Starting a WordPress Blog – 3

wordpress-logo-stacked-bgThis is part 3 of my guide to starting a WordPress blog.  In Starting a WordPress Blog – 1, I discussed some blogging basics and definitions and in Starting a WordPress Blog – 2, I showed how to register on WordPress for a blog and choose a theme.  Now, it’s time to use that theme to make your blog look just as you’d imagined it … ready for your first post.  As we get closer to lift-off, there will be more choices to make … and many choices are particular to the theme you’ve chosen … so I won’t cover all of them, just the main ones that most influence the look of your blog.  As I’ve said before, at the end of the day, the only way to get the blog you want is to experiment … which is adult-talk for play.   To begin, go to your Dashboard, which you can do by going to wordpress.com, logging in then choosing Dashboard under your Blog Name.  Just like last time, we’re going to look under the Appearance tab in the left sidebar and select the Customization tab.  Your blog appears as it looks (naked) with a pop-out menu along the right side.  Under the Front tab, you get to choose your home page format, what people see when they enter your blog address, either a static page that never changes (but links to your posts) or the standard reverse chronological order blog page of posts.   If you want the best of both worlds, a welcome post that always appears first on a blogdashboard page, be sure you’ve chosen a theme that supports sticky posts, then choose your front page as a blog page.  We’ll skip the Text Color and Header tabs until the next paragraph.  When you’ve made your choices, click Saved or click Cancel to do nothing and come back later.  You can come back later either way.

Now, back under the Appearance tab, choose Header.  This is a chance to really customize the look of your blog, to make it your own.  By clicking Browse under Select Image, you can browse to any image on your computer and use it as a header.  The text above Browse button tells you exactly how big the eventual header image will be (in pixels) and if what you upload is larger, you will given the opportunity to crop it.  I found it easier to work with my facial image for Older Eyes in the freeware photo application, IrfanView, where I could resize my image and crop it to exactly the size needed in the Header.  I also converted the image to black and white then colorized it blue to match my background.   Here you can also choose whether to show the header text (blog name and tagline) with the image and the color of the text.  On one of my blogs, I couldn’t get the text where I wanted it, so I used IrfanView,  the freeware image viewer, to add text to my header image before I uploaded it.  You can get IrfanView here. Take some (play)time to get your header the way you want it, click Save Changes then we’ll move on to Widgets.

If you take a look at the right sidebar of Older Eyes, you’ll see menus, text, an email subscription form, blog statistics and even a Facebook badge.  These are only a few of the many things you can add to your blog easily using Widgets.  When you click on the Widgets tab under Appearance, you will be presented with all of the Widgets available for your theme with a short description of what they do.  On the right, you’ll see your sidebar(s) and any other widget areas your theme offers.  To use a Widget, drag it from the left side to the sidebar where you want it.  You can change the order of your widgets on your blog simply by dragging them.  Chances are, your themes comes with a few things already in your sidebar like the Meta Widget.  We’ll get to Meta in a minute.  Once you get the Widget in a sidebar, you click on it to set it up, then click Save.   To see what your widget will look like to your readers, you want toblog menu go to your Front Page, which is easiest by clicking your blog name in the pop-up menu at the top of your page any time you are logged into WordPress.  If you like what you see, you’re done … if not, choose Widgets in the pop-up menu and you can modify to your heart’s delight.  If you don’t like a widget at all, drag it out of your sidebar and back to the Widget area and it’s gone.  If you’ve set up a Widget and think you might use it, drag it to the Inactive Widgets area at the bottom of the Widgets page and it will wait there for you, all set up and ready to be dragged back to a sidebar.   Some themes provide some Theme Options and Custom Menus under the Appearance tab as well.  Again, this is a chance to play with your blog’s look and feel by trying different Widgets, then looking at your blog Front Page.  Don’t try to get everything just so.  I started out with half a dozen Widgets and retired most of them to the Inactive Widgets area, adding more as my blog evolved.  Remember back in Blogging on WordPress -1, I mentioned having a Living, Breathing Blog.  If you stick with blogging, it will evolve.

Before I close and send you off to play for today, let me say a word about the Meta Widget.  If you look at your blog page, while you are signed in, you’ll see metafive links listed under Meta: Site Admin (which is another way to get to your Dashboard from your blog page); Log Out (which logs you out of your blog); Entries RSS and Comments RSS (which allows readers to subscribe to your blog content and comments via something called Rich Site Summary; and wordpress.com.  If you log out (or got to your page by entering the web address in your browser without logging in), Site Admin will be absent and Log Out will be replaced by Log In.  Clicking Log In will pop up a login window which takes you to your Dashboard.

Have fun.  Next time (you’ll probably have to wait until Wednesday) we’ll make a few more settings then talk about posting.  Of course, you can always go on ahead on your own if you’re feeling adventurous.

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