Category Archives: Blog Series

How to set up and manage a Wordpress blog — specifically a free blog

Change The Appearance of Your Blog

You’ve got your new blog. Now you want to decorate, and make the space your own; I get that.

When I made my first website back in the dim-dark days of 1996, I had to learn about HTML and Hex values and the ‘table’ tag; and all kinds of barbaric things like that.

Luckily for you, lots of designers are out there today creating beautiful themes that you can hang up, ready-made, or customize with your own artwork.

The Simplest Way To Change Your Theme

From your dashboard, look at the left-hand sidebar and find “Appearance”

Click on that, and then on “Themes”.

You’ll be take to a page full of gorgeous layouts and colors. In fact, there are pages and pages of them, so scroll through them until you find one you like.  Under the screenshot of the theme you like, click on the ‘preview’ link.  A pop-up window will show you how your blog (with your words, even!) will look, dressed up in that theme. If you’re lucky you’ve chosen a free theme. If it turns out you have expensive tastes, you can either pay the designer for their premium theme, or you can close the little window and go back to browsing until you find a free theme you like.

Once you find a theme you like and have previewed it with your blog, look in the top right of the preview window. There is a link saying ‘Activate theme’. Click it.

Now, when you visit your blog you’ll see the new theme.

Searching For Themes

If you know you want a blue theme, or one that lets you upload your own background art or header, you can use the search box (on the right side of the themes screen) or even better the “Features Filter” link. The more options you ask it to find for you (Custom header, custom background, custom colors, one sidebar, two sidebars etc.) the more likely you are getting into Premium Theme territory (i.e. you’ll have to pay money), I recommend playing around with a few free themes before you buy one. Look for themes with “theme options”. These will give you menus that allow you to check boxes to change the color of your background or titles etc. If you really can’t find anything you love in the free themes, by all means go shopping.

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Posting To Your Blog

Now that you are logged in to, you are either staring at the dashboard dashboard

or the New Post window.

From The Dashboard

To post a new entry on your blog, look at the left-hand menu. Hover over, or click ‘Posts’. This expands the menu. You’ll want “Add New”. Click it.

Posting Your Entry

I know there are a lot of boxes and buttons and general stuff on the page, but all you need to concentrate are the two at the top middle of the screen.  You can make friends with any of the other areas of the ‘new post’ page as and when you want to. But really, you might never need them, so don’t worry about them now.

In the top box, right under the “Add New Entry”, type a title for your post.

Underneath, type your entry.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Visual or HTML?

The main blog entry box has two tabs on the top right. One says ‘visual’ and one says ‘HTML’.

Unless you’re a code monkey or want to do something fancy, just let the box stay on ‘visual’. This will give you a nice little row of buttons that let you use bold, italics, bullets etc. If you’re feeling fancy, clikc on the last button in the row (the one that looks like a series of dots) and a second row of buttons will appear. These let you designate a paragraph as ‘paragraph’ text or ‘Header’, and includes the styles built into your theme (more on that in another article). To create the header for this section, for example, I put the cursor in the line “Visual or HTML?” and then used the drop-down box to select ‘Heading 1’).

None of this is essential, though and you can cheerfully ignore it all. Just type and I won’t think any less of you!

Save Draft & Preview

Over in the right sidebar, there is a box named “Publish”. In it you’ll see three buttons: ‘save draft’, ‘preview’ and ‘publish’. There are some other entries in there as well, but you can happily ignore them too, for now (unless you want to keep your entries private, in which case you’re going to have to introduce yourself to the “Visibility Public Edit” link).

I do, however, encourage you to make good use of the ‘save draft’ and ‘preview’ buttons. says it saves your entries as you type, but there’s nothing as reassuring as hitting that ‘save draft’ button after you’ve written a particularly profound paragraph.

The ‘Preview’ button will allow you to see your post as it look on the blog (to a reader). It opens in a new window, so your editing window is still open, underneath. This means you can flip between the two of them, correcting the inevitable typos that don’t show up until you see the post on your blog.


When you are happy with your draft, hit the ‘Publish’ button. Your post will go live. You’ll be brought back to the post editing window (where you just wrote it). If you want to see the live post, click on the ‘view post’ button just below the blog entry’s subject line.


This is a little more advanced, and certainly not essential, but you might want to make your posts easier to find by organizing them in categories. Believe me, it may not seem like a big deal now, but it is really nice to be able to link to all your articles on ‘recipes’ at once.

If you do want to assign a category you can do it right from the ‘new post’ page, as you’re writing the post. Below the publish button, is a box marked ‘category’. At the bottom of the box is a link: “+ Add New Category”. Click that. Type the new category name and click the ‘add new category button’ (you can ignore the ‘parent category’ option for now).

Some basic category suggestions to get you started (you can always add to these and change them):

  • Personal
  • Recipes
  • Kids Stuff
  • Travel
  • House
  • School

Tags Vs Categories

  • Imagine your blog posts as a pile of printed-out pages. If you wanted to organize them, you might put all your posts that contain recipes in a file folder marked recipes. This is what ‘categories’ do for you.
  • Within the file folders, however, you might have sticky notes poking out of the edges with things like ‘cakes’ or ‘steak’ or ‘pasta’ so that you can quickly find the right ones. These are your tags.

You don’t have to use tags, and they certainly don’t have to be consistent or boring, but it can be fun to go back in and click on ‘firsts’ and pull up all the entries that had to do with the first time you (or your kids) did something. If you tag your posts (put commas between tags) then pulling up that ‘firsts’ tag, for example, will pull all the entries you’ve tagged that way, no matter what category (file folder) you put them in.

