WordPress has completely redefined web publishing on so many levels, but mainly by so lowering the entry bar that you can hop on the tube, and create a fully-fledged WordPress site before the next stop.
You don’t even need to spend coin to own a blog, WordPress.com has your back covered with a free solution. And should you need more features and the flexibility of the full WordPress platform, you can rent server space from any web host, and then install the WordPress script from WordPress.org.
Most web hosts come with one-click auto-installers to help you along the way, so all you have to do is point and click.
Of the two flavors, I will go with self-hosted WordPress any day of the week. And that’s primarily because self-hosted WordPress comes with a number of awesome built in options that make your online adventure both enjoyable and thoroughly fulfilling.
These built in WordPress options will make your job as an online publisher easier, and more fun than it already is. You will achieve more, and gain a deeper understanding of the WordPress platform, giving you even more juice to realize your online dreams in style.
Without wasting another second, which built in WordPress options must you know and start using?
Live Theme Preview
You will change your WordPress theme at least once in your online business. It’s somewhat inevitable; a feature you need might be unavailable; something might break in your current theme; your current theme might bore you; you might need to rebrand – anything could make you desire to change your theme.
In the past, you had to activate your desired theme to see how it will look on your site. This meant users could see the new theme even before you made your customization. This often prompted web masters to put their websites in maintenance mode, which wasn’t cool.
This, however, isn’t the case anymore, as you can preview your new WordPress theme, and see how it will look on your site without first activating it. This means your readers will still see your current theme, and you can work on the new theme.
Live Theme Preview saves you a lot of time in terms of choosing the perfect theme for your business. It also gives you the chance to test-drive your theme before activating it. Once you’re satisfied, you can just click Save & Activate to launch your new theme.
Access Live Theme Preview by navigating to Appearance -> Themes. Hovering over your desired new theme will reveal a Live Preview button. Click this button to launch Live Preview, which brings us to our next built in WordPress option.
At times no matter how great a WordPress theme is, you still need too customize it represent your brand. But you’re busy, and are little pressed of time to even contemplate digging into complicated code to change colors, background images, widgets and site title among others.
Well, you don’t have to waste another second trying to locate all these options, just launch the WordPress theme customizer by going to Appearance -> Customize. Alternatively, you can navigate to Appearance -> Themes, and click the Customize button shown on your active theme.
The amount (and level) of customization you can make using the WordPress theme customizer depends on the features available in your theme. Once you’ve made your changes, just click the Save button – and Voila! – your new design springs into life.
As we are talking about colors, backgrounds and whatnot, it wouldn’t break a bone to mention yet another built in WordPress option that helps beginners and developers alike to customize WordPress sites like never before.
We are talking about the Edit CSS built in tool that you can access by navigating to Appearance -> Edit CSS. Provided you know your way around CSS, you can use Edit CSS to add some style and life to your WordPress blog.
This built in WordPress option allows you to add your own custom styles or completely replace your default theme’s CSS. On top of that, Edit CSS supports LESS and Sass CSS preprocessors, both of which allow you to take advantage of CSS extensions such as mixins and variables.
You can even set the default width for full-size images, videos and other shortcodes. That’s not the end of it; you can preview your CSS changes before saving, which is a great plus. This tool lets you bend your theme whichever way you desire. The only prerequisite is possessing some CSS skills.
It’s closer cousin, the Editor tool found under the Appearance tab, allows you to edit more than just your stylesheet. The Editor lets you edit every aspect of your theme – template files included. Moving on…
How we could get this far without mentioning Jetpack even once baffles me, seeing Jetpack is one of the best built in WordPress options you should start taking advantage of. Scratch that – Jetpack isn’t one built option – it’s a collection of 36 awesome built in options better known as modules.
That’s right, once you link Jetpack to your WordPress.com account, you will unlock 36 built in WordPress options that allow you to supercharge your self-hosted blog in ways unimaginable. You get everything from custom content types, Photon to accelerate your images, WP.me shortlinks, contact form, subscriptions, advanced stats, publicize, enhanced content distribution, and a mobile theme to boot among other features.
In summary, Jetpack comes with 9 built in social features, 8 writing features, 8 appearance-enhancing features, 5 photo/video features, and 3 developer options among others. If you won’t install another plugin (unrealistic), just ensure you’ve activated Jetpack. Only activate the modules you need to reduce your page load time.
