First Steps To A Perfect WordPress Website

In this lesson you are going to clear the website of the sample content that WordPress (and possibly your web host) has installed and then you are going to configure a few basic settings that are essential to good site creation.

At this stage don’t worry if the details look unfamiliar and puzzling, just follow along and do it and it will all make sense eventually, I promise.

You’ll only have to do this setup work once and it won’t take long. Then you can get on with the interesting stuff. So to begin with, login to your WordPress website as described in Lesson 3.

Delete The Junk (Sample Content)

When you look at your site you’ll see that WordPress, or your web host, has inserted some rambling sample text that has nothing to do with you and which you’ll now delete. It might look like this, or it may be some other wording:

  • Recent comments: Mr WordPress on Hello world! 
  • Recent posts: Hello world!
  • Sample Page

You’re going to delete all that and start again. So, from the dashboard, click on ‘Comments’.

Now, hover your mouse over the comment and a command line will magically appear underneath. Click on ‘Trash’ and, hey presto, the comment’s gone.

Next, from the dashboard, click ‘Posts’. You’ll see the ‘Hello world’ (or some other duff post) box appear. Again, hover your mouse over it and click ‘Trash’. That’s gone, too.

Finally, from the dashboard, click ‘Pages’. You’ll see ‘Sample Page’ displayed. Hover and trash that, too.

Finally, you’ll get rid of a plugin that you don’t need.

From the dashboard, click on ‘Plugins’ and you’ll see an item for Hello Dolly. Click ‘Delete’ and confirm when the popup box prompts. That will make it disappear. (Hello Dolly is a left-over from the WordPress blogging days and is of no use to us).

There may be a few other plugins that WordPress has installed but you’ll leave those until later. We’ll deal more with Plugins in Lesson 12 but, for now, that’s all you need to do.

Note: whenever you want to delete anything from your WordPress website, this is the way to do it. But be aware that when you ‘trash’ anything it is not gone for good. WordPress maintains a Trash folder so that if you delete something by mistake there’s a good chance you’ll be able to recover it.

Configure WordPress To Behave How You Want

Finally, here’s where you check out a few settings to be sure that WordPress is going to behave as you want. Again, don’t worry if you don’t understand all of this – just do it…

From the dashboard, click on ‘Settings’, ‘Permalinks’. Under ‘Common Settings’ click the radio button ‘Post name’ if it is not already clicked. Then hit ‘Save Changes’ at the bottom of the page.

Changing this setting makes your website more search engine friendly because it incorporates the title of your web page into its URL. you’ll come on to more of this in Lesson 17 Search Engine Optimization.

Now you have to decide whether you want to allow your visitors to leave comments on your website. This has become a mixed blessing these days because the comments box has become a magnet for spammers and this can be a considerable nuisance. So, I advise you think carefully about whether you really do want to allow visitors to leave comments.

If you do allow visitors to add comments to your pages, by default, a comment box will automatically be displayed at the foot of each page. You have the option of moderating these comments but, if approved, the comments then become an integral part of your website.

To block comments, from the dashboard, go to ‘Settings’, ‘Discussion’ and uncheck ‘Allow people to post comments on new articles’. Then scroll down and click on ‘Save Changes’.

That’s all you have to do on this page because now all the other settings will be ignored.

However, if you do want comments to appear on your site, check out Lesson 13 later where I recommend how to deal with them.

View Your Website As The World Sees It

Anytime you want to see what your site currently looks like, from the dashboard, hover your mouse over the site title up in the top left corner of the screen and click ‘Visit Site’. The whole site will be displayed and you can view it as a visitor will see it. You will have to click the back button to get back to the dashboard.

Now you’ve got a completely empty WordPress website ready and waiting for you to populate with all your own stuff. And the good news is that, once you have completed Lessons 1 – 4, you don’t need to any of this work ever again.

In the next lesson you’ll learn how to add a page to your website. This could be a ‘Welcome’ page or an ‘About Us’ page or the page that you choose to have as your home page. But whatever, it will be the tangible start to building your website and from here on there’ll be no looking back.

If you’re going to have a break before starting Lesson 5, then log out of your WordPress website now.

For future lessons I won’t tell you to login and log out of WordPress because I’ll assume that you’ve got the hang of it by now. You can proceed from lesson to lesson continuously if you want – or you can take breaks in between if that suits.

FAQ

I want to stop anyone from seeing my website while I’m still setting it up. How do I do that?

As a web master, you need to be aware that the prospective audience for your new website is both human and robot (search engines). In practice, your website will get few, if any, visitors in the early days and, because of that, I wouldn’t fret too much about who can see what.

Ultimately, you will want both humans and robots to flock to your website but, if you really do want to block both of these types until you are ready, you can create an ‘Under Construction’ page. This page displays to visitors while you get on with setting up the site behind the scenes.

How To Create An ‘Under Construction’ Page?

The easiest way to do this is to use a plugin called ‘Easy Coming Soon’. I deal with how to add plugins in Lesson 12, so come back here when you’ve completed that lesson.

After you’ve installed the Easy Coming Soon plugin, from the dashboard, click ‘Settings’, ‘Easy coming soon’. Set ‘Coming soon enabled’ to ‘on’, and add a Title and Description. You can leave all the other settings as default. Then click ‘Save Changes’. This now places a ‘coming soon’ page between you and your visitors.

You won’t be able to see this page while you are logged into your website yourself so log out and just view the domain URL without logging into WordPress if you want to see what it looks like.

There are a number of ways you can customize this plugin so please explore and experiment to find the format that suits you.

To prevent the search engines from looking at your setting-up efforts, from the dashboard, go to ‘Settings’, ‘Reading’ and check the box labeled ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’. Then click ‘Save Changes’. This will tell Google (and the other search engines) that you don’t want them to ‘crawl’ your site to put it in their search results – yet.

And don’t forget to undo all of this when you are ready to launch your website!


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