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WordPress is a content management system for website (CMS) that is highly configurable, depending on the theme, child theme, plugins and custom templates and other setup options. This means that they don’t all behave the same, even if they are based on the same themes and plugins.
All of the websites I manage use the ‘Frontier’ theme with child-teme software that I wrote. They use a similar set of plugins, depending on the needs and complexity of the site. Some of the basic rules apply to all of the sites I manage, even though there are significant differences in how posts and pages are used and/or catalogued (including what determines whether a post is listed in the home page) as well as differences in features used (such as text boxes and automatic content panels).
Applicable to all sites (OVEC, WVEC, SORO, CAG, CAEF, WVOTER)
Various WordPress panels include a “Screen Options” drop-down box (at the upper left) which can be used to hide or display various panels relevant to a given page, which allows individual users to optimize that dashboard page for their particular needs. In most cases you don’t need to change the screen option settings, but for the WordPress “post” editor page (the dashboard page used for editing posts), I recommend enabling this set of “box” options with a 2-column layout:
Checked Boxes: Single Post Template, Excerpt, Custom Fields, Author, Categorys, Tags, Featured Image
Unchecked Boxes: Yoast SEO, Easy Social Share Buttons: Share Options, Send Trackbacks, Discussion, Slug, Easy Social Share Buttons
If you want to be able to disable comments for a particular post, you should enable the Discussion box. You can arrange the optional panels as desired (in any position of either column) by dragging them around by their title bar.
Starting a post
You can start a new post by clicking on the New (or New Post) link in the WordPress dashboard bar. I recommend having a title in mind when starting a post, because the first time you save the post WordPress will create a url based on the post title, and keywords in the url play a role in google ranking. If you start with a temporary title (like “xx”), then the url for the post will be something like ohvec.org/xx, even if you’ve changed the post title, unless you also remember to changed the editable portion of the url. It’s easier just to type in a good title to begin with.
Starting a post with default content (primarily action alert or other posts meant to be emailed)
Posts meant to be sent to an elist require default content to be loaded in order to support an email header with an automatic comment link, date and donate button (as well as controlling the email width). The trick to loading default content is to start a post, enter a title, select the appropriate elist template from the “Single Post Template” panel, and click the “Publish” button before typing of pasting anything in the post’s content panel. Don’t worry, even though the post is technically “published,” it’s not indexed or listed on the website as long as it in the “uncategorized” category (which it is, since we haven’t set the category – see the next section).
A post will not be displayed on the website if the “Uncategorized’ checkbox is checked. One reason for this is that many people accidentally hit the “Publish” button rather than the “Save Draft” button while editing a post. Another reason is that it is easier to share a post with proofreaders if it is “published” that if it is saved as a draft. Elist mailer integration used to require a post to be “published” prior to being “visible” on a given site, but now this is only true of the WVOTER site – sites using CiviCRM no longer have this requirement (with CiviCRM and updated integration software, action alert posts and mailings cab be scheduled days or weeks in advance).
Editing a post
All these site are set to use the “Classic” WordPress editor rather than the confusing “Block Editor.” You can copy and past directly from most other sources, such as Word files or html sources, though you may pickup stray styles if copying from web pages, and you may have to delete extra blank lines if copying from Word (depending on how Word is setup).
The editor is fairly easy to use if you are used to email or other editors. If you have trouble or can’t figure out how to do something, send me an email.
Any images already in the media library can be re-used in any post or as a featured image, or you can upload new images. Videos that are posted on youtube (or Vimeo and probably others) can be embedded simply by pasting the video url into a post. Tweets can be embedded the same way.
Additional Post Settings
While editing a post it is highly desirable to set related settings: the excerpt, category, tags, featured image and author (if not you). Select the applicable category(ies) and tags for a given website, but do no uncheck the “Uncategorized”checkbox (the post will not be visible on the website as long as uncategorized is still checked).
Proper use of categories and tags varies slightly from site to site, but in general categories and tags are used to organize and index each site. Categories are used to classify the type of post (blog, alert, press release, etc) while tags are generally used to describe the issues relevant to a post. Select only the two or three most relevant tags from the pre-existing tags, and resist the urge to create extra synonymous tags, though occasionally you may need to create a new tag if new issues arise.
Be sure to type something (or copy a line or two from the post) into the excerpt panel before making a post visible on a site. If the excerpt is blank and the post is shared to facebook, then facebook will pick some semi-random content from the page and used that for the excerpt in facebook feeds, and facebook will remember the non-excerpt even if you go back and add an excerpt to the post.
Also be sure to choose a featured image from the media library (or upload one). The featured image is used in facebook feeds as well as in listings on the website, and is shown in the sidebar of posts.
Making a post visible on the website
When you are done editing and ready to make a post visible, simply uncheck the uncategorized checkbox (and check the applicable category if not already checked), then click the “update” button. Then, always take a moment to look at the public version of the post on the website to be sure it looks right, is in the proper category with relevant tags, has a featured image, and that the excerpt has been set. If you forgot anything, simply edit the post to include the missing info.
In general you probably will not need to create new “pages.” Pages are different that posts (even though than can look the same). Posts are used for various types of repetitive content – action alerts, blog posts, press releases, etc. Pages are used for one of a kind pages, such as the home page, a contact page, an archive index, a gallery index page, etc, and make up most of the items you see in the menu bar of a website. Page do not have categories or tags.
You may occasionally need to edit a page, such as updating contact info. If a new page is needed, I should probably set it up, as pages often need special templates or shortcodes, as well as needing to be added to the menu structure.
Site Specific Notes
While all the sites use basically the same software, there are some differences in how the sites are organized, what features are utilized, and how posts are displayed, especially on the home page.
WVEC, CAG, CAEF, WVOTER
These site have the simplest home page setups. Posts are automatically listed on the home page, on archive pages, in various sidebars, and in ‘related posts’ panels. The home page or sidebars may include a facebook feed, twitter feed, or custom news feed (using a newslink plugin I originally wrote for OVEC).
The OVEC site has a highly customized home page that utilizes a slideshow, individually editable textboxes and content panels that automatically pull various type of content (who we are, alerts, newsletters, recent posts, news, twitter, featured posts, featured events, etc). Posts appear in the recent posts list automatically. Posts in the featured posts are added to the list using a custom field in the post.
The SORO home page is also fairly complex, with a slideshow, newsfeed, various textboxes (Useful Information, Advice and Updates, Special Reports and Commentary, and an unlabeled box above current issues and events). The “Current Issues and Events” and “New Resources and Advice” lists are generated by shortcodes – posts can be added to (or removed from) and positioned within either list by adding or deleting a custom field in the desired post. The same system is used to add posts to lists of various types of advice.