Of the built in WordPress options we highlight in this post, Akismet is a must have. While you work hard to create your best work, spammers are busy finding ways of filling up your WordPress blog with crap. The only way to stop them dead in their tracks is activating Akismet – a one of a kind anti-spam solution from Automattic.
You don’t have to sweat the process; just get your API key from Akismet, and click the blue Activate Akismet button in your plugins screen. That’s all there’s to that. Akismet will catch spammers for you while you snore away. Oh yeah, it’s that good.
WordPress makes it incredibly easy to import your posts and comments from many other blogging platforms. Thanks to the import built in WordPress option, you can transfer content from a number of blog systems such as Blogger, Blogroll, Live Journal, RSS, Tumblr, Movable Type and TypePad among others. You can also use the import feature to convert existing categories to tags and vice versa.
You don’t have to struggle to move your posts and comments – it is all a click away. Unfortunately, you can’t import your images and other media as of yet. Someone should look into this need. Using the export feature, you can export content from your site to another WordPress installation easily and quickly.
You might have noticed the default WordPress installation comes with URLs that contain a lot of numbers and question marks. Well, this can’t be good for forward-compatibility of your links, aesthetics, SEO and usability.
Good thing WordPress comes with the permalinks built in option that helps you to customize the structure of URLs. You have five options from which to choose including Day and name, Month and name and Post name among others. We recommend either Day and name or Post name.
You can access your permalinks by navigating to Settings -> Permalinks.
When creating a new post or page, WordPress will launch the Visual editor by default. Unless you had toggled over to the text editor previously, the visual editor is the first post editor you see:
WordPress comes with yet another post editor – the text or HTML editor that enables you to create post/pages using HTML markup. Suffice to say, you must posses HTML skills to get the most out of the text editor.
Assuming you know your way around HTML, the text editor gives you a firmer control over the design of your WordPress site, allowing you to add complex HTML elements within your content as you deem fit. It’s a great built in WordPress option to have any day.
Still on this post editor business, there’s another built in WordPress option we must mention. In the post editor shown above, just below the Save Draft and Publish buttons, you will see Visibility. By default, the value is set to Public.
You can use this built in tool to password protect your post or set it to private mode to keep it within members of your organization. Setting it to Public means the entire world can see your post. There’s one more option that allows you to make your post sticky. You can stick your post to your front page, which is great for sending traffic to specific content.
HTML in Image Captions
You write the perfect blog post, and then scour the internet for the best images. By luck, you get great images, but the photographer (or source) needs a link back to their site as attribution. How will you attribute, say, five images that you got from five different corners of the internet?
Well, if you’re running your site on the latest flavor of WordPress, this ought to be way easy. You can add your links directly in your image captions. What’s more? You can italicize, bold and underline your captions using HTML.
Isn’t WordPress full of surprises? You can easily miss some built in WordPress options, such as the Screen Options, which is hidden behind a tiny drop-down menu located at the top right hand corner of your admin screen.
In some screens, this menu is unavailable, but you should see it when adding a new post. You can also see the Screen Options menu in your main WordPress dashboard among other areas.
Clicking on this menu opens a menu full of exciting features. They include (but not limited to) custom fields, likes and shares, discussion, categories, tags, featured image, excerpt, revisions and plugin-related options among others.
Post via Email
What if you could post to your blog whenever and from wherever without logging into your blog? Wouldn’t that be awesome? You could post whenever inspiration strikes, keeping your blog on fire. Well, WordPress makes this very much possible, even without trying hard on your part.
You can easily post from your favorite email client provided you know your way around mail servers. You need this info to configure Post via Email, which you can access by going to Settings -> Writing, where you should see the Post via e-mail option. You can get all the details you need from your web host, so don’t worry.
Search Engine Visibility
What could do with a bit more traffic from search engines? Net a few more sales perhaps? Make your mark maybe? Many WordPress blogs get a huge chunk of their traffic from search engines, and that’s a no brainer. That’s why it would be a shame to leave “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” turned on in Settings -> Reading.
Unless of course yours is a new WordPress blog without content, in which case you wouldn’t want it indexed. If your site has content, deselect this option, and let them spiders find you.
I have a confession to make. I have never used this built in WordPress option once in my life, but that’s because it’s easy to forget it exists. However, don’t assume it’s useless, because it isn’t.
According to WordPress, this built in WordPress option is “…a little tool that lets you grab bits of the web and create new posts with ease.” Considering you mainly create blog posts, don’t you think this is a great tool? Why should you start using Press This? It’s great for inspiration. Not a word more.
