In the last installment of “Marketers Learning Tech” we created our first page. Today we’re going to go over Themes and Plugins. One of the advantages of WordPress and other content management systems (CMS) is that they allow you to keep the data separated from the presentation. Doing this allows you to redesign and add functionality without having to reformat and redo all the information on your site.
In order to find the perfect theme for your site, expand the “Appearance” section of the menu on the left and then click on “Themes.” By default, your site will be using either the Twenty Ten or Twenty Eleven theme (depending on when you installed the software). It’s OK if you want to stick with one of those, but to learn more about how a CMS works, it’s a good idea to at least check out other themes. To choose another, click on “Install Themes” at the top of the page and start browsing.
There are literally thousands to choose from – some better than others. If you find one which you think you’d like to use, click on the “Preview” and see a screen shot. After looking at the screen shot, if you’re still convinced it might work on your site, click on “Install” and the code will be automatically downloaded and installed.
Pick out two or three selections and install them on your site. Go back to the “Manage Themes” selection and click “Preview” on each theme to double check if it’ll really work for you on your site. When you make your final selection, click on “Activate” and that theme will be the one used for your site.
Some of you may be asking yourselves (or yelling at the screen), “How can we pick a theme if we haven’t added any content yet?” Good question. I like to have at least most of the background, grunt work done before adding a lot of content. That way, later, you’ll have more time to focus on creating content rather than messing with themes and such. As I mentioned above, one of the great things about a CMS is that you can change the look on the fly without having to recreate or reenter the content.
If you’d rather add some content before picking a theme, you can do so. Once we’ve gotten past the part where we add some posts, come back to this section and have at it.
In the part on WordPress Settings, I walked you through installing your first plugin, Login LockDown. Go back to that lesson and review how to install a plugin because we’re going to add a few more today:
- Akismet is a great tool for screening out comment spam. It is installed by default and I highly recommend you use it. Follow the instructions on how to get an API key (free for personal web sites) and activate it. This will save you gobs of trouble later.
- Fast Secure Contact Form is a great, easy to use, contact form piece.
- Photo Dropper helps you find images in Flickr’s Creative Commons area for you to use in your posts. It allows you to search for images and automatically add them to your posts along with the proper attribution.
- WP Super Cache creates a very nice web cache and compresses your posts so they download faster.
I realize that themes and plugins allow for less technically skilled folks to create and extend the functionality of web sites without getting into coding and whatnot. Of course, that’s one of the advantages of WordPress using themes and plugins created by the more techie among us. Later, after we get the groundwork going, we’re going to start messing around with more tools and I’m going to ask you to invest just a little more cash into this project to get a premium theme which will allow you to learn a lot more about the technical side of running your web site.
- Select a theme and install/activate it
- Find, install and activate the plugins noted above
- Keep working on your first two or three posts
- Put aside some money ($88) to purchase the Thesis theme in a few weeks