When you think about it, blogs are closest to newspapers in design and layout (not graphically, but structurally). There are seven words that are important to creating a blog or website in WordPress. While all are simple English words with obvious meanings, their purpose in WordPress is central to writing an effective site.
- Template (Theme)
A WordPress blog is made up of basic elements: pages, posts and links. Understanding the difference between a page and a post is core to understanding WordPress.
Technically, posts and pages are almost identical. They’re created using the same tools, and they’re published in largely the same manner. How they’re organized is really what differentiates them.
A page tends to contain static content, like the block listing the editors of a newspaper or magazine. It can change, but it is not expected to change on a regular basis. Posts form the syndicated content, sort of like a daily column in a newspaper.
Pages form the basic information about a site, such as “About” or “Contact” information. A page is on one topic. A user views one page at a time. The list of pages is displayed in a list.
Posts don’t typically change a lot either, but the space that a post occupies will change regularly. A post is a collection of words, and posts are classified with categories. A site has multiple posts about each category. In my site, I have a category called “Articles.” As I post an article, I categorize it under Articles. This enables a viewer to see my articles by clicking on the category “Articles.” A user can view a single or multiple posts at a time. A post is time sensitive, reflecting when it was written, with the most recent shown first.
When visitors clicks on “articles” they see all posts within the articles category. In the display, the posts are shown in reverse chronological order. Posts can also be selected by date, like selecting a specific issue of the newspaper.
Suppose the website is about a group of writers. Two approaches to show the authors would be to create an “About the Authors” page or a collection of posts with one post per author. These posts would be assigned to a Category called “Authors”. As a new author is added to the site, a new post for the author would be added to the “Authors” category. If the list of authors is static, make it a page. If it will grow with time, make it a collection of posts under the “Authors” category.
A link is a hyperlink to another site. While most links point to a different website, I often use a link to point to part of the current site. Links, like posts, have a category. The category is a different list of “Link Categories.” Links are listed alphabetically by category and then by Name.
Tags are similar to categories, but instead of a list of words to choose from, you write them in a list (separated by commas) in a text box below your post. They are free-form words and generally describe your post in more detail.
For example, a post titled “Last Night At Burger King” might be filed under the “Dinner” category, but could have tags like, “burger, chicken fries, chocolate shake, cola”.
One of the strengths of a blog is that visitors can comment on it. This is en electronic “Letter to the editor.” This can be a blessing as well as a curse. For a true blog, a comment is an opinion on your posts. For a company site it could be a question, testimonial or complaint. A common problem with early company blogs was a lack of monitoring the comments. You could quickly end up with a collection of negative comments, as well as ads for Viagra and other questionable spam comments.
When you are creating a WordPress site for a company, there are several alternatives.
- Turn off/hide comments so that they are not even visible
- Moderate comments. An administrator must approve a comment before it is displayed
- Moderate a person’s first comment, then let them comment without moderation
- Allow anyone to post a comment
Hiding comment support involves modifying the template and requires a programmer. The problem with moderating comments is that it requires effort and it tends to impede comments. WordPress also has a very nice feature that sends all comments to the moderator for approval, unless that person has posted an approved comment in the past. This creates a list of ‘approved’ commenters.
There are two types of problem comments: spam and malicious. Spam is controlled with the Akismet plugin. It is easy to activate and requires a wordpress.com account. Malicious comments can come from a competitor, unhappy customer or someone just being a jerk. Regularly monitor the comments on your site.
Going back to the newspaper metaphor, the template, also known as the theme, is the layout. In WordPress, the template controls what appears where, as well as the colour scheme and font selection.
Templates separate content from look. This means you can change the look without changing the content. I used to write the website for a resort. In the winter we used a blue/snow theme and in the summer a green, lush theme. With smartphones becoming more popular, I have set up my site to change to a very simple theme that is small-screen friendly when the site detects the visitor is using a phone.
These seven basic words form the core understanding of blogging with WordPress.