How to make a free WordPress Blog (Part 2)

WordPress logo

Looking for Part 1? Here it is: How to make a free WordPress Blog (Part 1).

You’ve created an account, you’ve given your blog a theme, and you’ve chosen a URL. At that point, WordPress shows you a sample blog post, or a mocked-up home page, depending on choices you made when first setting things up.

Let’s write our first blog post, add a picture, and categorize it. Start by clicking the “Write” button.
The button may have the word “Write” on it, or may simply be a picture. See below. It depends on how much room there is in the window.
WordPress Write Button
Here’s how the button might look– with a label, and without.
WordPress Write button, with label WordPress Write button, no label

Clicking the Write button takes you to a page that looks like this:

WordPress new blog post
WordPress new blog post

Change the title, add some text (below the line). WordPress will automatically save for you (see lower left corner) but you can click the Save button any time you want. I try to click “Save” whenever I’ve done a bit of work but I’ve been bailed out by WordPress’ auto-save feature too. So both are good.

Note: “Saving” is not the same as “Publishing.” Publishing is the action that puts your article onto the internet, making it something others can see. You’ll do that at the end. “Saving” is really saving a “draft” that you will eventually publish later.

Here I’ve changed the title and typed a little text in the body of the blog post. I want to add a picture, so I’ve clicked the down-arrow next to the circled “+” in the blog post editing window. I could add a Contact Form, but I want to “Add Media” (a picture, this time). So let’s choose Add Media. (Shortcut: just click the circled “+” to go straight to the Add Media area.)

WordPress blog post add media

When you click “Add Media” you get a box showing all of the pictures that your site knows about– your site’s Media Library. WordPress puts some sample photos into your Media Library, but obviously you’re going to want to add some of your own. Click the Add New button and you’ll get a chance to add a file to your site. We are looking for images (JPG, PNG, GIF) but you can also add PDFs, Microsoft Word .doc files, Apple Keynote presentations, PowerPoint presentations, Excel documents, MP3, WAV, M4A, MP4, MOV, etc. See this page for the official word on accepted filetypes.
WordPress Add Media
WordPress doesn’t know how to look inside an iPhoto or Photos library so you’re going to have to have some photos “loose” if you want to add them to WordPress.

Select a photo and add it to the Media Library. Here’s how it might look (I’ve used the slider at upper right to make the thumbnails larger).

WordPress Media Library with large thumbnails

Adding the image to the Media Library doesn’t put it into your blog post. It just makes it available. You could just click on an image and then click “Insert” but it’s better if you add some “meta data” to the image first– data that tells about the image. Select an image in the Media Library, click “Edit,” and you’ll see fields for Title, Caption, Alt Text, and Description. You don’t have to fill them in but you should– the info in those fields helps you find your images within the Media Library, and it helps search engines to know what your pictures are about. It also helps those who can’t see your pictures understand what’s on your website.

In a nutshell: “Title” is for you to identify the image. “Caption” is displayed under the image, in your blog post. “Alt text” is technically required by the HTML standards, and it’s displayed when the image can’t be seen for some reason or another. It’s also something that Google looks for. “Description” is also for you– no one will see it but it helps you identify the image (where you were when you took the photo, any other info). So fill those things in and then click “Insert.”

Shrimp Dealies on the Big Green Egg

Click “Save” (or wait for WordPress to auto-save). Click the Preview button (the eyeball) to see how it will look (before you publish it).

WordPress previewing blog post

You can close the Preview window by clicking the big “X” at the top left. If you liked how it looked, click “Publish,” and now your post is “live.”

You’ll see something like this (the screenshot says “updated” because I went back and edited the post’s title and clicked “Update” after that):
WordPress updated blog post You can click up there in the green stripe to see the site.

Here’s how our sample site looks after publishing our first new blog post. Notice: the site needs a title, and the post needs a category. We’ll fix those things.

WordPress site with uncategorized blog posts

Note: there are other ways to fix these things. In fact, there are multiple ways to do lots of things in WordPress. If you click around you might discover one of those ways!

Start by clicking the “Customize” button at bottom right. If you’re still looking at the blog post and not the whole site, click where it says “Site Title” and it will take you to the front page of the site. Then you’ll see the Customize button. Click it and you’ll see something like this:

WordPress customizer
We’re going to start with the site’s title. Change that as you wish under the Site Identity section, then click “Save & Publish.” Your changes are effective immediately.

Click the left-pointing arrow next to where it says “Customizing Site Identity.” That takes you back a step. Now you can change other things, like fonts and colors. When you are done making changes in the Customizer, click the X at top left. This takes you to your site’s WordPress Dashboard. First thing we are going to do is click where it says “Blog Posts.” Then we will Edit the blog post we made earlier, and we will add a category to the post.

WordPress Dashboard

See that “Edit” button? Click it and you’ll be back where we’ve been before– editing a blog post. This time, what we really want to edit is the categories. WordPress likes your blog posts to be categorized, making it easy for people to find your stuff. Click where it says “Categories & Tags” then Add Category. If you don’t see Categories & Tags click the gear icon. That toggles those settings on and off. Add a category that makes sense (for me, I’ve made one called “food”) and check the box next to it to apply it to the post. You’ll be able to use that category for other posts as well. Categories aren’t strictly required but they are a good idea so make a few good ones and apply them to your posts.

The post looks better with a real category and not “Uncategorized.”

WordPress categorized blog post

So let’s recap. You know how to make a blog post. You know how to edit a blog post. You know how to edit your site’s name and tagline. I think you’re on your way. There’s more to know, but this is enough for now. Up next in Part 3: the WordPress.com Dashboard.

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