Making Your Domain Your Own

Congratulations! Now you have your WordPress site up and running. You may have noticed that your blog has a post already that says “Hello World.” Now is the time to personalize your blog or website. We are going to walk you through how to change some automatic features that WordPress puts on new blogs and then we will talk about how to customize the design of your blog.

1. On the BYU Domains dashboard at domains.byu.edu/dashboard, if you scroll down to the box titled “Applications,” clicking on the “WordPress” icon, and choosing the “My Applications” tab on the top right. There are three links that you can choose from that deal with your blog. Click on the middle one to go your WordPress dashboard.

2. You will be taken to the WordPress dashboard, which is the place where you can change all of your settings.

3. To delete automatic features, follow this step. WordPress automatically publishes a blog post for every new blog called “Hello world.” They also author a comment on that post by “Mr. WordPress.” These two features show you what posts and comments will look like. However, they should be changed immediately so your blog doesn't look so new. To get to the post editor, click on the “1 Post” hyperlink under the “At a Glance” section of your dashboard (see screenshot above). This will take you to the “Posts” page. Click on the title of the post, “Hello World,” to get to the post editor.“ Once you get to the post editor, you will see the post title, content, and some publishing options. You can either edit the existing blog post or delete it. For now, we will just delete it by clicking the “Move to Trash” button. Deleting the post will also get rid of any comments that occur with the post (in this case, deleting the post gets rid of the automated comment by Mr. WordPress).

4. To title your blog, go to the black bar that stretches across the top of the screen, click “My blog” and then “Visit Site.” On the very top of the screen is a black bar that stretches across the page. Go to “My blog” and click on the tab that says “Visit Site.”

You will be taken to a live view of what your blog looks like. On the top left of your blog, the words “My blog” and “Just another WordPress site” appear. Unless you changed the title and tagline when creating the site in BYU domains. These two phrases are called your blog title and tagline. You can title your blog anything you like. Common titles can reflect the site domain name, for example, if your domain name is janedoe.com, your title can be Jane Doe. Your tagline is a very short description of your blog.

In order to change the title and tagline, go back to the WordPress dashboard and then under the “Appearance” tab click on “Customize.”

An editor will pop up on the left of your blog. The changes you make will automatically be updated on your site.

5. How to change your theme. A WordPress theme basically directs how the blog looks. Every new site that installs WordPress is created with the default WordPress theme of the year. If you like the general layout of the blog already, skip to the next step. However, if you want to change the layout of where things are on your blog, keep reading. Navigate to the dashboard and under “Appearance” click “Themes.”

You will be taken to the theme browser. WordPress already has two other default themes for you to choose from. However, if you click “Add New” at the top of the window, you will be able to view thousands of different themes that WordPress has in its files.

The WordPress theme window has a bar on the top where you can choose between “Featured,” “Popular,” or “Latest” categories. Feel free to browse around among the different themes. Once you find a theme that you think looks interesting, click on the theme image.

Clicking on the image will bring you to a preview of the theme. You can click around and see if you still like the theme. If you do, click “Install” on the top of the left sidebar. If you don't like it, just click the “x” in the top corner to return to the list of themes.

An alternate route for choosing a theme is to upload a theme from another website.

Some people like to find WordPress themes from independent designers. You can just google “free WordPress themes” and several lists of WordPress themes will come up. If you find a theme you like there, you can download the theme from the website, which will give you a .zip file. On the screen below, click the “Upload Theme” next to the “Add Themes” title in order to select your .zip file and upload it to your site.

Choosing a Theme

There are several different kinds of themes. Some themes are designed to feature blog posts very prominently. Others are designed instead for online stores or portfolios. The theme you choose will constitute what kind of website you will end up with. Some themes come with different color schemes, others only come in one color. If you know you want an orange color theme, you can use the search box at the top of the theme window to search for the options you want. Make sure to preview the theme options in order to find out what you like best. You can install multiple themes to your dashboard in order to find the ones you like easily, but none of them will change your website until you click “Activate.”

When a theme is labeled “responsive,” it just means that if a user is viewing your site on a mobile device, the theme will automatically adapt to mobile viewing from the traditional computer screen view without you having to do anything with coding or special options. This is a really nice theme feature, but not required. Some themes cost money because they are designed to come with special features, including more responsive designs. In general, for your first website, paying for an upgraded theme is not necessary. Free themes are perfectly fine, but if you want a paid theme, that is totally up to you.

Another thing to know is that WordPress is customized through plug-ins. A plug-in is an add-on application that will help you customize your site. Plug-ins are involved in every level of website customization, from adding carousel images on your home page to page building in your posts. If your site doesn't look the way you hoped, chances are, there's a plug-in for that.

Once WordPress installs the theme, you will come to this page, where you need to click “Activate” in order to change your blog to that style. If you want to continue looking for other theme options, click “Return to Theme Installer” instead.

