in the first-person (i.e., “I think”)
  • Express opinions or show personality
  • Link to other websites
  • Include photos and images

Here’s how to create your introductory post:

1. In your WordPress admin menu, select Posts. If a default sample post is there, delete it so you can start fresh.

2. Click “Add New” to create a new post. Write and publish a post describing, “What I learned in the first assignment in COMSTRAT 381. The post should:

  • Be 300-500 words in length
  • Describe the solution you came up with in the assignment
  • At least two things you learned in the assignment
  • Any challenges you encountered and how you overcame them
  • Include images or links if relevant
  • Don’t forget an appropriate post title!

3. Create a new Category for your post other than the default “Uncategorized.” You can do this from Posts > Categories in the admin menu or in the Categories box to the right of your post editing panel. You may want to create a category related to your topic or related to this course, such as “Assignments” or “COMSTRAT381.” Here is a detailed explanation of Categories from WordPress.

So what’s the difference between Posts and Pages in WordPress? Pages are meant for static, standalone content that doesn’t change often. Posts connect to each other as a stream of content, so they include the date as well as categories and tags. You can read more about Posts vs. Pages here.

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