Starting a Great Blog Part 4 – Configuring WordPress

Well, you’ve made it this far, from the Intro Post to getting a domain and hosting to the installation of WordPress, are you ready to start customizing WordPress’s many settings? Today we will show you how to make WordPress work the way you want it to. Tomorrow, you’ll learn how to install a new theme for your blog. The day after, we cover posting (and other blogging activities). We’ll cover more than that, in the days to come, but I won’t bore you with the details now. Ready to start setting some settings? Let’s go!

First, you’ll want to login to your admin panel (accessible at Personally, I like to bookmark the login page (I put it on Firefox’s “Bookmark’s Toolbar”) so I can get in and post as quickly as possible. Once you’ve logged in, hit the tab marked “Options”. The “General Options” page will come up.

Most of the options on this page are self-explanatory. Here’s a quick overview.

  • Weblog Title” is the name of your blog.
  • Tagline” is a short description, generally shown underneath the title. Webmaster-Source’s tagline is “Useful Resources For Webmasters”. Smashing Magazine‘s is “We smash you with the information, which will make your life easier. Really.”
  • “WordPress Address (URL)” is the absolute URL to the directory where WordPress is installed, you’d best leave it alone.
  • The same goes for “Blog Address (URL)”, which should be the same as the previous, if you installed WordPress in the normal manner. Again, it’s not a good idea to mess with it.
  • “Email Address” is the email address where any blog-generated emails come from (like registration confirmations and such). You’ll can also get email alerts to this address as well. Personally, I prefer to put my domain email there.
  • “Membership”: There are two checkboxes for this. “Anyone can register” allows visitors to register for the blog, generally as commentors. “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” determines whether guests can comment, or if they must register first. Personally, I check the top option, but not the second. I then install a Captcha plugin to keep spammers out.
  • “New User Default Role”: Make sure this is set to “Subscriber”, otherwise people who register can post actual posts (instead of just comments)!
  • You can generally leave the date and time settings alone, unless you know what your doing (though you should probably set the UTC [Aka GMT] offset to your local timezone).

Hit the “Update Options” button to save your changes, then we can move on to the “Writing” tab.

  • “Size of the post box”, change this to 15 lines. The default of 10 makes is a little cramped when your writing posts. If you have a large screen resolution (above 1024×768), you may even want more than that.
  • “Formatting”: Check both of these boxes, especially the bottom one.
  • You can leave the “Default […] category” settings as the are for now. Basically, they set which category a post/blogroll link will go into if another is not specified.
  • Ignore the “Post by e-mail” settings. They’re a bit of a security risk when set-up, and they’re a bit of a pain.
  • The “Update Services” box allows you to enter RPC services to ping whenever you post. The default notifies Technorati,, and other blog directories and search engines. I recommend leaving as-is.

Update the settings, and we can move on to the “Reading” tab.

  • Leave the “Front Page” settings alone, trust me, you don’t want them changed.
  • The “Blog Pages” setting lets you chose how many posts to show per page on your blog. I like the default of 10, which is common throughout the Blogosphere. Some prefer 15, or 8, or some other arbitrary number. Pick whatever you want. You may want to adjust it in the future, once you know how long your average post is.
  • “For each article show:” your choice of “Full text” or “Summary”. Summary takes all your posts, and shows little summaries instead of the full article, letting users read the rest by clicking a link. Personally, I leave it at “Full text”, so I can chose when, where, and if I want to do it, using a feature called the More Tag. Take a look at the Webmaster-Source Home Page. If a post is getting too long, I put a read more link. The “Full Text” option is much more flexible, and in my opinion, better than “Summary”. You decide.
  • You can leave the remaining two settings alone, unless you know what you’re doing.

Update your settings, and head over to…the “Discussion” tab. This tab deals with comments, trackbacks, and all sorts of cool interactive stuff.

  • “Usual settings for an article”: These checkboxes are very important. I recommend checking the first box. This tells you blog to send a pingback/trackback automatically to any blog post you link to in your post. Very cool, and it often results in links back to you. The second option tells your blog whether to accept trackbacks/pingbacks or not. I recommend allowing them, after all, it’s incentive for others to link to your posts (because your blog will automatically add a link back, right above the post’s comments). The third option basically says “Should people be allowed to post comments?” It’s up to you, of course. Most blogs allow comments, and it’s cool to get your readers’ feedback.
  • “Email me whenever…”: Okay, you do not want to be emailed whenever someone posts a comment. If you get to the point where your blog is popular and you’re getting 10 comments a day, then that’s ten emails a day! If you’re in favor of a clean inbox, make sure it’s unchecked. The second one alerts you if a comment is held in the “Moderation Queue”. This one’s up to you. Personally, I’d check it, and un-check it if it gets out of hand.
  • “Before a comment appears…”: These are pretty much self-explanatory. Beware that it can be a real pain to approve every comment before it appears. You can delete comments after they’re posted. I’d check the middle box, but not the other two. There are better anti-spam measures out there.
  • “Comment Moderation”: You can probably guess what these settings are for. You shouldn’t have any problem setting these yourself.

Update the options, by hitting the large button, then we can move on. On the Privacy tab, tell WordPress you want search engines to be able to find you blog, then head over to the “Permalinks” page.

On the “Permalinks” tab, you get to pick how your blogs’s URLs are. Do you want the URLS for your posts to look like Didn’t think so. I like the middle options., which works on most servers. You get URLS like That’s better, isn’t it? More professional looking, if a bit longer. It helps the search engines out, as well.

Hit the big “Update Permalink Structure”, and we can move on to…wait. We can skip the tiny “Miscellaneous” tab, which only has some obscure settings you probably won’t need to change. Instead, click on the “Manage” tab at the top of the screen. Select “Categories” from the list of links that shows below it. You want to add some categories to your blog?

Categories are more useful than you can imagine. They help readers find the posts they want, and they help Technorati index your posts in their search engine.

Scroll down to the bottom of the “Manage Categories” page, until you get to the “Add Category” box. Just enter a category name, and hit enter. Using a cool AJAX, technique, the category is added without the page reloading. Cool or what? Repeat until you have as many categories as you want for now (you can add more as you need them). Want sub-categories? Just use the “Category Parent” dropdown to pick the category you want to put the new one inside.

Well, I think that’s enough for today. Tune in tomorrow for a tutorial on installing a new blog design. You didn’t think we’d leave you with that awful metalic-blue and white one forever did you?

Starting a Great Blog Part 5 – Themes