After you click “Activate,” WordPress will show you your new blog template.

Avoiding Perfectionism

Remember, the theme that you install can always change. If you decide that you want something different after playing around and using a theme after some time, just uninstall your current theme and go looking for another one or you just activate another theme which will deactivate your current theme. Your site doesn't have to be perfect on the first try.

We will talk about customizing blogs and blog design in Step 8.

6. To write your first post, go to the dashboard, and under the “Posts” tab on the left sidebar click “Add New.”

You will be taken to the post editor. This editor tool functions a lot like Microsoft Word. At the top of the text box, there are several formatting option buttons for bolding, center alignment, etc.

Write your first post, give it a title, and then click “Publish” on the right (see above). If you are struggling with writing your first post, a good rule of thumb is that the first post for a new blog should tell the readers a little bit about yourself and why you wanted to start this particular kind of blog.

7. To create a new page (e.g., About Me, Portfolio, etc.), go to your dashboard and under “Pages” click “All Pages.”(Normally you would go to “Add New,” but for your first page, you will need to go to the “All Pages” section.)

WordPress automatically makes a sample page called “About” in your site when you install WordPress. Click on the title of that page so that we can change the default text and title on the page.

After clicking on the title, you will see the page editor, which looks almost exactly like the post editor. Delete the default title and text. Change the title of the page and write the text that you would like on the page. If you want to add media (such as pictures) to your page, click on the “Add media” button and follow the directions. When you're done editing the page, click the “Update” button.

Now that we have updated the default page, we also are going to create another one. Click on the “Add New” page.

Another text editor will come up. Enter your title and text in the editor. When you are done, click “Publish.”

You will now have two pages created, but no way to view them from your website's homepage. Because of this, we need to create a menu. A menu will provide the links needed to access the pages you created from the main page of your website. We will learn how to create a menu in the next step.

8. Create a menu Under the “Appearance” section, navigate to the “Menus” page.

Give your menu a name and then click “Create Menu.”

Once your menu is created, you can add pages to it. Check the boxes next to the pages that you want in your menu, and then click “Add to Menu.”

After you have pages in your menu, you can drag them into whatever order that you want. When you are finished, check the two boxes at the bottom of the page for “Auto add pages.” (If you want every page that you create to be in your menu, check this box. However, if you have plans to add fifty pages and you only want five custom-selected pages in your menu, do not check this box.) Also check the box for “Theme Locations, Primary menu.” (This just means that the menu will be visible on your home page. If you don't select this box, people will not be able to see your menu on the front page.)

Different themes will have different options. Some themes will have more options for where you want the menu located. Others will have less options. The directions here are the simplest directions, and should work for all themes. However, note that some themes automatically build menus for you, so if you can't find these options, check your homepage to see if your theme already has a menu in place.

Now you can see the pages you created in the menu on your home page. Clicking on these menu items will take you to those pages.

9. This step is to help you find copyright free images for your header art. What is a header? A header is the image at the top of the pages of your site. Your header is a way to express yourself or to give readers a chance to visually connect with your blog. Almost all WordPress templates allow you to change your header image. But before you change our header, here's a quick note about copyright. You cannot use copyrighted images on your blog. Luckily, there are several search tools online that can help you find non-copyrighted images. The easiest way is to use a Google Image search. Pull up a Google search box and click the “Images” tab in the upper righthand corner.

Enter your search query into the search bar and hit “Enter.”

When your search results come up, click on “Search Tools” on the top of the page.

Change the image size to “Large.” This size ensures that when you make an image larger, it will retain its image quality.

Also change the license filter to “Labeled for reuse.” This means that only images will come up in the results that are available for free use.

Now the photos that show up in your search are ready for browsing. When you find an image you like, download it to use as your header. In order to change your header to your selected image, go to the “Appearance” tab and navigate to the “Header” section.

Click “Add new image” in order to upload your selected image as the header.

A box will open up where you can just drag and drop your file into the box. Drag your selected image into that area.

When you drag the image into the selected area, it will automatically go into your Media Library. Select the image you want as your header and then click “Select and Crop.”

Adjust the crop box however you would like, and then click the “Crop Image” button.

You will be taken to a preview of your blog with the new header in place. If you like how the header looks, click “Save and Publish” to save your header. If you don't like how the header looks, you can click “Add New Image” and change the header until it looks good.

10. Create a list of topics you want to write about: The most important part of a blog is the content. Because of this, it is vital to keep posting. It is suggested that you post new content to your blog at least once a week, but most blogs that keep high readership post every 2–3 days. In order to keep up with the content, make a plan now about what you are going to write about when. Try to keep your readership in mind and schedule out the next couple of weeks.

Now that you have successfully made your blog look how you want it to, the next step is to advertise and promote it. We can help you with that at the Understanding Your Audience.