Tutorial: WordPress Configuration and Themes

WordPress Configuration

So we’ve got a new version of WordPress installed. Next job is to configure it to suit you and your own personal requirements. First of all I’ll briefly explain each section in the WordPress admin:

This is where you see the latest WordPress news – keep an eye out for new versions and update notices. On the right you see some basic statistics such as who’s linking to you, how many comments in moderation, your latest few posts etc.
This is where you can create either a new post or static page
Allows you to manage existing posts and pages, and also allows you to manage your posting categories, files and uploads. You may get extra options from plugins in this section.
You can moderate, view and edit comments here.
This is the links section where you can add and manage the external links you want on your site.
Allows you to switch Themes at the click of a button and also edit Themes directly online too. You can also edit the Widgets on your sidebar which allows for an easier way to add information and extras to your sidebar without having to code them yourself.
This lists all of the plugins available in your plugins directory (more on that later!)
Allows you to add and edit User accounts. You can allow people to have differing access levels to your site.
The site configuration

So first place to go is ‘Options’. The first page you get is the General Options where you can change the title and tagline of your site. You can also change the URL of your site but it’s best not to touch this unless you know what you’re doing else you could lock yourself out of the website! On this page I would change the title, tagline, check your admin email, allow people to register if you want, and check the default time is correct. Once you’ve made your changes click to Update them before continuing. Move on to the Writing tab under Options. Here you can update a few more options to make posting a little easier. At the bottom there a box called Update Services. If you wish for the world to know everytime you make a new post (recommended if you want to be seen!) then you’ll want to add a few extra addresses to this box. I’ve posted my list at the end of this section for you to simply copy and paste into the box.

Moving onto Reading. The first section allows you to use a static page as your front page, changing your blog into more of a standard website. If you want to use WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS) then this is where you would make your front page to be whatever you like. However until you have some pages it’s best to leave this as the default and return later if you want to change it. You can also control the number of posts displayed per page under the Blog Posts section and control how many posts and whether they’re in full or excerpt in the RSS feed.

Discussion allows you to control how comments are dealt with on your website. Comments are a great way of adding to a post, sparking a discussion and generally having more content added to your site. It allows people to participate and voice their own opinions on your chosen subject, and can often bring about a type of community, especially when other bloggers comment on your site, and you comment on theirs. However comments also attract a lot of spam, mainly from bots coded to spam your comments on various posts. Luckily WordPress does have a good comment moderation system and this page allows you to control it. The default options are usually good enough, where you queue all first time commenters but once they’ve made their first comment, subsequent comments are made public instantly. You can turn this off if you wish however it may promote less commenting.

Privacy simply allows you to control whether your blog is available to blog search engines such as Technorati. This promotes your site and gives it the coverage it deserves. However if your site has been set up for just family and friends then you probably won’t want the world knowing about it.

Permalinks is where you can determine the structure of your site links. For the time being it’s best to leave these as they are.

Miscellaneous options can again be left alone.

So that’s the general configuration of your site. You may find you dip back into the section as your site progresses and evolves.

Update Services List



First up, Themes. This is an easy one. You want to change the way your new site looks? Take a look on the WordPress Themes site and have a browse through the stacks of free themes available for your use. There are other sites that have WordPress themes too, some free and some for sale, however this is a great starting point. You can narrow down the selection by using the categories on the left, or just browse through them all. There is also the option to take the theme for a test run, allowing you to see it in full action on a WordPress site. Once you’ve found one or two you like, download them to you computer.

You then need to unzip/extract the themes and keep each theme in its own directory. To add the theme to your site you just need to put the theme, contained within its directory, into the following path


This is relative to the root of your blog. If you’re working on your own computer then you can copy these directories over, else you’ll need to FTP the files to your server.

Once all the files are in place, log in to your WordPress admin. Click on Presentation in the horizontal menu. You should see each theme available for you to use. Some will have a thumbnail to go with it, some won’t (so don’t worry if your new one doesn’t!). To activate the theme you’ve chosen simply click on it and that’s it. Some themes will come with an extra little control panel where you can change various things easily. I can’t go into each individual theme as it would take me all month! However the additional control panels should be fairly easy to understand. If you’re capable of editing HTML and CSS along with maybe a little PHP, then you can always venture into the Theme Editor (found under Presentation), however I would recommend that you edit a copy of the files offline and upload them to replace the files online so that you always have a backup copy.

If you do wish to edit the Theme then the basics such as altering styles to suit your taste, colours, photos etc. should be straightforward enough for most people capable of creating web pages, just word around the template tags. Also the WordPress Codex is a good reference to use.

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Phil says:

    I stole your ping list to use on my site as well. I found some other lists that were much longer but I figured yours was better “vetted.”

    Quite conincidentally, our sites use the same Silver Light theme! If you have a minute check my site out and see if you like the changes I have made to it.

  2. Sarah says:

    Hi Phil, no problem, that’s what it’s there for 🙂 Nice subtle changes to your theme too 🙂

  3. Steve says:

    Useful post – do you tend to ping all those services, or is there somewhere you can ping that will in turn ping the lot?

  4. Sarah says:

    Hi Steve, you can use pingomatic, however I’ve found it to be a bit flakey in the past, so I tend to use the list above to ensure they all get pinged.