Oh wait, you should be able to access Press This by navigating to Tools -> Available Tools.
When adding a new image to the media library, there are three dimensions you need to keep in mind namely thumbnail size, medium size and large size.
You can set these dimensions to suit your needs using the media settings found under Settings -> Media. You can even change the color of your image gallery carousel.
How do you ensure readers keep coming back to your WordPress blog? You make it incredibly easy to find your new content. How? You take advantage of WordPress feeds. At the time of writing, WordPress supports five types of RSS feeds namely:
- RSS 0.92 feed
- RDF/RSS 1.0 feed
- RSS 2.0 feed
- RSS 2.0 comment feed
- Atom feed
And all you have to do is add your RSS links to your website, where they will be picked up by feed readers such as Feedly and Digg Reader among others. Go to Appearance -> Widgets -> RSS Links (Jetpack). Note that Jetpack needs to be active to use the RSS Links widget.
You can go a mile further a submit your feed URLs to a service such as FeedBurner. The process is simple and straightforward, plus they offer you a plugin (plus chiclets) to integrate your URL feeds to your WordPress site.
Oh by the way, your post feed URL is http://www.yoursite.com/feed/ and the comment feed URL is http://www.yoursite.com/comments/feed/ by convention. Of course, you want to replace yoursite.com with your own domain name. You can learn more about WordPress feeds at the codex.
Categories + Tags
While these built in WordPress options are easy to implement, you’ll often spot blog posts that go without categories or have posts in the default Uncategorized category. Other blogs have tags that don’t make sense or an excess of categories, which is among the top WordPress mistakes you should avoid.
Try to stick to about 7 to 12 categories. After all, categories help your readers to find related content, so don’t make it insanely difficult for them. You can add as many tags as you want, but try to use less than five per post. Also, make them relevant as users search for specific terms in search engines. Categories and tags are easily accessible in the post editor.
Have you ever had one of those instances when you absolutely needed to roll back to a previous version of your post or even page? Well, before the post revision built in option was a reality, this was an impossible task.
Once you saved your post, it was set in stone, and you couldn’t go to a previous version as you willed. The situation is totally different today, because every time you edit your post/page, WordPress saves a copy of the revisions. If you ever need to reinstate a previous version, you just need to click the blue link:
You can find the Revisions widget in the post editor, but if you can’t see it, try activating it in Screen Options first.
If you are a deejay, a musician or an entrepreneur in the music business, you will be glad to know that WordPress makes it incredibly easy to manage and share music with the world. What I mean is in a matter of seconds, you can create an intuitive audio player without installing any plugin.
First, upload your audio files:
Second, go to your post editor and click Add Media to launch this screen:
Click Create Audio Playlist and select your audio files:
Then click Create a new playlist button. On the next screen you can Edit Audio Playlist:
Hit the Insert audio playlist button when you’re done. You should see your audio player in your post editor:
Easy as ABC. Teren teren…
I love fancy stuff. Cool fancy stuff that makes me go like “Wait, how did they do that?” And the Twitter embed built in WordPress option is way fancy, way cool to miss from this list. Why? Firstly, it makes your tweets stand out, and secondly, it is so damn easy to implement.
All you have to do is paste the tweet URL (e.g. http://twitter.com/wpkube/status/604308792956833792) in your visual editor, in it’s own line, and boom:
If you think tweet embedding is fancy and too easy, here’s something that’s even easier. Adding videos from video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo to your WordPress site is a matter of pasting the video URL (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YqV8n_kfsU) in your visual editor, in its own line, and you’re game.
Page Break option
There are long form posts that would definitely look better spread over a few pages depending on the design of your blog. If you need to split your post into several pages, rest easy, the page break built in WordPress option has your back covered.
All you need to do is toggle over to the text editor, and insert the following code where you want the second page to start:
If you need a third page, just use the code again and so on. Easy as pie, just make sure you toggle over to the text editor first.
Excerpts draw attention, more so on social media sites. They also give your WordPress site a great look in that posts aren’t displayed in full, which would, you know, suck.
Now, you can create your own custom excerpts using the Read More built WordPress option available in your post editor. Just place your cursor where you need your excerpt to end, and hit the Read More button on the toolbar.
Over to you…
Have you used any of these built in WordPress options in the past? How helpful did you find them? Are you glad you found them? And have we left out your favorite built in WordPress options? Let’s discuss in the comments.