The highlights of website design with WordPress.
WordPress.com is a free, content management system (CMS) for hosting a website. Many people use WordPress for blogging, and it is optimized for type of content. However, it provides an easy to use system for putting together a standard website. While a CMS can do a lot things, especially for a large organization, the features that interest us include:
- the ability to pick a standard visual appearance for all web pages in the site.
- the ability to organize information easily.
- the ability to control the appearance and organization of the site from a central point (a dashboard, in WordPress terms).
- the ability to allow other users to post information, or interact with you on your website.
starting to design
WordPress walks you through the setup process, but I want to focus on Dashboard as a central control resource. You can access the Dashboard from the top control bar, by hovering your mouse over the world icon/blog name. All aspects of your site (appearance, whether your land on a static page or blog, visability of site, even rename your site) can be controlled from the dashboard.
You pick a theme for your site (found under the Appearance section of the Dashboard). All of your pages will have the same layout, from header, to number of columns, to any sidebars and footers. In general, I like to have a main column for content, and then a sidebar for links and other widgets.
Don’t worry too much over your theme. You can always try new themes with just a few clicks, and you never lose information.
Widgets can be thought of as small little applets, or parts of the page that provide certain functions. For a blog site, I use the search box. For a standard site I often keep a list of links (internal or external). You might want to incorporate a Facebook like button, or your Twitter feed (and a follow button).
Your home page is where most people will initially land on your site. It should provide easy to follow links and information for new visitors, along with information useful for your return visitors. WordPress will handle storage and linking between pages internal to your site (the pages that you create). If you start to make a lot of pages you may find that you want to make parent-child pages (folder relationships), but I wouldn’t worry about that for now.
Under Dashboard > Settings > Reading, you can set whether your home page goes to a static page or to your posts (if you are using a blog format).
WordPress provides a sample page to start. You should delete it and create your own home page and other information pages.
Links to external sites will include the full site address (http://www.bsu.edu). The easiest way to add links is to navigate to the page in a separate tab or window, and copy the link and paste it into the link editor. WordPress asks you to categorize your links. WP will use the categories to group them in a links widget in a sidebar. Categorizing your links is very helpful, as you can separate information by type (teaching and/or professional organizations, other musicians, etc.)
audio and video
The easiest way to handle audio and video in WordPress is to use YouTube (or Vimeo) and SoundCloud. Your free WordPress account will not let you upload audio and video on the WP site. You can embed videos from YouTube and links to SoundCloud to play audio.
We will talk about design issues, but I would like to leave with this link that describes how to keep visitors from “bouncing” from your site.