Finishing Up

There are many other options on this screen, but for now, this is all you need to know. Go forth and blog!  (and if you have questions or used this advice, please leave a comment below and I’ll come and visit your new blog).

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Logging Back In To

So, you’ve set up your first blog. Congratulationss!

Now, How Do I Get Back To My Blog?

Well, if you haven’t been away from your computer or haven’t logged out it’s as simple as going to There, at the top right of the screen you’ll see your username and a user icon in the black bar along the top of the browser window.

user log in


If you have been logged out, you’ll see this instead. log in screen

Just enter your username and password (you do remember your password, don’t you?) and the little logo will appear in the top right of the black bar (as in that first picture up there).

Hover your mouse over the username/icon and you’ll see a drop-down box that looks like this. log in box

At the bottom of this box, you’ll see the WordPress logo and the name of your blog. Here you have two options:

  1. Click on the name to see how your blog looks to readers
  2. Hover over it and select from the menu that pops up. You’ll probably select ‘new post’ to, er, make a new post; or  ‘dashboard’ if you want to change the settings or work on your ‘about page’

(if you end up creating a second or third blog, you’ll see more blog names, like in my picture above. Just click on/hover over the one you want to work on today.)

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So You Want A WordPress Blog?

You want a blog, and lots of people recommend WordPress, but you’re are finding it all a bit confusing That’s fair, because the blogging tools are quite powerful and have LOTS of options built in.

Happily, you can start small with a basic blog (ignoring most of the options on the screen to start with) and I’m going to show you how:

First, we’ll decide whether you want/need a or site.

Secondly, I’ll assume you’re going for the option and walk you through that. or

or Do I Need Webspace Of My Own?

If you simply want a space on the web to call your own, post your thoughts, maybe put up some pictures, then you’re probably a great candidate for a account. is hosted by Auttomatic (the company that makes it)  meaning:

  • It is free
  • You don’t need to buy webspace
  • You don’t need to know anything technical

With a blog, you can not monetize your blog (i.e. put ads on it or sell things from it). If you want to make money on your blog, then you need to think about buying web space and downloading the (free but kinda complex) blog software from

What If I Start Small But End Up Wanting To Make Money Blogging?

As you grow and gain experience, you may ‘outgrow’ your blog and its limitations. The good news is it is relatively simple to export your blog and import it into whatever platform you end up using. For personal blogging, however, is probably going to suit you fine, possibly forever.

Getting Started With


First you’re going to need a username.

Go to and click on the “Get Started Here” button.

Get Started Here button

This takes you to a page where you can sign up for your blog.

Sign-up Page at

Choose a name for your blog. Your address will look like this “”. If you care, and don’t mind spending $17 a year, you can use the drop-down box and register a unique domain for your blog (so, for example, this blog’s address is “”, no mention of ‘wordpress’ anywhere). Unless you’re building a brand or really care about being seen as tech-savvy, save your money and just fill in a blog name. You can change it later if you change your mind.

Your username cannot be changed, so don’t pick something you’re going to hate later.

After you’ve chosen your password and told them your email address, you can ignore everything else on the page. Scroll down and click “Create blog”. Don’t sign up for the upgrade yet. There’s no need. (Try before you buy!).


The first page you’ll see after sign-up looks like this:

after sign-up at

What’s all this about? It’s about confusing you, that’s what. Not really, but it is WordPress trying to be all ‘social network’ and encouraging you to find other blogs to follow. That’s probably not why you’re here right now. You just want to blog, baby! So ignore all this stuff.

Instead, click on the header that says “My Blogs” (yes, confusingly, you can have multiple blogs associated with your username – say you want one blog all about your Troll doll collection and another about your experiences as a back-packing county & western star). When you click on “My Blogs” you’ll be taken to a page where you should see the name you chose for your blog. Click on it.

Now you are at the WordPress Dashboard. Next time you log in, this is where you will go, and it is the heart of your blogging set-up. It’ll look like this: dashboard

You’ll need to get to know your dashboard but the good news is that, for now, there are only a few parts that will concern you:




But before we even worry about them, there are a couple of things you should do straight away.

First Things To Do

Click on the place where it says “1 post”, right in the central area of your screen. That will take you to a page like this:

hello world

Click on the title of your first post that the WordPress folks have helpfully placed on your blog. (It’s called “Hello World”.). As well as telling you how to add a new post (we’ll get to that in a moment), it offers you your first look at the window you will see whenever you want to add a new blog post.

first post on

Start by deleting “Hello World” and entering your own title.

Then delete all the text and type your first post. (it doesn’t have to be ground-breaking or even intelligent. Just type anything.)

Now you have a choice. You can make your post go live, by clicking ‘update’ (over on the right) or you can instead click on ‘preview’. This will open a new window and show you what your blog looks like. It’s going to look pretty boring as you haven’t dressed it up yet, but don’t worry about that yet. You can choose a theme and update the appearance later.

Once you’re happy with your changes, hit ‘update’ and you’re up and running.

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Things you are going to want to do soon:

  • Logging Back Into
  • Post your next blog entry
  • Change the subtitle of your blog from “just another wordpress blog” to something smarter (or nothing)
  • Change the appearance of your blog (select a theme)
  • Customize your ‘about page’
  • Get to know your dashboard better
  • Learn how to upload pictures

[links to these articles will go live as I write them.]