In the previous post in this series we gave you a good overview of the WordPress admin area and its various components. Now that you know your way around the main sections of the back end of your website, it’s time to dig a little deeper and explore the general WordPress settings.
Getting a good understanding of the settings will ensure that you are able to set up your website in the way that you want. This means it’s an important aspect of WordPress to master.
The WordPress Settings Explained
The WordPress settings can be access from the Settings item on the sidebar menu of the admin area of your website. Once you’ve logged into the back end of your website (e.g. http://yourdomain.com/wp-login.php) you can then start configuring your website to work in the way that you want.
The settings area of WordPress is divided up into a number of sections, as follows:
We will now guide you through each section in order to give you a better idea of what changes you can make to your website, as well as the effect that each of the settings can have on your website.
The general settings are just that: general settings that cover the top level configuration of your WordPress website. From here you can enter the site title, add a tagline or description, and the site URLs. As you can see from the above image, my website is called ‘Plugins and Themes’. Depending on your chosen WordPress theme, the title and tagline are likely to be displayed prominently on your website.
The next two fields refer to the address visitors should type into their browser to find your website, and the location of your WordPress installation. Both of these fields should be populated with the correct information already. However, if they do not match your domain name, you may need to update them with the correct URLs.
The email address field should contain an address that you check regularly. This is important as your WordPress website will send out notifications on certain events. This includes new user registrations, and the availability of software updates. This can help you keep your WordPress software up to date and enable you to monitor who has access to your website.
The next two fields give you the option of allowing visitors to register an account on your website. In most cases you will want to disable this setting. However, if you are running a website where you would like your visitors to create accounts, such as an online shop, a discussion forum, or membership website, you will want to enable this feature.
If you do enable this setting for any reason, choosing the subscriber role ensures that new users who self-register can’t make any changes to your website. It’s worth noting that if you are using any third party plugins that make use of user accounts, such as the aforementioned, ecommerce, membership, or discussion plugins, they may well add their own user roles and select those roles for this setting.
Further settings on this page allow you to set the localization settings for your website. Once you are happy with the settings, click the save button to commit them.
The writing settings give you some options covering how your write content on your website. Through these settings you can choose to enable emoticons, as well as instruct WordPress to correct invalidly nested XHTML. This second option will make sure that your post content is written in valid XHTML. While enabling this option seems like a good idea, it can reportedly cause problems for some WordPress plugins you might use on your website.
If you do enable this option, bear this in mind for troubleshooting purposes should any problems arise in the future.
Other options allow you to choose a default post category and a default post format. We will cover WordPress categories and post formats later on in this series. However, whichever item you choose here can be easily overridden at the post creation stage so don’t dwell on this too much.
As WordPress supports post by email, you can actually mail in new content direct from your email service of choice. If you do wish to make use of this feature, you can configure it here.
The Update Service section allows you to enter a list of services that will be notified each time you publish a new post. This can help your content get indexed in the search engines quicker. However, the default settings should more than suffice for most websites. Additional services can be found here if you’d like expand the list.
The reading settings allow you to choose to either display the latest posts on the homepage of your website, or instead, one of the pages you’ve created.
If you are creating a blog then the first option is a good choice as visitors to your website will be greeted with your newest blog posts. However, if you are building a static website, such as a company website, portfolio, or online shop, you may want to choose a page to be displayed as your homepage.
The posts page option allows you to define how your users can access your blog content if you do set a static page as your homepage. In order to make use of this setting you must first create a new page and give it a name, such as Posts or Blog, and then publish it.
The page must be left blank and then it can be selected from the Posts page menu. Now whenever that page is accessed by a visitor, it will display the list of latest blog posts from your website.
Other settings on this page allow you to choose how many blog posts to display per page, and how many blog posts to display in the subscription feed. The default value of 10 is a good choice for both of these settings.
You can also choose whether to display the full text of a post to subscribers who are viewing your content in an app like Feedly, or just a summary. The full text option allows your subscribers to read your posts without visiting your website and is more convenient for them.
While the summary option forces them to return to your website to read the full post. The advantage of this option is that it gives you more opportunity to expose them to your other content, or sell them a product or service.
The Search Engine Visibility field should remain unchecked unless you are still working on your website and don’t want it included in the search engines just yet. Although do remember to uncheck this option when your website is ready to be found via search engines like Google.
Comments and interaction are one of the key features that distinguish a blog from a regular website. Through the discussion settings you can control how this aspect of your website functions.
The settings are fairly self-explanatory. However, you may want to disable link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackback) as this feature has been abused by spammers trying to artificially build links back to their website.
While this feature does inform you when another website mentions your website and includes a link to your content, the number of unwanted notifications could outweigh the benefit of this feature so feel free to disable it.
The WordPress Media Library is where any images and other media files you upload to your website, including posts and pages, are stored.
Through the media settings you can set the maximum dimension of images that are added to the media library. In practice, these are the sizes that are used when you are inserting images into your posts and pages. Your chosen WordPress theme should update these settings to match the size of the post and page width, allowing you to insert full width images into your content. However, if you need to change the set sizes in the future you can do so from this screen.
Finally, the permalink settings allow you to choose how the URLs or addresses of the individual posts and pages on your website look. By default WordPress will use a numbers and other symbols to create the link or URL of each post on your website.
However, through these settings you can make the URLs more readable to humans. While you can create a custom permalink structure, the Post name option is a popular choice.
When selected WordPress will now use the post name as the address or URL of the post. However, if you would like your URLs to indicate to your readers when each post was published, you may want to select either the day and name or month and name option.
That concludes our beginner’s guide to the WordPress settings. Through our walk through of these settings pages you’ve seen how you can choose whether your website functions as a blog or more like a traditional website with a static homepage.
We’ve also covered the settings that govern how discussions take place on your website, and looked at how to change the default image sizes, as well as how to modify the address structure of each individual post on your website. Stay tuned for the next post in this series, or check out the archives to see what you’ve missed.
If you have any questions about these settings, or WordPress in general, please leave a comment below.