Using WordPress


WordPress was designed originally as a blogging software, but it has evolved into a complete content management system, allowing those with little to no experience building web sites to easily develop dynamic, professional-looking sites to fit a variety of needs.

At CNR, our WordPress instance is used to supplement our existing web presence to allow for smaller program and personal web sites that may not fit neatly under a given department or program’s main site.

This tutorial will cover the basic usage of the WordPress interface to help our faculty and staff get started with their own WordPress sites.

The Dashboard

Each WordPress site is managed through a system known as the Dashboard:  a central administrative page with links to sub-sections that allow the site’s owners to edit content, layout and plugins as needed.

To access a site’s dashboard, first go to the site’s home page.

and then add “wp-admin” to the end of the URL:

You will be prompted to log in using your regular Unity ID and password. Once logged in, if you are on the list of the site’s owners, you will have access to the Dashboard.

A menu on the left will allow you to navigate through the various parts of your WordPress site. This tutorial will cover Posts, Pages, Themes, Widgets and Menus. For a complete walkthrough of what the other menus contain, see OIT’s video tutorial on using the Dashboard.

Navigation, Look and Layout

Choosing a Theme

WordPress uses a theme system to determine both look and layout for any site. A theme includes all the styles and CSS that affect text headings, link colors and other visible behaviors as a single package deal.

The amount of flexibility and customization available varies from theme to theme. Changing themes otherwise has no impact on your content, it simply changes how it’s displayed, so you can continue to switch themes long after you’ve added your content.

To select a Theme for your site:

  1. Select the Appearance panel, then Themes.
  2. From the Available Themes section, click on the Theme title (or Theme screenshot) for the Theme you wish to activate.
  3. A preview of the Theme will be shown.
  4. To activate the Theme click the Activate “Theme Name” link in the top right.

Your selection should immediately become active.

On our CNR instance, we have installed a small suite of NC State themes packaged under the OIT Flex theme, provided by OIT. The suite contains roughly half a dozen themes in a variety of colors and layouts to fit your site’s needs.

For more information on using Themes, see the WordPress Codex entry on Themes, or OIT’s video tutorial for a visual walkthrough.

The Branding Bar

The NC State Branding Bar, a requirement for all official NC State web pages, is installed as a separate plugin in WordPress. If you are hosting your site with CNR, you can enable the Branding Bar under the Plugins menu.

If you are hosting your site elsewhere and have the power to install plugins, simply visit the Github site for the Branding Bar plugin to install the latest version.

Navigation and Menus

If your site will simply be a blogroll of new Posts on your front page, you may never need to make use of WordPress’ Menu feature. If, instead, you’re creating a classic website with a number of interconnected Pages, then you may need to make steady use of the Menu feature to keep everything organized and arranged properly.

Simply put, Menus in WordPress are your primary navigation. Each theme will represent Menus differently, so it’s important to experiment to find what fits best.

By default, every page you create is automatically added to the Primary Menu with its original title. To change this, go to the Menus section under Appearance.

A video walkthrough of how to make use of the Menus interface is available from OIT.

The most important things to know about updating your menus are:

  1. You can change the title of a given Page in a menu without changing the title that’s displayed on the page itself, so if you wish to use a shorter name for the menu without losing the original, simply edit the Menu item.
  2. Most themes allow only one Primary Menu, which is typically displayed prominently within the theme and serves as the primary navigation, letting your users browse your content easily.
  3. SubPages are handled differently depending on your theme, so be careful how many layers of navigation you display. If you wish to limit which pages or layers are displayed, activate the Remove pages from navigation plugin on the Plugins menu.

Posts vs. Pages

In WordPress, you can write either Posts or Pages. The interface is almost identical for each, what’s different is how they are displayed in your site.

Posts automatically appear in reverse chronological order on your blog’s home page (so that the most recent is displayed first). You can change this setting in the Settings panel on the WordPress Dashboard.

Pages are for stable content such as “About,” “Contact,” and similar information. Pages are often used to present timeless information about yourself or your site — information that is always applicable. You can use Pages to organize and manage any content regardless of when the Page was created.

Creating and Editing Posts and Pages

To create a new Post or Page, go to the relevant menu in your WordPress Dashboard, and click Add New at the top of the page.

For Pages only, if you wish to create a subPage, use the Page Parent menu on the right when editing your page to select the page you wish it to live under.

You can nest sub-pages under other sub-pages, so there’s no limit to how many layers you can have, though we recommend keeping your navigation to no more than 2 to 3 layers, if you can help it.

When editing Posts or Pages, you’ll be able to use WordPress’ WYSIWYG editor (“What You See Is What You Get”) to add formatting and even rich media as desired.

On the right, you can choose when to Publish a page (to make it viewable by anyone who visits your sight), or leave it as a Draft to finish editing later. You can also add Tags or set Categories to help organize your Posts and Pages by common topics.

Tags and Categories are very similar, with one important distinction:  generally, a Page or Post belongs to only one Category, whereas you can apply multiple Tags to any given post to allow for topic overlap. Tags are also more easily created on the fly, and appear listed at the bottom of each post as links in case visitors wish to see all Posts or Pages on a given topic.

For a complete walkthrough of the editing interface, see the OIT video tutorial.

Images and Other Media

To add images and other media to your posts, use the Upload/Insert option listed just above the editing interface. You can choose to upload a new item from your computer, link to an item on the web or even reuse an item you’ve uploaded elsewhere on your site.

Each time you upload, you’ll be presented with a number of options such as size, alignment and captioning that will affect how the item appears in your post. For a full walkthrough of the options and how they affect what you insert, see the WordPress Codex entry on Inserting Images.

NOTE:  When you upload media, WordPress is simply adding the item to a local Gallery on your WordPress site. If you wish it to also appear in the post you’re editing, be sure to hit the Insert into post button before exiting the Upload/Insert interface.

Embedding Video

In addition to inserting images, you can also embed videos if they’re tied to a streaming media server, such as YouTube.

For instructions on embedding and an example to get you started, view the WordPress Codex entry on Embeds.

Further Resources

As you’ve seen linked several times in this tutorial, the OIT video tutorials are the primary source for learning and understanding the system to be able to best manage your site and its content. 

Additionally, the WordPress Support Forums are a wonderful resource when you aren’t sure just where to begin. The community is very responsive and welcoming of newcomers, so if you’re just getting started and want to know what’s available to make your site shine, the Support Forums are a great place to start.

Naturally, if you have any additional questions, you are welcome to contact CNR IT. Even if your WordPress site is not hosted with CNR, we can try to assist with general problems or get you in touch with the proper personnel who can assist you.